Escalation in the Cuban Missile Crisis
By Dean Pruitt and Jeffrey Rubin
This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Selection from: Dean Pruitt and Jeffrey Rubin, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate and Settlement, (New York: Random House, 1986), pp. 128-9.
The authors discuss the purposeful escalation of conflict costs to produce a stalemate in the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962 the USSR began to ship Nuclear missiles to Cuba, with the intention of targeting them at major US cities. US president Kennedy responded with the military threat to blockade Cuba if the missiles were not removed. Receiving no response from the Soviets, Kennedy ordered a naval blockade.
On the morning of October 24, two Soviet ships and a submarine approached the blockaded area. The Soviet vessels stopped short of the blockade. American ships were ordered not to interfere with the Soviet vessels. The two sides were at a stalemate.
By escalating the crisis to a military confrontation, Kennedy had greatly increased the costs of continuing the conflict. The cost of challenging the US blockade, or pursuing the Soviet ships, was probable nuclear war. Fortunately, neither side was willing to incur that cost. A stalemate had been reached. Both sides were then willing to seek an agreement, rather than continue the conflict. Stalemate broken, the Soviet vessels turned back to Russia and agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba, and the US agreed not to invade Cuba.