Significance of Cuban Missile Crisis Essay

-This was an intense period where nuclear war could break out at any time.
-A rash decision by any side could spark off war between the USSR and USA and in turn nuclear weapons might be deployed.
-Fortunately, the leaders made rational decisions to resolve the crisis.
-After the Cuban missile crisis, both sides realized the danger of nuclear war and began to talk more about peaceful co-existence.

-A hotline was established bet the USSR & the USA to make immediate telephone communication easier.
-This is to allow leaders from both sides to communicate more effectively and prevent any events like the Cuban missile crisis from happening again
-It marked the beginning of a thaw, albeit a small one, between the USSR and the US.

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What were the results of the crisis for the wider international situation? -A general easing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s, a thawing at a period roughly in the middle of the Cold War. -Marked the first time in the Cold War period that the US and the USSR worked together to lessen international tensions, caused primarily by MAD.

-Both superpowers faced economic problems caused by the expensive arms race. -The USSR was finding the expense of keeping up with the Americans crippling. -The Americans were beginning to realize that there must be a better way of coping with communism than the one which was having so little success in Vietnam. -The nations of Western Europe were also worried because they would be in the frontline if nuclear war broke out.

-Bans on nuclear testing, anti-ballistic missile systems, and weapons in space all attempted to limit the expansion of the arms race. -However, these treaties were only partially successful.
-Both states continued building massive numbers of nuclear weapons, and new technologies such as MIRVs limited the effectiveness of the treaties. -Both superpowers retained the ability to destroy each other many times over.

Why did the nuclear arms race continue despite the dangers revealed by the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Strategic issues
-The nature of nuclear war
-Nuclear war-fighting systems
-Strategic bombers
-Other strategic nuclear powers
-Civil defence

Evolution of Nuclear Strategy
-The Arrival of the Bomb & the Transformation of War
-Towards a Policy of Deterrence: Monopoly, Stalemate & Massive Retaliation -Limited War: Objectives & Means
-Surprise Attack
-Nuclear Strategy in crisis
-The End of the Cold War
-A Second Nuclear Age

Nuclear Strategy during Cold War
-Soviet threat (increasingly formidable military power after 1945) defined US policy & military strategy.
-Both Soviet & NATO governments regarded nuclear weapons as useable instruments of war.

Theories and contributions
Bernard Brodie
-Establishing the basics of nuclear strategy
-Architect of nuclear deterrence strategy
-Strategy in the Missile Age outlined the framework of deterrence
-Saw the usefulness of the atomic bomb not in its deployment but in the threat of its deployment.
-Argued that preventative nuclear strikes would lead to escalation from limited to total war
-Concluded that deterrence would lead to a more secure outcome for both sides.
-Nuclear capabilities can provide the stasis necessary for deterrence

Nuclear Strategy
-Nuclear Deterrence
-Massive Retaliation
-Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)
-1st Strike / 2nd Strike (Nuclear Triad)
-Decapitation Strike
-Flexible Response
-Counter-force / Counter-value Strikes
-Arms Control

-Deterrence theory holds that nuclear weapons are intended to deter other states from attacking with their nuclear weapons, through the promise of retaliation. -Problem: Retaliation (revenge), morality & the problem of credibility

Massive Retaliation

-Dulles stated that the U.S. would respond to military provocation “at places and with means of our own choosing.” -This was interpreted to mean that the U.S. could respond to any foreign challenge with nuclear weapons. -Dulles also said that “Local defence must be reinforced by the further deterrent of massive retaliatory power.” -Thus, massive retaliation would back up any conventional defence against conventional attacks with a possible massive retaliatory attack involving nuclear weapons.

Nuclear First Strike
-In nuclear strategy, a first strike is a pre-emptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. -First strike capability is a country’s ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing side is left unable to continue war. -The preferred methodology is to attack the opponent’s launch facilities and storage depots first. The strategy is called counterforce.

Nuclear Second Strike
-In nuclear strategy, second strike capability is a country’s assured ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retaliation against the attacker. -To have such an ability (and to convince the opponent of its viability) is considered vital in nuclear deterrence, as otherwise the other side might be tempted to try to win a nuclear war in one massive first strike against the opponent’s own nuclear forces.

Decapitation Strike
-In the theory of nuclear warfare, it refers to a first strike attack that aims to remove the command and control mechanisms of the opponent, in the hope that it will severely degrade or destroy its capacity for nuclear retaliation. “Cut off the head and the body will die.”

Flexible Response

-Retaliation and the problem of credibility.
-Implemented by John F. Kennedy in 1961 to address the Kennedy administration’s skepticism of the previous administration’s nuclear strategy. -Flexible response represented a capability to fight across all spectrums of warfare. -Policy options available short of nuclear annihilation.

Nuclear Triad
-Provides the best level of deterrence from attack.
-Nuclear arsenal with 3 components:
* Strategic bombers
Arms Control
-Meant to break the security dilemma.
-It aims at mutual security between partners and overall stability (be it in a crisis situation, a grand-strategy, or stability to put an end to an arms race). Other than stability, arms control comes with cost reduction and damage limitation. -It is conceptually differentiated from disarmament since the maintenance of stability might allow for mutually controlled armament and does not take a peace-without-weapons-stance. -A defensive strategy in principle, since transparency, equality, and stability do not fit into an offensive strategy.

US and Soviet Nuclear Strategy
-Dominant view in the US:
-War if not deterred, can be won by disrupting the enemy’s capacity for war ; undermining his will to fight – by attacking primarily the economic ; population resources. -Undermine economic foundations of the enemy’s ability and will to fight.

-Soviet rejection of reliance on a strategy of economic-industrial bombing.

The problem of deterrence and other issues
-Success of deterrence ensured that there is an absence of historical experience that would settle the most vital, persisting issues of nuclear strategy. -The usefulness of major war between nuclear-armed states and coalitions The strategic utility of nuclear weapons for deterrence and defence -The controllability of nuclear conflict

-The relevance of a classical approach to strategy, which seeks advantage through the defeat of the enemy’s military forces -The integrity of the concept and practice of nuclear strategy

End of Cold War
-No longer need to fear the menace of nuclear aggression.
-But the threat of nuclear proliferation may pose a greater problem. (nuclear terrorism) -Deterrence worked mainly because in a bipolar world, both the United States and the Soviet Union -developed an understanding of deterrence and its role in preventing war with each other.


-No conceivable gains from nuclear war would be worth the cost. -MAD is a powerful deterrent, but it is not a guarantee.
-Necessity to prepare for eventuality because of different perceptions, goals ; priorities. -The importance of a theory of victory in nuclear war.
-Nuclear weapons – the more the better?

-The Cold War had failed to end the threat of the use of nuclear weapons but the lessons learnt will be helpful in working out strategies to ensure that the world is a safer place even though global threat of nuclear war has declined substantially.

Theories and Contributions
Herman Kahn
-“massive retaliation” untenable because it was crude and potentially destabilizing -Using applications of game theory in nuclear war
-Nuclear war is feasible and winnable
-Kahn argued that for deterrence to succeed, the Soviets had to be convinced that the United States had a second strike capability, in order to leave no doubt in the minds of the Politburo that even a perfectly-coordinated, massive attack would guarantee a measure of retaliation that would leave them devastated as well. -Genesis of MAD

Criticisms and praises
-Presented a strong case for full disarmament by suggesting that nuclear war was all but unavoidable. -But others claim that his postulating the notion of a winnable nuclear war made one more likely.

The problem of deterrence
Deterrence Theory:
-Retaliation (revenge), morality ; the problem of credibility – -SIOP-62 ; massive retaliation
-Flexible response ; policy options
-Counter-force ; criticisms
-Arms control ; compliance


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