On October, 1962 the world stood at the brink of a nuclear war for 13 days, when the US found out that the Soviet Union had placed ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles away from their country. The threat was unexpected and required immediate attention, a nuclear war between the two most powerful countries in the Earth was going to be extremely destructive, because of this, the issue required a diplomatic solution. The US president at the time, John F. Kennedy resisted the pressure from his advisors to not cede anything to Moscow and opted for a more compromising attitude. Kennedy opted for what would now be one of the biggest characteristics of crisis diplomacy, secrecy through ‘back channels’.
The role of diplomacy in this crisis was key. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy met secretly with the Soviet Ambassador and created a pathway of information between John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union. Washington would reject the invasion of Cuba, and Krushchev would withdraw the missiles from Cuba. What would be the decisive move to end the crisis was the withdrawal of the Jupiter nuclear missiles that the US had placed in Turkey.This event showed us the importance of compromising in diplomacy, both countries came out loosing their nuclear missiles in Cuba and Turkey but they avoided a war. But before all of this could be possible an elaborate diplomatic strategy had to be put in place.
Kennedy limited the knowledge of the crisis. This reduced the role of the state department and consequently the diplomats with closest access to the kremlin leadership. In a meeting on the 16 of october Kennedy discussed the need for utmost secrecy and designated what group of people would be allowed to have information on the unfolding events. Kennedy excludes from this group all members of the U.S. Foreign service with the exception of former ambassadors of the U.S. to the Soviet Union, Thompson and Bohlen, who would serve as the main sources of diplomatic perspective for Kennedy. Bohlen would be the one to put the idea forward of communicating with Krushchev before things could get even more out of hand, he stated that “No one can guarantee that this can be achieved by diplomatic action – but it seems to me essential that this channel should be tested out before military action is employed. If our decision is firm I can see no danger in communicating with Khrushchev privately worded in such a way that he realizes that we mean business.”
The Bohlen plan was to send a letter to Krushchev and depending on the answer the U.S. would airstrike the Soviet Union or to put a blockade. The plan was later dropped by Kennedy,Thomson and Robert Kennedy suggested responding to the letters that Krushchev had sent and in the end sending Robert Kennedy to negotiate with Dobrynin and inform him that the Jupiter missiles would be removed. Knowledge of the arrangements between Robert Kennedy and Dobrynin was limited to Kennedy, which pressured the Soviets to keep things secret or else President Kennedy would reject the deal. The deal was met and everyone did their part.
These events show us how important and useful diplomacy really is and how big of a role diplomacy has on major crises wether through secrecy or publicly. There are still many disputes to wether issues like this should be resolved through secrecy, but something so important like crisis diplomacy could be damaged through public opinion. However acting through secrecy may not always be a good idea, not all leaders are like Kennedy who ignored many of his advisors to do what was right.
Ivan Kurilla (2014) ‘Cuban missile crisis-A lesson in diplomacy’. Themoscowtime.com. Available at:https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/cuban-missile-crisis-a-lesson-in-diplomacy-40571 (Accessed the 17 of march 2017)
Lois Farrow Parshley(2012) ‘The 9 most important lessons of the cuban missile crisis’. Foreignpolicy.com. Available at:http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/10/19/the-9-most-important-lessons-from-the-cuban-missile-crisis/ (Accesssed the 17 of march 2017)
Peter Orsi(2012) ‘Cuban missile crisis was a triumph of diplomacy, not brinkmanship’. Salon.com. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2012/10/13/cuban_missile_crisis_beliefs_endure_after_50_years/ (Accessed the 17 of march, 2017)
Unknown (2013) ‘Embassy Moscow: A Diplomatic Perspective of the Cuban missile Crisis’. georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org. Available at: georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/2013/12/10/embassy-moscow-a-diplomatic-perspective-of-the-cuban-missile-crisis/ (Accessed the 17 of march 2017)
Unknown ‘Cuban missile crisis’. history.com. Available at: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cuban-missile-crisis (Accessed the 17 of march 2017)