The Cold War

22. In what ways, and with what results, did the United States' Cold War policy of containment affect Cuba after 1959?

I. Introduction
Prior to 1959 the United States had an amiable relationship with Cuba. Cuba had a pro-US leader, Batista, and US companies controlled a majority of the Cuban economy and Cuban wealth. However, with the outbreak of the Cuban Revolution brought about new leadership in Cuba. Fidel Castro, Cuba’s new leader, did not declare his new regime socialist, communist, or democratic. Instead, the US mentality of containment and fear of communism led them to assume Castro’s allegiance to the Soviet Union. Arguments surrounding American oil companies and confiscated estates used in land reform, much of which were American owned, led the United States to place an embargo on Cuba. The United States followed the embargo of 1960 with an attempted overthrow of Fidel Castro by Cuban exiles in the Bay of Pigs in 1961. The United States hoped to push Cuba toward democracy by forcing them into submission through an economic embargo, an attempted political coup, and additional aid through a miniature Marshall Plan; however, the United States’ harsh political and economic tactics forced Cuba to turn to its only other ally for aid: the Soviet Union.
II. Economic containment and the embargo on Cuba (1959-1960)
A. Prior to the Cuban revolution U.S. investors owned a majority of the Cuban economy, their investments totaling over $1 billion
B. In 1959 Castro instated economic and agrarian reform
i. Angered USà high utility rates charged by US companies were slashed, estates were confiscated and worked as cooperatives
ii. US refused economic aid à Castro reached out to Soviet Union, the US mistook this as allegiance to USSR
C. Cuban Embargo
i. Three main US petroleum investors (Shell, Texaco, and Standard Oil) refused to extend credit to Castro (they wanted payment up front) à Castro developed his own oil company, Cuban Petroleum Institute
ii. Nobody in the West would trade w/ Fidel à Fidel found economic partner in the Soviets who traded crude oil for sugar
iii. Eisenhower cut Cuba’s sugar quota, Cuba responded by expropriating US oil companies à on October 14, 1960 the US announced a trade embargo on all goods except for medicine
iv. On January 4, 1961 the US broke all diplomatic relations w/ Cuba
D. Basically, the US attempted to contain Cuba by refusing to trade which forced their economy to become weaker à US diplomats thought this would push Cuba toward democracy by forcing them to trade w/ the US out of necessity, but Cuba turned its allegiance toward Soviet Union instead
III. Political containment and the Bay of Pigs (1961)
A. Castro had not yet declared the Cuban Revolution socialist or communist à still hoped to have good relations w/ US
B. Cold War mentality of containment in Washington convinced diplomats that the revolution in Cuba had to be turned back
C. In 1961 the US launched the Bay of Pigs à anti-Castro exiles trained by the CIA
D. To prepare for Bay of Pigs CIA attacked several air fields killing 7 à next day Castro officially announced the revolution Socialist
E. US military attempts to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs failed à pushing Cuba towards the USSR, increasing Fidel’s popularity, and proving the US policy of containment a failure
IV. Parallels to Soviet containment: the Alliance for Progress
A. 1961 President Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress: a small scale Marshall Plan for Latin America à US hoped that it would encourage economic development and, hence, encourage the growth of democracy
B. Plan called for income increase, establishment of democratic governments, income distribution, land reform, and economic and social planning
C. The $20 billion pledged to the program usually ended up in the hands of wealthy landowners and further concentrated wealth (this increased productivity, but also increased social unrest) à the plan also did nothing to eliminate dictators from power
V. Conclusion
A. The US’s attempts to contain communism in South America was a failure
B. By withdrawing economic support the US worsened the Cuban economy and drove them closer to the Soviet Union
C. By attempting a political coup, the US forced Castro to dub his revolution socialist à caused Castro to develop anti-American attitude
D. Attempts to mimic the containment policy (the Marshall Plan) in Eastern Europe failed and caused further concentration of wealth throughout Latin America à had no profound effect on Cuba: Castro was still in power


Suspicious of Fidel Castro’s expanding relations with Khrushchev and the Soviet Union, out of fears in Washington that Cuba may align itself with communist ideology, the United States slowly eroded its relations with Cuba in the years after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. This Cold War policy of containment significantly affected Cuba, as, most importantly, it strengthened Cuban ties with the Soviet Union militarily, economically, and politically.

A. Strengthened military ties with USSR
1. The Bay of Pigs invasion was orchestrated by the CIA, which trained 1,500 Cuban exiles in Guatemala for the overthrow of Castro’s regime.
2. The invasion was an utter failure/embarrassment, as they were defeated 3 days after landing by a well-trained and well supplied Cuban army.
3. Although Cuba was able to combat this threat effectively, Fidel felt the need to further the security of his homeland.
a. In July 1962, Castro and the Soviets decided to install nuclear offensive and defensive missiles in Cuba, so the nation could have protection from any future American offensive.
b. In October 1962, US spy planes discovered the installation of the missiles, which was the direct cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

B. Strengthened economic ties with USSR
1. Outraged that Castro was nationalizing American-owned estates and factories, US president Eisenhower stopped the import of Cuban goods in July 1960.
a. This was a problem because the export of sugar was the mainstay of Cuba’s economy.
2. Cuba was forced to sign a trade agreement with Russia, who promised to buy Cuban sugar in exchange for sending agricultural machinery, crude oil, and technological instruction to Cuba.
3. Angered by this development, a partial embargo on trade was placed by the end of the year, and it was expanded to a full embargo in early 1962, which resulted in severe shortages of consumer goods in Cuba.

C. Strengthened political ties with USSR
1. The Bay of Pigs invasion drove Castro to declare Cuba a socialist nation during his victory speech.
2. Castro then initiated a political system similar to the Soviet Union’s, as the state banned all other political parties except the Cuban Communist Party, tightly censored the media, and seized control of most businesses, public and private.
3. The situation is ironic because it was American fears of Cuba leaning towards communism that eventually led Cuba to become a communist state.

Paper 2
Topic 5
Eli Hungerford
22. In what ways, and with what results, did the United States’ Cold War policy of containment affect Cuba after 1959?
I. Introduction: The 1959 Cuban Revolution brought about the downfall of a pro-US leader, Fulgencio Batista, and replaced him with Fidel Castro, a much more revolutionary leader. The United States’ policy of containment and the actions that comprised it, such as the Bay of Pigs catastrophe and the Cuban missile crisis, led to stronger ties between the developing nation and the communist super power; the Soviet Union.
II. Economic containment
A. Fidel Castro was nationalizing the industries in Cuba, a great number of which were US businesses
1. He took lands away from US businesses and they were worked as cooperatives
2. This angered many US investors
B. United States refused to aid Cuba, so they turned to the Soviet Union for economic help.
C. US put an embargo on Cuban goods
1. Cuba turned to the USSR for trade because the US would no longer purchase sugar, their staple crop.
2. The USSR traded oil and machinery for Cuban sugar, which led to improved economic ties between the two nations.
III. Bay of Pigs
A. Invasion of Cuba attempted by anti-Castro Cuban exiles
B. The CIA trained exiles and they landed at the Bay of Pigs
C. The invasion failed horribly
1. Kennedy canceled air support because he wanted to be able to claim “plausible deniability”
2. The people loved Castro, so the exiles met with much more resistance than expected.
D. Castro then declared Cuba a socialist nation, doing the exact opposite of what the US wanted.
IV. Cuban Missile crisis October 1962
A. The Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba that could reach most of the US.
1. The US found out about them from photos from a U2 spy plane.
2. Said that a nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere would be considered an attack against the US and would require retaliation against the USSR.
B. The US ordered the missile sites to be dismantled and quarantined Cuba with a naval blockade.
1. The blockade checked all ships coming into Cuba for military weapons and if found, would be turned around.
C. Was resolved about 2 weeks after it began
1. Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missile sites in exchange for a no invasion agreement and removal of US nuclear sites in Turkey.
V. Conclusion


  • The U.S.’s containment policy towards Cuba took affect after 1959 when Fidel Castro came to power.
  • By 1961, Cuba had been declared a Socialist Republic.
  • Because of Cuba’s close proximity to the United States, it has been declared a major threat to US security
  • The first and most major containment measure against Cuba was the US’s embargo in 1962. The purpose of the embargo was to “bring democracy to the Cuban people.”
    • Starting in July 1960, the United States reduced the Cuban import quota of sugar by 7,000,000 tons
    • By October of that same year, a partial economic embargo was enacted and by January of ’61, diplomatic relations had been cut off
    • Because of these measures, the USSR increased their relations with Cuba in order to sustain them. This then caused the US to widen the scope of trade restrictions to a point where the USSR could not afford to keep Cuba thriving.
    • Then due to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy enforced a travel restriction in Cuba.
    • However, by the Carter administration, the embargo had become more lax and the effect was not quite as severe. This was changed with the Reagan administration when he reinstated the trade embargo.
    • After the USSR fell in 1990, Cuba no longer had that benefactor and was forced to survive on its own.
    • As a result, the United States reinforced the Cuban Democracy Act in 1992 and then the Helms-Burton Act in 1996.
      • The C.D.A. was passed as “A bill to promote a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba through the application of sanctions directed at the Castro government and support for the Cuban people.” It was a trade and travel embargo with Cuba.
      • The H.B.A extended the territorial application of the initial embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba, and penalized foreign companies allegedly "trafficking" in property formerly owned by U.S. citizens but expropriated by Cuba after the Cuban revolution.
  • Cuba is presently still a socialist republic, but it has been severely weakened by the embargo. It is no longer considered a serious threat to US national security and some believe that democracy could be near.

Emma Bogdan - Topic 5 22. In what ways, and with what results, did the United States’ Cold War policy of containment affect Cuba after 1959?

- 1959 Cuban Revolution - Fidel Castro assumed power after overthrowing Bautista’s government
- Batista dictatorship was being supported by the US ($16 million in military aid per year)
- US saw Cuba’s fall to Communism as a real threat – a Communist power only 100 miles away from the US
- The goal of U.S. containment policy toward Cuba during the Cold War was to prevent the spread of communism in this hemisphere as part of an overall global strategy of containing Soviet communism.

Thesis: - affected Cuba more positively – created stronger ties with Soviet Union – negative effect on US since this could pose a threat
- US suspicion was sensed in Cuba and Fidel Castro saw himself obligated to nationalize all American owned business in Cuba and befriend USSR

Policy of Containment after 1959:
- After Fidel rose to power in Cuba, he began to nationalize all major industry and farms, and expropriated land + business owned by the US companies
- to retaliate, the US – Eisenhower administration responded with a partial embargo on Cuban goods, which led to the US & Cuban diplomatic relations to break
- US CIA carries numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and his brother Raul: trained Cuban exiles, and paid spies to attempt at his life
- Apr. 17, 1961, about 1,500 Cuban exiles landed in the Bay of Pigs – sent by Kennedy administration (Eisenhower admin. initiated Bay of Pigs); the plan failed as the exiles were surrounded by guerillas, and US failed to send any help
- The embargo imposed on Cuba in 1961 did not bring down the Cuban government and economy as much as it intended to, and US – Cuba relations improved.
- Cuban Missile Crisis - October 22, JFK announced a blockade of Cuba in response to the Soviet Unions placement of nuclear arms/ power in Havana.
- Khrushchev agreed to remove missiles from Cuba in exchange of a non-aggression agreement and required US to remove any missiles from Turkey - threat to Soviet Union.

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