The main Cold War event that occurred in the year of 1962
was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The incident was recognised at the time as being
a demonstration of the potential catastrophic consequences of escalating
tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Naturally, in the
aftermath of near nuclear warfare, both of the two superpowers attempted a
period of rapprochement in order for a similar situation to be avoided. In this
context, the events of 1962 led to a change in the nature of relations between
the powers of the Cold War. However, in order to answer the question, the term “fundamental” must be analysed. There
are indeed changes to relations in the post-1962 Cold War, but these are not
crucial in the emergence of prolonged period of improved relations between the
US and the USSR.
To determine whether 1962 changed relations between the
superpowers, the pre-existing sentiment beforehand must be examined. “The Orthodox American view, as
originally set forth by the American government and reaffirmed…by most
American scholars, has been that the Cold War was the brave and essential
response of free men to communist aggression”.1
The “Orthodox” theory of the origins of the Cold War was the predominately
American view that the policies of Communist Russia posed a threat to the
national security and national interests of the United States. This view was
presented by George Kennan, a US Ambassador to Russia during the Second World
War. In 1946 he wrote a telegram that would become known as the “Long Telegram”
that outlined the problems or threats posed by the Soviet Union. Kennan argued
that the fundamental roots of Communism were expansionist by nature and supported
the world’s proletariat to revolt against class suppression.2
The telegram warned that although Communist Russia did not realistically pose a
military threat it did pose an “ideological-political threat” to
Western Europe and Japan as the countries had been de-stabilized by war and
were vulnerable to “pressure and
enticements of communist minorities in their midst”.3
If Stalin took control of any of the major western states in Europe or Japan it
would “be a blow to our (American)
national security, fully as serious as would have been a German victory that
had just ended”.4
Perhaps demonstrating the emergence of the US position of
identification of the communist threat, Winston Churchill most notably gave his
“Iron Curtain” speech. On seeing the
way Stalin broke many agreements of the Second World War conferences, Churchill
echoed the fears of the US policy makers that an antagonistic bloc of communist
states was emerging in Eastern Europe. The nature of the speech given by
Churchill is part of a rhetoric that the West must act upon this perceived
communist threat for fear of ever present Soviet expansion. Churchill states
that “A shadow has fallen upon the scenes
so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and
its Communist international organisation intends to do in the immediate future,
or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising
The sensitivity that the USSR placed upon potential threatening words by the
West can be seen by the response that Stalin had to the “Iron Curtain” speech. Stalin remarked in direct response to
Churchill’s words that “Mr. Churchill now
stands in the position of a firebrand of war. And Mr. Churchill is not alone
here. He has friends not only in England but also in the United States of
Therefore, by looking at the pre-existing historical
situation before 1962, the immediate emergence of conflicting ideologies in the
post-Second World War environment led only led to further distrust in the
following decade. This being evidence by events such as the Korean War in
1950-1953 and a continued nuclear arms race through the 1950s.7
One of the first and immediate changes that was made after
the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis to improve communication was the establishment
of a telephone hotline that would directly link the White House in the US and
the Kremlin in the USSR.8
This was installed in August of 1963.9
The reasons for creating a means of direct contact between the two entities
stemmed from the reality that during the Missile Crisis, communication was
exceptionally poor. Decisions and negotiations made between the Kremlin and the
White House were being delivered by either letters or telegraphs.10
Obviously, such arduous and lengthy methods of contact did not ameliorate the
rising tensions during October of 1962. The purpose of the hotline would be
that it would allow the leaders of the superpowers to discuss emerging issues
directly with one another. Furthermore, by having personal conversations with
opposing leaders, parties were able to attempt to decipher the other’s moods,
thoughts, and possible motives for their actions.11
The traditional channels of negotiation completely voided these aspects.
The introduction of the direct telephone hotline between the
US and the USSR was a change in the relationship of the Cold War superpowers.
Firstly, it was a complete transformation of the way in which the leaders of
the two powers interacted with one another. By having a direct line, the two
powers were able to consult with one another much sooner in the aftermath of an
international incident. William J. Medland has written about the changing
historical perspectives and historiography of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but one
factor that is commonplace in many theories about why the Crisis occurred is
the total lack of trust and hysteria exhibited by both sides in the lead up and
during the event.12
This level of distrust that existed between the two sides was a product of the
emergence of the Cold War in the post-Second World War period, whereby
increased paranoia led to heightened tensions.13
As noted above, preceding the Cuban Missile Crisis, both the US and the USSR
saw one another as the direct antithesis as what a society should be. By
allowing a platform whereby personal relationships could develop between
leaders, however small and seemingly insignificant, was a vast improvement on
the majority of the rhetoric and ideology surrounding capitalists and
communists that was widespread in McCarthy Era America in the early 1950s for
Allowing direct communication would also allow potential
diplomatic incidents between the two powers be resolved not in public view. For
example, when Nikita Khrushchev exited the Paris Summit in May 1960 after an
American U2 spy place had been shot down over the USSR.15
Naturally, this would not stop leaders of the two powers from publicly challenging
the other. However, one can see that the rhetoric of the US and USSR after the Cuban
Missile Crisis is further based in that of cooperation than previously in the Cold
A. (1967) “Origins of the Cold War.”
Foreign Affairs. Vol. 46, No. 1. P. 23.
Kennan to George Marshall, “Long Telegram.”,
February 22, 1946. Harry S. Truman Administration File, Elsey Papers. P.7. Accessed
28th December 2017.
3 “Long Telegram.” P.7. Accessed 28th
4 “Long Telegram.” P.8. Accessed 28th
W. “Sinews of Peace.” 5th March 1946.
Westminster College. Fulton, Missouri. Accessed 29th December 2017.
From Stalin’s reply to Churchill, 14th March 1946 (interview with Pravda), The
New York Times. P. 4. Accessed 30th December 2017.
J. (2010). “The Cuban missile crisis.”
In M. Leffler & O. Westad (Eds.) “The
Cambridge History of the Cold War.” Cambridge University Press. PP. 85-87.
F. (2010). “US foreign policy from
Kennedy to Johnson.” In M. Leffler & O. Westad (Eds.) “The Cambridge History of the Cold War.” Cambridge
University Press. P. 113.
Costigliola, F. P. 114.
Costigliola, F. P. 115.
J. P. 85.
W. (1990). “The Cuban Missile Crisis:
Evolving Historical Perspectives.” The History Teacher. Vol. 23(4). PP.
Medland, W. PP. 438.
R. (2010). “Identity and the Cold War.”
In M. Leffler & O. Westad (Eds.) “The
Cambridge History of the Cold War.” Cambridge University Press. PP. 35-36.
Caruthers, O. “Soviet Downs American
Plane; U.S. Says It Was Weather Craft; Khrushchev Sees Summit Blow.” New
York Times. 5th May 1960. Accessed 2nd January 2018.