Coercive Strategy in the Cuban Missile Crisis
Actions taken by the United States during the Cuban missile crisis were both competitive and cooperative. The United States was competing against the Soviet Union to achieve a favorable outcome for U.S. interests, which meant, at the very least, gaining Soviet commitment both to halt shipment of nuclear-capable delivery systems to Cuba and remove those systems already in place. But U.S. and Soviet objectives were also partly cooperative. Subsequent to the discovery of the missiles by U.S. photo-reconnaissance and U.S. President John F. Kennedy's announcement of a "quarantine" or blockade, neither Kennedy nor Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wanted the crisis to escalate to the point of an actual shooting war between American and Soviet forces near Cuba. Nor did they want to risk the potential expansion of such a war into Europe, involving, as it would, both powers' allies on that continent.
In its attempts to resolve the Cuban missile crisis, the United States was forced to draw upon coercive diplomacy and other aspects of coercive military strategy.1 Coercive military strategy was involved because the United States: (1) mobilized forces for the invasion of Cuba; (2) put its strategic nuclear forces on their largest-ever peacetime alert; and (3) instituted a naval blockade of Cuba that ran a deliberate, if calculated, risk of a confrontation on the high seas between American and Soviet naval forces. Additional components of coercive military strategy were also apparent in both sides' precrisis and crisis maneuvers, as discussed below. The United States could not extricate itself from the crisis without engaging in a degree of nuclear coercion that some crisis partici