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Dale Banham

Student Question: JFK and the Soviet Union

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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: To what extent did JFK improve relations between the USA and the Soviet Union after the Cuban Missile Crisis?

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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: To what extent did JFK improve relations between the USA and the Soviet Union after the Cuban Missile Crisis?

I'd say considerably. He gave Khrushchev a way out of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which enabled both men to negotiate a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, over the objections of military on both sides of the Cold War, and paved the way for continued improvements in relations. This also resulted in feelers going out for improved relations with Cuba, but Kennedy's assassination ended that, as Lyndon Johnson opposed such moves.

Martin Shackelford

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The recognition of how close they came to nuclear war caused both Kennedy and Khruschev to reconsider their positions. As a consequence, they developed a respectful dialogue which resulted in the Nuclear Test Ban treaty of July 25, 1963. Kennedy considered this more a beginning than a culmination. Sadly, he was removed before he could reach this culmination--the end of the cold war.

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JFK improved relations with the USSR following the Cuban Missile Crisis in the following ways:

(1) He not only publicly made a "no-invasion" pleadge re: Cuba (providing Castro did not reintroduce offensive weapons), but he made clear he was really going to keep his promise, over the objections of many in the military and intelligence communities.

(2) Operation Mongoose---the hyperactive program of covert sabotage operations against Cuba---was shut down.

(3) The "Peace Speech" at American University on June 10, 1963 was a bold step toward ending the Cold War: it challenged both Americans and Soviet citizens to re-evaluate their opinions of each other, and to learn to live together peacefully. The speech concentrated on the common ground between the two peoples, and soberly discussed the dangers of nuclear war and nuclear testing. Kruschev was so impressed with the speech that he ordered it published verbatim in the Soviet press...without any omissions or changes whatsoever.

(4) In September 1963 JFK gave a speech at the U.N. in which he proposed that the USSR and the U.S. cooperate in attempts to land humans on the moon. NASA wasn't too excited over this, and dragged its feet. JFK, irritated, sent written direction to the head of NASA, James Webb, to report in December in writing on ways to cooperate with the Soviets in landing on the moon. (This never happened, of course.)

(5) The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, banning tests in the atmosphere, on land, or at sea was signed in October between the USSR and the U.S. It was a landmark of international negotiation and diplomacy, and was the single accomplishment that JFK was proudest of.

Doug Horne

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