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Did international relations improve?

When the Soviets backed down, the missile crisis was effectively over. However, Kennedy told his advisers that he did not want to give the press the impression that the United States had triumphed over the Soviets. The world had come very close to nuclear war and, in future, Kennedy was more cautious in his dealings with the Soviet Union.

In June 1963, both sides agreed to the creation of a hot line between the White House and the Kremlin. This would avoid the communication difficulties that had occurred during the missile crisis, when it had sometimes taken several hours for messages to be sent. From now on, coded messages on issues of international security could be passed between the leaders without delay.

Ten months after the crisis, which had clearly shown the dangers of nuclear confrontation, the two superpowers and Britain signed a nuclear test ban treaty. This ruled out future testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and underwater. The test ban did not cover underground testing. It represented the most significant improvement in international relations in a decade and was later signed by many other countries.

A further consequence of the Cuban missile crisis was the removal of Khrushchev in October 1964. Hard-line generals within the Kremlin saw his climb-down over the missiles as a humiliation. His enemies disliked his reforms and his personality (he had a reputation for interrupting people at international meetings and shouting insults at them). Difficulties within the USSR, most notably a serious harvest failure in 1963, also undermined Khrushchev’s position. Yet Khrushchev did promote the idea that Communist countries and capitalist countries could coexist in peace.

Before the dismissal of Khrushchev and the death of Kennedy, there was a thaw in international relations. However, Kennedy had already sent 15,000 military advisers to support South Vietnam in its war with communist North Vietnam – the fight between the communist and capitalist worldviews was not yet over.

Examine these sources to find out more:
1. Message from Khrushchev, 1964
1. Message from Khrushchev, 1964

2. Kennedy’s speech at the American University, 1963
2. Kennedy’s speech at the American University, 1963

3. Photo of Castro and Khrushchev, 1963
3. Photo of Castro and Khrushchev, 1963