We're glad you're enjoying History Hub Community. To access the rest of History Hub and thousands of more resources like this one, log in here. Or learn how to become a subscriber here.

Crises, Confrontation, and Détente • Expansion of Soviet Influence
Classroom Activities

Objective: Learn about Fidel Castro's Cuba and the Cold War, then have a debate discussing alternative responses and outcomes to key events in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Key Questions:

  • Why did Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba become part of the Cold War struggle between the two superpowers?
  • How did the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis affect Cold War tensions?

Notes on Implementation:

Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in Crises, Confrontation, and Détente Topic Center within the World History: The Modern Era database.

Student Activity:

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the closest that the two Cold War superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, came to full-scale nuclear war. The crisis consisted of a standoff between U.S. president John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev over the Soviets' plan to install nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba, less than 100 miles from the U.S. coast. While the Soviets eventually abandoned that plan, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a moment in the Cold War when the threat of nuclear warfare became immediate.

In this activity, you will learn about Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba and how it became part of the Cold War struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Then in a small group and using a list of key events in Cuban Cold War history, you will write advice to the American president about how to respond to the event and debate your plan with your fellow students.

Resources:

Apply:

  • Watch the video on the Cuban Revolution and Cuban Missile Crisis, taking notes on the various ways that Castro's regime in Cuba became part of the Cold War struggle. Then read the reference article on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Think about how this interaction between America, the Soviet Union, and Cuba is representative of the Cold War on the whole.
  • Then, gather into a small group of four to five students. Together, fill out the chart below. For each historical event listed, write the real-life outcome of the event. Then imagine you are a team of advisors to the president. Think about what advice you would give in dealing with each event, and what the possible outcomes might be. Choose the plan with the best outcome, then write it down.

Event Outcome of Event Advice You Would Give How Advice would Change Outcome
Cuban Revolution occurs, United States cuts off trade
Bay of Pigs Invasion—the U.S. supports a Cuban dissident uprising
Cuban Missile Crisis—U.S. responds to Soviet Union missiles installed in Cuba
  • Once your chart is filled out, join the rest of your classmates and share your advice/plan for the president. Debate the merits of each group's plan and note where student plans are similar and where they are different. Compare and contrast student plans with the ones the president implemented—are there differences in goals and outcomes? Then as a class, discuss and reflect on this question: how did the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis affect Cold War tensions?

ANSWER KEY:

Key Understandings:

  • Weapons of mass destruction increase the impact and importance of political policy

Possible Answers for Activity:

Students' advice will vary, but it should demonstrate understanding of the history of Cuba's involvement in the Cold War and include analysis of the short-term outcomes of the events as well as their larger implications on the Cold War. A group's chart might look something like this:

Event Outcome of Event Advice You Would Give How Advice would Change Outcome
Cuban Revolution occurs, United States cuts off trade U.S. loses influence on Cuba, Soviet Union has an entry to open up trade with them and gain more influence Continue trading with Cuba, attempt to influence Cuba's policy with trade incentives Castro might lean more towards capitalistic trade and economy even with his socialist views, and the Soviet Union has less of an opportunity to exert influence through trade
Bay of Pigs Invasion—the U.S. supports a Cuban dissident uprising The uprising backfires and causes a swell of support for Castro from Cuban citizens, Kennedy and CIA (who trained the dissidents) are humiliated, and Castro seeks out the Soviets for protection against the U.S. First do research on whether the dissidents would have support from the Cuban citizens, and when you find out that they don't, try to find another way to influence Cuba (possibly through trade and economy) Would avoid having the Bay of Pigs, and hopefully would find another way to influence Cuba to adopt more capitalistic and democratic policies
Cuban Missile Crisis—U.S. responds to Soviet Union missiles installed in Cuba The U.S. and Soviet Union make a deal where they both move their missiles farther away from each other, and the U.S. won't invade Cuba, which de-escalates tensions. But this kicks off a period of heavy arms development because both sides are concerned about mutually assured destruction and want to make sure they have enough weapons to scare the other side Instead of setting up a quarantine, try to set up a deal with the Soviets about moving the missiles in the first place, and then we might get a better deal (like the U.S. moves the missiles out of Turkey, but we don't agree to not invading Cuba, or we can't invade Cuba but our missiles stay in Turkey) The standoff of the missile crisis is potentially avoided, and if the standoff doesn't reach such a high tension, it might stop both sides from building up greater numbers of missiles (at least not as many as there were), and the U.S. might get a better deal on the agreement to move the missiles

In the debates, students should analyze other group's advice and plans, as well as the real historical happenings, and form logical reasons to support or question those plans. When answering the question "how did the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis affect Cold War tensions?" students should note that the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis further intensified the sense of tension and competition between the two countries, because it forced each side to the brink of declaring war, and each country became more aware of the concept of MAD, or mutually assured destruction. With concerns about MAD, each side began producing many more missiles and weapons, building up huge arsenals to convince the other side that MAD was a definite outcome of being the first striker in a war. This, in turn, escalated tensions further throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

ABC-CLIO

MLA Citation

"Expansion of Soviet Influence." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com. Accessed 23 Aug. 2019.

View all citation styles.

back to top

© ABC-CLIO, LLC