US Discovery of the Cuban Missile Sites: Policy Brief


The crisis on Cuban missiles was the most serious confrontation between the U.S and the Soviet Union. It was so short yet so intense that it was given lots of attention by the then U.S president Kennedy. Nuclear missiles of intermediate range were placed in Cuba to counter the U.S development and deployment of the missiles. In 1961 the Soviet Union obtained approval from Fidel Castro, the then Cuban president, and secretly worked fast to install missiles in Cuba. The U.S acquired evidence about this from late July 1962; Pictures taken on the 29th of August confirmed the presence of defense missiles in the air. This led to the U.S invading the Cuban island and the soviet’s missile bases to stop the invasions that were 90 miles from the shores of Florida. The U.S president then announced to the world that the Soviet Union was constructing missile bases in Cuba then he ordered a quarantine to avoid more deadly missiles and bombers from being shipped to Cuba and in response the soviet premier ordered his military to launch their weapons incase the U.S forces invaded them (Goldman, 1997). This confirmation led to the then U.S president, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev the Soviet premier to negotiate a truce that would avert the disaster, this discussion took ten days which were characterized by tension from the rest of the world, after the truce was formed, the war was averted, the Soviet Union backed down, and the warheads were sent back to their homes (Herring, 2008).

Thesis statement

About forty years ago, the U.S and the Soviet Union were the world’s greatest superpowers in nuclear weapons and they both had the fear that incase of a simple provocation, one would attack the other. After the U.S discovered the soviet’s intended attack through Cuba where missiles were build about ninety miles from the shores of Florida, a truce between the U.S president and the Soviet Union’s premier led to the USSR backing off from the intended attack on the U.S. This led to development of some policies by the U.S so as to guide its relationship with Cuba. This paper discusses the alternative policy options that would have been put in place to solve the crisis between US and Cuba with their pros and cons and policy recommendations for the same.

Policy options

The US, after discovering the intended missile attack from the Cuban island by the Soviet Union, had many options (it would have adopted) to solve the crisis besides president Kennedy’s move to form a blockade and ban the soviet union from bringing in more military supply to Cuba. Some of these options would have included; a surgical air attack, secretly approaching Fidel Castro, a ground troop invasion employing diplomatic pressure or doing nothing.

A surgical Air strike

The US having gathered evidence about the intended missile attack, it had an option of dropping nuclear bombs on the Cuban island targeting the bombers. This option would have been ideal considering the US troops would have been safe from deaths as there would not have been a direct confrontation between the two parties and considering the Soviet Union troops would not have been aware of the intended attack from the US military hence would not have been prepared to retaliate. This approach would also save lives of many Cubans compared to a ground attack which would have led to a war between the two countries and consequently the loss of many innocent lives. This option would also have prevented a war from emanating that would have lasted a much longer time compared to the sudden nuclear bomb attack on the island that would have avoided a long term war and consequent loss of lives. Taking this option would have protected the Cuban citizens from potential hunger and famine that would have developed from war and would have likely led to many more deaths compared to deaths from the effects of nuclear bombings. However, an air surgical attack on the island would have led to loss of lives of innocent Cubans directly from the nuclear bombs as they would not be directed on bombers and missiles only. Incase the Soviet Union troops got to know about the intended air attack from the US then they would play along and maybe not suffer the consequences but still go on with the planting of the missiles and eventually attack the US leading to the most dreaded war in the world history. The after war effects would have been suffered for a long time by the innocent Cuban citizens which would have led to the chronic diseases, it would tamper with future generations, and deaths from the nuclear bomb effects over a long period of time. It should also be noted that since the Soviet Union was a much larger body in union for the US missile attacks from Cuba, then this option would have provoked them to plan future attacks that would be more severe than the one interrupted, this would have caused panic disorder amongst the US residents due to the fear of a missile attack and increase the enmity between the two states. This option would have also saved the US billions of dollars that would have had to be given up in striking a deal with either the Soviet Union or with Cuba. If the US used an air attack to stop the Soviet Union’s intended attack, then maybe eventually a war would have developed from the Soviet Union against the US and it would have cost both the two parties billions of dollars to fight and later to feed those dislocated into refugee camps as an aftermath of the war. It should also be noted that even hundreds of air attacks would not destroy the missiles and hence eventually the Soviet Union would have ended up attacking the US. Considering the Soviet had set MIG jets and SAM sites to protect the missiles this would still not have been a safe approach ((Novoqratz, 2010).

Secretly approaching Fidel Castro

Considering the location of the missiles being in Cuba, the US had an option of secretly approaching the Cuban president Fidel Castro and developing a deal that would lead to him declining the Soviet Union from building the missile’s base in his country. This would have peacefully ended the attack and prevented a war saving the lives of many innocent Cuban residents and many Americans as the Soviet Union’s base would have been disabled hence there would have been no attack. Approaching Castro would have reduced the after war effects especially hunger and starvation that were caused by people not able to farm due to the war crisis. If the US took this option and it went through, then its relationship with Cuba, that is just 90miles off the shores of Florida would have been a lot much more better today, the economy of Cuba, and the living standards of its residents would have been much more desirable. However, considering the magnitude of the anticipated missile attack, the US would have had take much effort than just negotiating with Fidel Castro as he was part of the Soviet Union and hence the US would have had to lose billions of dollars as a condition by Fidel Castro to ban the Soviet Union from building a base of attack on the US in his island. By the event of the US approaching Castro, there is a high likelihood he would not take sides with the US considering the closeness between Cuba and the Soviet Union. this would result in the Soviet Union striking the missiles sooner they would know the US was aware of their intention and hence they would have to work faster to prevent the US from getting an option or a way of retaliating or preventing the attack which would lead to massive deaths amongst the US citizens when they are attacked using the missiles (Novoqratz, 2010).

Invasion of the island with ground forces

After the US discovered the planned missile attack from Cuba, they had the option of invading the island using its military in form of ground forces. This would have led to a nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the US for some period of time. This would cause a scenario with the US forces confronting the Soviet Unions troops in a physical attack to destroy the missile base and it contents. Most importantly this form of attack would ensure the elimination of all the missiles from the ground preventing a possible attack sooner. This attack from the US would have gotten the Soviet Union unaware and maybe would have succeeded in destroying the missile base and maybe a short term war between the two troops that would lead to the end of the planned attack from the Soviet Union on the US. This attack would have saved the US millions of dollars that would have been spent either in the negotiation or in developing an air attack on the island with nuclear bombs. The war being between the troops would have protected more innocent citizens compared to if nuclear bombs were adopted to end the crisis. This form of invasion had the advantage of probably overthrowing Fidel Castro hence getting a more democratic form of government into place. However, the war having been feared to be the worst event in the world history if it had occurred between the two superpowers then it would have led to universal impacts including very many deaths world wide of innocent people and more especially the Americans (Graham, 1999). The after war effects including loss of homes and property would increase poverty especially in Cuba that was already poor and would also have mired the US. The war depending on its nature was likely to last for a very long period of time with many life losses each month and in the long run people would suffer panic disorder and eventually mental problems. In the event of a war, development in the two countries would have been tampered with as people would not have been able to contribute to development and the government would not have been able to focus on anything else besides the war, this would cost the economy of the countries and the world in general considerably. Considering planning for the war would have taken more than a week then it would have made it obvious what the US was planning to do and the Soviet Union would have had enough time to prepare adequately on how to retaliate (White, 1996).

A blockade

Developing a blockade to the island by the US in order to prevent more weapons from being transported into the island and in that period negotiating with the Soviet Union to remove the already placed weapons would have been an option. The advantages of adopting this strategy would have been the least number of lives being at risk compared to the other approaches, it would have made the US image appear good as they would have made an effort not just to protect themselves but Cuba and the rest of the world as well. This was a sure way of ensuring the Soviet Union had its missiles pulled out instead of using force from the US and like bombing and the missiles remain in the ground. This approach would also have taken a short period of time and it would have prevented long term panic amidst the citizens. On the other hand, considering this strategy involves convincing the soviets to remove the missiles, it would have most likely taken a much longer period of time compared to others. In the end, the Soviet would have made demands that would have cost the US largely and made the Soviet appear the winner and make the US appear weak as the two superpowers were in a tangle of proving who is the better. Incase of an accident like for example a US ship has to transport foodstuff and medicine to the island country during the period of the blockade, then maybe it sunk, then the US and the rest of the world would have been suspicious and the reaction to this may be explosive and maybe lead to a war (Taubman, 2002).


After considering all these options with their positive and negative impacts, using the blockade would have been a best option and this would have avoided a long term war and the after war effects in both Cuba and America. It would have protected the lives of many innocent Cubans and Americans that would have been lost in an event of war or if the US had opted to drop nuclear bombs, it was also a sure way as negotiations that would ensure the Soviet Union presented their grievances and the reasons for them opting to attack the US with missiles. Once they discuss this and they come to a consensus then the missiles would be peacefully pulled out and everyone goes home happy and satisfied. This way the US would have been sure the missiles were all removed.


President of the US the John F. Kennedy opted for the blockade which he referred to as a quarantine to prevent further weapons from being transported into Cuba and delaying the process of launching the missiles while negotiating with Soviet’s premier on the way forward and what the Soviet needed to pull out the missiles they were building in Cuba. After almost two weeks of intense negotiations that kept the whole world shaking and worried on the outbreak of the worst war in history if the negotiations between the two parties failed, an agreement was made and the Soviet pulled out the missiles they had planted in Cuba.


Goldman, J. and Stein, G. (1997). The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 18-29, 1962. Web.

Graham, A. and Zelikow, P. (1999). Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis; New York: Longman

Herring, G. (2008). From Colony to Superpower U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776. New York: Oxford University Press

Novoqratz, J. (2010). Thirteen days in October, The Cuban Missile Crisis.

Taubman, W. (2002). “One Hell of a Gamble”: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958–1964 (review) Journal of Cold War Studies – Volume 4, Number 1, winter 2002, pp. 123-124

White, Mark J. (1996). The Cuban Missile Crisis. Basingstoke: Macmillan.