Scope: The investigation will focus in assessing the importance and significance of Fidel Castro’s role in the Missile Crisis of 1962.
Method: Castro’s degree of significance will be evaluated through his roles in chronological stages of the Cuban Missile Crisis, along with the reference to the superpowers. The chronological stages of roles of Castro will be divided by ‘the background stage with the alliance between USSR’, ‘the climax stage with the shoot down of American U-2 plane and nuclear attack suggestion’, and by ‘the ending stage with the resolution in the Cuban Missile Crisis’.
Summary of Evidence
Background Stage – Invasions of US and Cuba’s alliance with USSR
-The break up between Castro and US was already expected by the US invasion “Bay of Pigs” of Cuba in 1961, where US supported Cuban counter-reactionaries to overthrow Castro.
-As the invasion failed, it caused Castro to form alliance with USSR, fearing further invasions of US to overthrow him.
-Castro’s fear came to real when Cuban intelligence spotted the US activities that eventually led to ‘Operation Mongoose’ in early 1962, which was another invasion designed by US to overthrow Castro.
-However, as a new alliance of Cuba and Castro, USSR promised and proposed for the plan for the protection of Cuban regime, which was to ship install nuclear warheads to Cuban territory, before US would find out about it.
-Castro welcomed Khrushchev’s plan, and the USSR shipped their nuclear warheads to Cuba in stealthy manner, avoiding eyes of US.
Initial Stage – Nuclear Missiles in Cuba
-It was in October 1962 that US intelligence finally found out about Soviet nuclear warheads, which were already shipped to Cuba and were in the preparation for use.
-The ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ begins on 22. Oct. 1962 as US President Kennedy officially announces that numerous number of USSR nuclear warheads sites, suggesting the possibility of nuclear attack against US.
-With the broadcast in the public, Kennedy quickly responded by implementing naval blockade of Cuba, and tried diplomatic negotiations with USSR to reduce the tension of the superpowers with the removal of the nuclear warheads in Cuba.
-However, even in the negotiations, numerous tension-heightening incidents occurred to blur the improving relationship between the superpowers, and the danger of nuclear war emerges.
Climax Stage – U-2 Airplane/Castro’s Demand of Nuclear Strike
-In the midst of negotiations between USSR and US, one of the incidents occurred, which was the shoot down of U-2 US Airplane on
27. Oct. 1962.
-At the time, US and USSR believed the incident was the action of Castro, ordering anti-aircraft artillery to shoot down U-2 airplane on the day.
-However, it was discovered that it was the action of USSR solider that shot down the U-2 airplane, not Castro. Soviet soldiers shot down the U-2 airplane without the order from Castro.
-In addition to U-2 Airplane, another incident during the negotiations was that Castro sent letter to Khrushchev, suggesting a first nuclear strike on US.
-Castro’s action stunned Khrushchev, and from that time, Khrushchev sorted him as young and emotionally charged man who was too inexperienced.
Ending Stage – Resolution of Crisis and Negotiations
-Despite tension-heightening actions during the negotiations, the Cuban Missile Crisis was heading towards the end.
-Mutual solution was achieved by the proposal message of Khrushchev on 26. Oct. 1962, and by the acceptance response of Kennedy in 27. Oct. 1962.
-The solution was concluded that USSR would depart nuclear warheads out of Cuba under UN supervision, and in return, US would dismiss naval blockade of island and promise never to invade Cuba again.
-On 28. Oct. 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end as Moscow broadcasted that Khrushchev has decided to de-install nuclear bases in Cuba and return them to USSR.
-However, throughout the whole period of negotiation of the Crisis, the table of negotiation involved only two superpowers, leaving out Castro.
-The resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a shock and humiliation to Castro, as he was not given rights to speak for he has been excluded from the negotiations.
Evaluation of Sources
Firstly, in the background stage of Cuban Missile Crisis, the role of Castro seems to be influential with the reasons being that he has made successful alliance with USSR and consented to its plan, thereby bringing in nuclear warheads for the sole purpose of protecting Castro’s government against US. Nevertheless, the significance of Castro’s role may be limited since it is difficult to see Khrushchev’s purpose of alliance with the supply of nuclear warheads as a plan to simply protect Castro and Cuba from US. Within a big picture, it is more likely that USSR is trying to maintain the ‘balance of power’ of the superpowers, because USSR was in imbalance of strategy with US before the Cuban Missile Crisis, for US was surrounding USSR military bases in the region of Turkey. Therefore, USSR’s sending nuclear missiles is to let “US learn what it is like to have their land and people put in danger”. Moreover, the superpowers’ secret negotiation in Oct 1962 in which USSR would take back nuclear when US promises to remove blockade of USSR military bases in Turkey makes it more clear that the USSR alliance and supply of nuclear warheads to Cuba are more reasonable when they reflected by USSR’s sole interests rather than of Castro’s.
Secondly, in the climax stage of Cuban Missile Crisis, which was during late October 1962, US U-2 airplane was shot down in Cuba. Castro was suspected as in taking his role in crashing US U-2 airplane, as Khrushchev notes that “Fidel Castro gave orders to USSR soldiers to put down US U-2 airplane.” The role that Castro played in the Cuban Missile Crisis would have been significantly large as it would end the diplomatic negotiations around the Crisis and start a total confrontation of nuclear weapons between the superpowers. However, after further investigation, as it is proven that Soviet soldiers crashed U-2 airplane with no orders from Castro, his role in the Crisis cannot be given any significance as he has not taken any action. Furthermore, role of Castro is related with his suggestion to USSR to launch first nuclear strike attack on US. However, not only was his role proven to be insignificant as Khrushchev rejected to accommodate his suggestion of plan, but Castro’s over-eagerness in advocating nuclear war ironically reminded Khrushchev of the significance of preserving the peace of the world, thereby contributing to the peaceful outcome by the crisis resolution in 26,27th Oct 1962.
Lastly, in the ending stage with the resolution of the crisis and negotiations, Castro’s exclusion from the USSR-US negotiations of the Cuban Missile Crisis is the crucial indication that shows political insignificance of Castro in the role of the Crisis. Because Castro was not invited, there is no influence from his voice that would have shaped the outcome of the negotiations in the Crisis. Castro was informed of Khrushchev’s announcement of removal of all nuclear warheads and the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis on the radio after the day of the negotiations, just like everyone else in the world. This suggests that to the behalf of USSR and US, in the concern of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro was significant no more than just an ordinary Cuban citizen. Many US politicians at the time of the Crisis agree upon the fact that Cuba was just a background setting for the US-USSR confrontation. Indeed, Castro could not take any significant role in the Crisis because “the conflict was solely between the United States and the Soviet Union.” 
On the other hand, however, Khrushchev mentioned in the memoir that Cuban Castro actually played important role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev states that Castro was fully responsible for the crash of U-2 airplane, and his support of nuclear war has encouraged and made USSR to consider about “launching an unexpected attack on US”. However, as it has been found out that the crash of U-2 plane did not involve Castro in any aspect, and that Khrushchev has made such statements without specific and clear details in his memoir, it is hard to accept that Castro was significant in his role of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Throughout the whole stages of the Cuban Missile Crisis from the background to the ending, the role of Castro has been overshadowed by the roles of USSR and US. In the background stage, it was Khrushchev who planned and carried out the shipment of nuclear warheads into Cuba to trigger the crisis. Also, in the climax stage, Castro’s possible significant role in U-2 airplane shoot down was proven to be wrong as Castro has found to be unrelated with the incident. As Bonsal argues, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a conflict that only involved USSR and US. The view is justified as we look into possibilities that Khrushchev has deployed his nuclear warheads for different motives other than to protect Castro from US and when we consider Castro’s exclusion from the negotiation table. In conclusion, the extent of Fidel Castro’s significance in his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis is absolutely limited.
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