“The Korean War was more significant in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe than the Cuban Missile Crisis.” How far do you agree? The years 1950 to 1953 were a period of striving for Korea, where the North and South regions were being disputed over by China and USA. The South was supported by USA and the United Nations, while the North was backed by China and USSR who were part of the communist fraternity. On the other hand, the outbreak of Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 was the closest the Cold War almost became a ‘hot’ war as a nuclear war almost took place (possibly starting another world war). The parties involved were USA, USSR and Cuba.
This question holds the assumption that the Korean War was in fact more significant in the spread of Cold War than the Cuban Missile Crisis outside Europe due it being dominated by the Cold War characteristics to a larger extent. The Cold War was characterized by superpower rivalry, indirect conflict, ideological conflicts and also rival blocs. In order to check the validity of the statement, this essay will examine the respective motivations of the players and impact of the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis from 1950 the outbreak of the conflict to 1962, the end of Cuban Missile Crisis. While there are also some elements of the Cold War in the Cuban Missile Crisis, it is to a large extent that the Korean War was more significant in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe as it typified all the characteristics of the Cold War.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was important in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe due to the ideologically driven aggression by the superpowers, hence causing the heightened Cold War tensions.
On 8 January 1959, Castro led his armed revolutionaries into Havana and overthrew the corrupt Batista regime, where he formed a new coalition government. Castro nationalized a billion dollars’ worth of American investments in Cuba and thus removed US’s dominance in Cuba. Due to Cuba’s leftward leaning, USA began to sabotage Cuba’s economy from 1959, halting imports of sugar from Cuba and banning exports to Cuba except food and medicine. Cuba survived on Soviet and Chinese aid. In January 1961, USA broke off relationships with Cuba.
Due to Castro’s revolutionary idealism being anti-American to oust USA’s ‘dollar diplomacy’ and dominance, Castro’s actions are perceived by the US as communist-like due to the aggression and a direct confrontation and threat to its democratic beliefs of a capitalist and democratic system. Accompanied by the ‘open door’ world economy concept, USA envisioned a world based on democracy and liberty, where American values would dominate. Hence such drastic actions are needed to prevent the communist in thinking that the democratic system is easily tarnished and weakened.
According to Gaddis, the Cuban Missile Crisis arose “because Khrushchev understood more clearly than Kennedy that the West was winning the Cold War”. This was indicated by the fact that in “the countries that counted” (i.e. Japan and Germany), liberal and capitalist institutions had prevailed by the 1961. Evidently, the Soviet is losing the Cold war due to the lack communist allies and hence after the Bay of Pigs Incident, USSR formed an alliance with Castro who declared himself a Marxist-Leninist. With this alliance, USSR installed Soviet missiles in Cuba to ensure Castro’s demand of a strong ally is met.
As such, after the failure to spread communism to Korea and the Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union needed to strengthen the Marxist-Leninist alternative in the Third World, the only place where communist ideology had any significant appeal. Thus, Khrushchev needed to maintain the communist regime in Cuba, which was already under immense duress from the USA.
Therefore, the Cuban Missile Crisis was important in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe due to the ideologically driven aggression by the superpowers, hence causing the heightened Cold War tensions.
However, The Cuban Missile Crisis may be limited in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe due to the ideologically driven aggression by the superpowers not entirely refer to the conflict between communism and democracy as seen from the rivalry between USSR and China and Castro being a nationalist.
Tensions between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China had already arisen in the Korean War. In addition, Mao Zedong never accepted Khrushchev as the head of the Communist world; instead he ban to see himself as leader of the international socialist revolution. There was loss of prestige for USSR as the Soviets were seen as backing down from a conflict with their ideological enemy. Mao felt that Soviet Union’s new policy of “mutual co-existence” with the USA, following its failure to keep missiles in Cuba, was a sign that Soviet Union was going soft. In addition, Khrushchev’s attempt to oust Mao and bring China under the subordination of the USSR failed. As such, China declared that USSR no longer followed the socialist ideology and asked to take over the leadership position. USSR, on the other hand, still claim to be the leader of the Marxist theory. As such, there is a clear difference in the interpretation of the communist ideology.
As such, the fundamental ideological reason behind the backing of Cuba is not to ensure that USA does not win the Cold War but to reinstate its position as the true leader of communism. In addition, there was a serious implication because communist ideology encouraged fraternity. The USSR needed to reverse this perception by demonstrating solidarity with other communist regimes in the world by backing Cuba.
Castro was not a communist when he took over power. His revolution, according to Joseph North, was a broad coalition of peasants, workers, students, and others. Only the largest landowners and the wealthiest Cubans opposed the revolution. The revolution was not a socialist revolution but “an advanced, popular national revolution,” for sovereignty, for independence, for the civil rights of the folk. Hence, he was not clearly driven by Marxist ideology. In fact, the USA was the first country that he visited after his successful revolution. During that visit, Castro made a speech where he denied connection with USSR and communism.
As such, unlike the North Koreans, the communist ideology that USSR intended to spread was non-existent. To self-declare as a Marxist-Leninist is simply a façade so that Castro will be able to get help from USSR, who is a strong ally, to supply them with resources and fight against the US.
Therefore, in contrast to the earlier paragraph, the Cuban Missile Crisis may be limited in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe due to the ideologically driven aggression by the superpowers not entirely refer to the conflict between communism and democracy as seen from the rivalry between USSR and China and Castro being a nationalist.
On the other hand, unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Korean War was key in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe as the superpowers were driven by ideological differences which centers between communism and democracy, hence heightening the Cold War tension between US and USSR.
With the ‘lost of China’ to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949, the USA was worried that communism would spread to other countries in Asia. There was added pressure from the Domino Theory and calls for the strengthening of the policy of containment. In this case, Americans feared that the whole of Korea would be taken over by the communists and hence they saw the need to intervene in the Korean War. Viewed in this light, the Korean War became the first real test for American resolve when confronted by Russian aggression. The credibility of American foreign policy was at stake and the United States had to act.
These had an effect on American policy in Korea. According to Gaddis, “To a nation still recoiling from the loss of China, still brooding over the lessons of Munich, Korea quickly became a symbol of resolve regardless of it military-strategic significance.” Due to the fear of the spread of Marxism, the USA entered the Korean War.
North Korea proved a strategic ally for Stalin, who resented USA’s occupation of Japan. Stalin told Mao in January 1950 that “Japan…would certainly lift itself up again…especially if the Americans continue their current policy” in Japan. Hence, Korea would prove a strategic military counterpoint to Japan’s prominence in the region to secure Soviet interests in spreading communism. This would be one of the main reasons in which the Cold War moves out Europe and it’s a process that would become known as globalization of the Cold War.
Despite Stalin’s apparent policy of ‘communism in one country’, it is arguable that he was keen to spread communism when he thought he could do so “without provoking too strong a response”, according to Gaddis. In fact, he was encouraged to authorize the invasion upon Dean Acheson’s ‘carelessly worded speech’ in January 1950, where Acheson left out Korean in his definition of the USA’s Asia Pacific Defense Perimeter. This gave USSR the impression that the USA would not intervene should an invasion of South Korea occur.
Therefore, unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Korean War was key in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe as the superpowers were driven by ideological differences which centers between communism and democracy, hence heightening the Cold War tension between US and USSR.
In conclusion, it is to a large extent that the Korean War was more significant in the spread of the Cold War outside Europe as it typified all the characteristics of the Cold War. Although the Cuban Missile Crisis does concern superpower intervention, it does not have outstanding impact on the spread of Cold War due to the absence of clear and consistent Cold War motivations through the course of the conflict.