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The democratically-elected Arbenz government hoped for economic prosperity through economic reform and a highway to the Atlantic.

United States Interventions What For?

By John H. Coatsworth 

Revista Harvard Review of Latin America 

Spring/ Summer 2005

In the slightly less than a hundred years from 1898 to 1994, the U.S. government has intervened successfully to change governments in Latin America a total of at least 41 times. That amounts to once every 28 months for an entire century (see table).

Direct intervention occurred in 17 of the 41 cases. These incidents involved the use of U.S. military forces, intelligence agents or local citizens employed by U.S. government agencies. In another 24 cases, the U.S. government played an indirect role. That is, local actors played the principal roles, but either would not have acted or would not have succeeded without encouragement from the U.S. government.

While direct interventions are easily identified and copiously documented, identifying indirect interventions requires an exercise in historical judgment. The list of 41 includes only cases where, in the author’s judgment, the incumbent government would likely have survived in the absence of U.S. hostility. The list ranges from obvious cases to close calls. An example of an obvious case is the decision, made in the Oval Office in January 1963, to incite the Guatemalan army to overthrow the (dubiously) elected government of Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes in order to prevent an open competitive election that might have been won by left-leaning former President Juan José Arévalo. A less obvious case is that of the Chilean military coup against the government of President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. The Allende government had plenty of domestic opponents eager to see it deposed. It is included in this list because U.S. opposition to a coup (rather than encouragement) would most likely have enabled Allende to continue in office until new elections.

The 41 cases do not include incidents in which the United States sought to depose a Latin American government, but failed in the attempt. The most famous such case was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. Allvadorso absent from the list are numerous cases in which the U.S. government acted decisively to forestall a coup d’etat or otherwise protect an incumbent regime from being overthrown.

Overthrowing governments in Latin America has never been exactly routine for the United States. However, the option to depose a sitting government has appeared on the U.S. president’s desk with remarkable frequency over the past century. It is no doubt still there, though the frequency with which the U.S. president has used this option has fallen rapidly since the end of the Cold War.

Though one may quibble about cases, the big debates—both in the public and among historians and social scientists—have centered on motives and causes. In nearly every case, U.S. officials cited U.S. security interests, either as determinative or as a principal motivation. With hindsight, it is now possible to dismiss most these claims as implausible. In many cases, they were understood as necessary for generating public and congressional support, but not taken seriously by the key decision makers. The United States did not face a significant military threat from Latin America at any time in the 20th century. Even in the October 1962 missile crisis, the Pentagon did not believe that the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba altered the global balance of nuclear terror. It is unlikely that any significant threat would have materialized if the 41 governments deposed by the United States had remained in office until voted out or overturned without U.S. help.

In both the United States and Latin America, economic interests are often seen as the underlying cause of U.S. interventions. This hypothesis has two variants. One cites corruption and the other blames capitalism. The corruption hypothesis contends that U.S. officials order interventions to protect U.S. corporations. The best evidence for this version comes from the decision to depose the elected government of Guatemala in 1954. Except for President Dwight Eisenhower, every significant decision maker in this case had a family, business or professional tie to the United Fruit Company, whose interests were adversely affected by an agrarian reform and other policies of the incumbent government. Nonetheless, in this as in every other case involving U.S. corporate interests, the U.S. government would probably not have resorted to intervention in the absence of other concerns.

The capitalism hypothesis is a bit more sophisticated. It holds that the United States intervened not to save individual companies but to save the private enterprise system, thus benefiting all U.S. (and Latin American) companies with a stake in the region. This is a more plausible argument, based on repeated declarations by U.S. officials who seldom missed an opportunity to praise free enterprise. However, capitalism was not at risk in the overwhelming majority of U.S. interventions, perhaps even in none of them. So this ideological preference, while real, does not help explain why the United States intervened. U.S. officials have also expressed a preference for democratic regimes, but ordered interventions to overthrow elected governments more often than to restore democracy in Latin America. Thus, this preference also fails to carry much explanatory power.

An economist might approach the thorny question of causality not by asking what consumers or investors say about their preferences, but what their actions can help us to infer about them. An economist’s approach might also help in another way, by distinguishing between supply and demand. A look at the supply side suggests that interventions will occur more often where they do not cost much, either directly in terms of decision makers’ time and resources, or in terms of damage to significant interests. On the demand side, two factors seem to have been crucial in tipping decision makers toward intervention: domestic politics and global strategy.

Domestic politics seems to be a key factor in most of these cases. For example, internal documents show that President Lyndon Johnson ordered U.S. troops to the Dominican Republic in 1965 not because of any plausible threat to the United States, but because he felt threatened by Republicans in Congress. Political competition within the United States accounts for the disposition of many U.S. presidentions

nts to order interventions.

The second key demand-side factor could be called the global strategy effect. The United States in the 20th century defined its strategic interests in global terms. This was particularly true after World War II when the United States moved rapidly to project its power into regions of the earth on the periphery of the Communist states where it had never had a presence before. In the case of Latin America, where the United States faced no foreseeable military threat, policy planners did nonetheless identify potential future threats. This was especially true in the 1960s, after the Cuban Revolution. The United States helped to depose nine of the governments that fell to military rulers in the 1960s, about one every 13 months and more than in any other decade. Curiously, however, we now know that U.S. decision makers were repeatedly assured by experts in the CIA and other intelligence gathering agencies that, in the words of a 1968 National Intelligence Estimate, “In no case do insurgencies pose a serious short run threat…revolution seems unlikely in most Latin American countries within the next few years.” Few challenged the idea that leftist regimes would pose a secutiry threat to the United States. threat…revolution seems unlikely in most Latin American countries

Thus, in a region where intervention was not very costly, and even major failures unlikely to damage U.S. interests, the combination of domestic political competition and potential future threats—even those with a low probability of ever materializing—appear to explain most of the 20th century US interventions.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that U.S. interventions did not serve U.S. national interests well. They generated needless resentment in the region and called into question the U.S. commitment to democracy and rule of law in international affairs. The downward trend in the past decade and half is a positive development much to be encouraged.

CHRONICLING INTERVENTIONS

U.S. DIRECT INTERVENTIONS 
Military/CIA activity that changed governments

COUNTRY YEAR EVENT SUMMARY
Cuba 1898-1902 Spanish-American War
1906-09 Ousts elected Pres. Palma; occupation regime
1917-23 U.S. reoccupation, gradual withdrawal
Dominican Rep 1916-24 U.S. occupation
1961 Assassination of Pres. Trujillo
1965 U.S. Armed Forces occupy Sto Domingo
Grenada 1983 U.S. Armed Forces occupy island; oust government
Guatemala 1954 C.I.A.-organized armed force ousts Pres. Arbenz
Haiti 1915-34 U.S. occupation
1994 U.S. troops restore constitutional government
Mexico 1914 Veracuz occupied; US allows rebels to buy arms
Nicaragua 1910 Troops to Corinto, Bluefields during revolt
1912-25 U.S. occupation
1926-33 U.S. occupation
1981-90 Contra war; then support for opposition in election
Panama 1903-14 U.S. Troops secure protectorate, canal
1989 U.S. Armed Forces occupy nation

U.S. INDIRECT INTERVENTION
Government/regime changes in which U.S. is decisive

COUNTRY YEAR EVENT SUMMARY
Bolivia 1944 Coup uprising overthrow Pres. Villaroel
1963 Military coup ousts elected Pres. Paz Estenssoro
1971 Military coup ousts Gen. Torres
Brazil 1964 Military coup ousts elected Pres. Goulart
Chile 1973 Coup ousts elected Pres. Allende.
1989-90 Aid to anti-Pinochet opposition
Cuba 1933 U.S. abandons support for Pres. Machado
1934 U.S. sponsors coup by Col. Batista to oust Pres. Grau
Dominican Rep. 1914 U.S. secures ouster of Gen. José Bordas
1963 Coup ousts elected Pres. Bosch
El Salvador 1961 Coup ousts reformist civil-military junta
1979 Coup ousts Gen. Humberto Romero
1980 U.S. creates and aids new Christian Demo junta
Guatemala 1963 U.S. supports coup vs elected Pres. Ydígoras
1982 U.S. supports coup vs Gen. Lucas García
1983 U.S. supports coup vs Gen. Rios Montt
Guyana 1953 CIA aids strikes; Govt. is ousted
Honduras 1963 Military coups ousts elected Pres. Morales
Mexico 1913 U.S. Amb. H. L. Wilson organizes coup v Madero
Nicaragua 1909 Support for rebels vs Zelaya govt
1979 U.S. pressures Pres. Somoza to leave
Panama 1941 U.S supports coup ousting elected Pres. Arias
1949 U.S. supports coup ousting constitutional govt of VP Chanís
1969 U.S. supports coup by Gen. Torrijos
John H. Coatsworth is Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs. Coatsworth’s most recent book is “The Cambridge Economic History of Latin America,” a two-volume reference work, edited with Victor Bulmer-Thomas and Roberto Cortes Conde – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/157958#sthash.I6nAx9Oq.dpuf

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US-Cuba Embargo Goes Beyond the Cold War

The unequal US-Cuban power relationship stretches back to the turn of the 20th century.

Cuban propaganda poster in Havana featuring a Cuban soldier addressing a threatening Uncle Sam. Photo by KPu3uC B PoccuuCuban propaganda poster in Havana featuring a Cuban soldier addressing a threatening Uncle Sam. Photo by KPu3uC B PoccuuPresident Obama’s decision to reopen the US embassy in Havana and to begin easing commercial and travel restrictions continues to be regarded by supporters as the highpoint of Obama’s foreign policy agenda to date. But the move has its fair share of detractors, too. To understand the predominantly Republican opposition to trade liberalization with Cuba, we must look beyond the Cold War. We must look further back into America’s imperial past.

More Than a Cold War Hangover

The Democratic leadership has explained Obama’s sizeable shift in US policy toward Cuba. ‘We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests’, Obama stated. ‘Neither the American nor the Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.’ Nancy Pelosi similarly noted that ‘we must acknowledge our policy towards Cuba is a relic of a bygone era that weakens our leadership in the Americas and has not advanced freedom and prosperity in Cuba.’

Obama and Pelosi should look much farther back than the 1961 Cuban Embargo. The unequal US-Cuban power relationship stretches back to the turn of the 20th century.

Americans may have largely forgotten the first 60 years of US interventions in Cuban affairs – from the late 19th century to the mid-20th – but Cuban memories are longer. When Fidel Castro took power in 1959, his justification for doing so was not in stark cold-war anti-capitalistic terms. Rather, he harkened back to an earlier era of US-Cuban relations and to Cuba’s right to international freedom of trade. In a January 1959 speech, he warned that American diminution of Cuban sovereignty, stretching back to the late 19th century, would no longer be tolerated, and in front of the United Nations in 1960, Castro denounced American economic nationalist policies toward Cuba, declaring that it was an inalienable right that Cuba be allowed to freely ‘sell what it produces’ and to see its exports increase: ‘Only egotistical interests can oppose the universal interest in trade and commercial exchange.’ So when the Eisenhower administration showed itself indisposed toward normalizing US-Cuban relations, Castro turned instead to the other major geopolitical player, the Soviet Union, ‘to sell our products’.

In January 1961, stemming in part from the Cuban-Soviet trade agreement, the United States put in place the now infamous trade embargo against Cuba and severed diplomatic relations. The embargo has since stunted Cuban political and economic growth, and has accordingly served as an easy scapegoat for Fidel and his brother Raúl by allowing them to blame the United States for any and all economic woes befalling Cuba.

Even a cursory look at US trade policies toward other communist states shows how the US embargo against Cuba was – and remains – far more than a Cold War hangover.

Republican Imperialism of Economic Nationalism

In other words, if the embargo were merely an antiquated relic of the Cold War, how do we reconcile the contradiction of American trade liberalization with communist China during the Cold War, but not with Cuba even a quarter century after Cold War’s end? Is it perhaps from political pressure from anti-Castro groups within the United States? Considering that a majority of Cuban-American voters and US business interests would now favor easing political and economic restrictions against Cuba, that line of argument looks increasingly flimsy.

The primary inspiration for the Cuban embargo is something much more emotional and irrational than some outdated fear of communism at America’s backdoor. It is something that reaches back more than a century to America’s imperial past, something ingrained in the American psyche, a collective unconscious support for the nineteenth-century Monroe Doctrine: the self-ordained, unilateral US right to intervene in Western Hemispheric affairs. More specifically, the Cuban embargo is a modern-day manifestation of the Republican party’s longstanding imperialism of economic nationalism.

After the American Civil War, the Republican party stood proudly upon a political economic platform of high protectionism. And by the 19th century’s fin de siècle, it also stood proudly in demanding American colonialism. These two Republican planks – imperialism and economic nationalism – became entwined.

Republican President William McKinley, the ‘Napoleon of Protection’, oversaw the acquisition of a formal American empire following a successful US war against the Spanish in 1898. Newly obtained American colonies now included the Philippines and Puerto Rico, and, more informally, Cuba.

Cuba had been guaranteed ostensible independence from the United States, but the 1901 Platt Amendment allowed the United States ‘the right to intervene’ in Cuban affairs, including through military occupation, throughout the early twentieth century. The Republican administration of Teddy Roosevelt soon thereafter doubled down on undermining Cuban sovereignty through the restrictive 1903 Reciprocity Treaty, which maintained a discounted protective policy toward Cuban exports to protect US sugar growing interests. Following the treaty’s passage, Roosevelt expressed his private delight at the coercive idea of pulling Cuban political-economic strings through Republican-style trade reciprocity.

This despite the fact that Cuban liberals wanted free trade with the United States. In 1902, for example, the Corporaciones Económicas, an influential conglomerate of Cuban creole businessmen, lobbied the US Congress for Cuban-American free trade. Luis V. de Abad, representing Cuban tobacco interests, at the same time was also appealing to Washington for trade liberalization instead of ‘prohibitive’ tobacco duties of over 125 percent, which had left the Cuban worker with ‘less bread and butter in his home’, and more ‘worse off than under Spanish domination’. And Juan Gualberto Gómez, leader of the Cuban Liberal Party, similarly castigated the 1903 Reciprocity Treaty, calling instead for unrestricted free trade with the United States.

But Republican economic nationalist politicians ignored such cosmopolitan Cuban demands. As historian Mary Speck has explored, Republican protectionist unwillingness to grant free trade to Cuba would thereafter culminate in the 1930 Hawley-Smoot Tariff, ushering in a new Cuban ‘era of economic depression and political unrest’.

Cuba’s Century-Long Desire for Free Trade

So when Raúl Castro called for an end to the embargo based on economic and humanitarian grounds in late December, he was therefore just reiterating a century-long Cuban call for free trade with the United States – a call that has for so long fallen on deaf American ears.

From this longer perspective of US-Cuban trade relations, the 1961 Embargo Act marked not the beginning, but the high-water mark of American economic nationalist imperialism towards Cuba.

When Republican politicians today like former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida say liberalizing trade ‘undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba’, or when House Leader John Boehner suggests that normalizing relations ‘should not be revisited… until the Cuban people enjoy freedom’, they are in fact undemocratically ignoring a century of Cuban demands for free trade.

Republican opponents of diplomatic normalization and trade liberalization also appear woefully ignorant of the fact that since the Second World War, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have advocated international trade liberalization for the expressed purpose of increasing political and economic freedom throughout the globe, even more so since the end of the Cold War. As Bill Clinton’s National Security Council advisor Anthony Lake put it in 1993: ‘On one side is protectionism and limited foreign engagement; on the other is active American engagement abroad on behalf of democracy and expanded trade.’

Thus, when Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio says ‘this entire policy shift… is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people’, he is reflecting a bygone Republican sentiment that was used to justify American imperialism toward Cuba a century ago: a protectionist sentiment that baldly contradicts the Republican party’s own neoliberal free-market rhetoric that it has espoused in the decades following the Second World War.

Rubio and other Republican detractors of Obama’s Cuban policy must throw away the antiquated remnants of America’s imperial past. Ending the Cuban embargo would be an excellent start.

Dr. Marc-William Palen is a lecturer in imperial history at the University of Exeter, and a research associate in US Foreign Policy at the US Studies Centre, University of Sydney. His forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press is The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalization, 1846-1896.

 

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CIA SUCCESSFULLY CONCEALS BAY OF PIGS HISTORY

National Security Archives   May 21, 2014

 

bayopigsThumbWashington, DC, May 21, 2014 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday joined the CIA’s cover-up of its Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 by ruling that a 30-year-old volume of the CIA’s draft “official history” could be withheld from the public under the “deliberative process” privilege, even though four of the five volumes have previously been released with no harm either to national security or any government deliberation.

“The D.C. Circuit’s decision throws a burqa over the bureaucracy,” said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org), the plaintiff in the case. “Presidents only get 12 years after they leave office to withhold their deliberations,” commented Blanton, “and the Federal Reserve Board releases its verbatim transcripts after five years. But here the D.C. Circuit has given the CIA’s historical office immortality for its drafts, because, as the CIA argues, those drafts might ‘confuse the public.'”

“Applied to the contents of the National Archives of the United States, this decision would withdraw from the shelves more than half of what’s there,” Blanton concluded.

The 2-1 decision, authored by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (a George W. Bush appointee and co-author of the Kenneth Starr report that published extensive details of the Monica Lewinsky affair), agreed with Justice Department and CIA lawyers that because the history volume was a “pre-decisional and deliberative” draft, its release would “expose an agency’s decision making process in such a way as to discourage candid discussion within the agency and thereby undermine the agency’s ability to perform its functions.”

This language refers to the fifth exemption (known as b-5) in the Freedom of Information Act. The Kavanaugh opinion received its second and majority vote from Reagan appointee Stephen F. Williams, who has senior status on the court.

bayopigsOn the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 2011, the National Security Archive’s Cuba project director, Peter Kornbluh, requested, through the FOIA, the complete release of “The Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation” — a massive, five-volume study compiled by a CIA staff historian, Jack Pfeiffer, in the 1970s and early 1980s. Volume III had already been released under the Kennedy Assassination Records Act; and a censored version of Volume IV had been declassified years earlier pursuant to a request by Pfeiffer himself.

The Archive’s FOIA request pried loose Volumes I and II of the draft history, along with a less-redacted version of Volume IV, but the CIA refused to release Volume V, so the Archive filed suit under FOIA in 2012, represented by the expert FOIA litigator, David Sobel. In May 2012, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler held that Volume V was covered by the deliberative process privilege, and refused to order any segregation of “non-deliberative” material, as required by FOIA.

The Archive appealed the lower court’s decision, and with representation from the distinguished firm of Skadden Arps Meagher Slate & Flom, brought the case to the D.C. Circuit, with oral argument in December 2013. The National Coalition for History, including the American Historical Association and other historical and archival professional organizations, joined the case with anamicus curiae brief authored by the Jones Day law firm arguing for release of the volume.

Titled “CIA’s Internal Investigation of the Bay of Pigs Operation,” Volume V apparently contains Pfeiffer’s aggressive defense of the CIA against a hard-hitting 1961 internal review, written by the agency’s own Inspector General, which held the CIA singularly responsible for the poor assumptions, faulty planning and incompetence that led to the quick defeat of the paramilitary exile brigade by Fidel Castro’s military at the Bahia de Cochinos between April 17 and April 20, 1961.

The Archive obtained under FOIA and published the IG Report in 1998. The CIA has admitted in court papers that the Pfeiffer study contains “a polemic of recriminations against CIA officers who later criticized the operation,” as well as against other Kennedy administration officials who Pfeiffer contended were responsible for this foreign policy disaster.

In the dissenting opinion from the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision yesterday, Judge Judith Rogers (appointed by Bill Clinton) identified multiple contradictions in the CIA’s legal arguments. Judge Rogers pointed out that the CIA had failed to justify why release of Volume V would “lead to public confusion” when CIA had already released Volumes I-IV. She noted that neither the CIA nor the majority court opinion had explained “why release of the draft of Volume V ‘would expose an agency’s decision making process,'” and discourage future internal deliberations within the CIA’s historical office any more than release of the previous four volumes had done.

Prior to yesterday’s decision, the Obama administration had bragged that reducing the government’s invocation of the b-5 exemption was proof of the impact of the President’s Day One commitment to a “presumption of disclosure.” Instead, the bureaucracy has actually increased in the last two years its use of the b-5 exemption, which current White House counselor John Podesta once characterized as the “withhold if you want to” exemption.

The majority opinion also left two openings for transparency advocates. It invites Congress to set a time limit for applying the b-5 exemption, as Congress has done in the Presidential Records Act. Second, it concludes that any “factual material” contained in the draft should be reachable through Freedom of Information requests.

 

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Spanish-American Filipino War Footage

The Spanish-American-Filipino War is the first US war that was filmed.  Here are a collection of short clips from the Library of Congress.

We may watch one or more in class.  Feel free to watch as many as you’d like.  For audience in 1898, footage of war was a major attraction.  However, not all the scenes are “actuality” footage, but reenactments by film companies–created, no doubt–to satisfy audience demands

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The Last Nuclear Weapons Left Cuba in December 1962

Soviet Military Documents Provide Detailed Account of Cuban Missile Crisis Deployment and Withdrawal

New Evidence on Tactical Nuclear Weapons – 59 Days in Cuba

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 449
Posted December 11, 2013

Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya and Thomas Blanton
With Anna Melyakova

http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB449/1b%20beloborodov%20indigirka.jpg

Col. Beloborodov on board the Indigirka bound for Cuba, 1962 (photo courtesy of Beloborodov family and Michael Dobbs)

Washington, DC, December 11, 2013 – The last Soviet nuclear warheads in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis did not leave the island until December 1, 1962, according to Soviet military documents published today for the first time in English by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org).

At 9 o’clock in the morning on December 1, 1962, the large Soviet cargo ship Arkhangelsk quietly left the Cuban port of Mariel and headed east across the Atlantic to its home port of Severomorsk near Murmansk. This inconspicuous departure in fact signified the end of the most dangerous crisis of the Cold War. What was called “the Beloborodov cargo” in the Soviet top secret cables — the nuclear warheads that the Soviet armed forces had deployed in Cuba in October 1962 — was shipped back to the Soviet Union on Arkhangelsk.

According to the documents, Soviet nuclear warheads stayed on the Cuban territory for 59 days — from the arrival of the ship Indigirka on October 4 to the departure of Arkhangelsk on December 1. U.S. intelligence at the time had no idea about the nature of the Arkhangelsk cargo. Arkhangelsk carried 80 warheads for the land-based cruise missile FKR-1, 12 warheads for the dual-use Luna (Frog) launcher, and 6 nuclear bombs for IL-28 bombers — in total, 98 tactical nuclear warheads. Four other nuclear warheads, for torpedoes on the Foxtrot submarines, had already returned to the Soviet Union, as well as 24 warheads for the R-14 missiles, which arrived in Cuba on October 25 on the ship Aleksandrovsk, but were never unloaded. The available evidence suggests that the 36 warheads for the R-12 missiles that came to Cuba on the Indigirka also left on Aleksandrovsk, being loaded at Mariel between October 30 and November 3.

The question of tactical nuclear weapons — their number, their intended use, command and control procedures, and even the dates of their arrival and departure — has created many puzzles for students of the Cuban Missile Crisis for years since the planner of Operation Anadyr, General Anatoly Ivanovich Gribkov, revealed their presence in Cuba in 1962 at a critical oral history conference of American, Soviet and Cuban policymakers and scholars in Havana in January 1992, co-organized by the National Security Archive. In the last twenty years, numerous scholars have published on the issue, each introducing additional evidence and moving the debate forward step by step.[1]

Today’s posting brings together the most important pieces of evidence documenting the presence of tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba during the Missile Crisis — the most authoritative story so far based on documents. Although many of the documents included here were previously published in English by the Archive and by the Cold War International History Project, this posting includes three newly translated documents, never available before in English, which provide detailed accounts of the Soviet deployment of missile forces and nuclear warheads and the exact chronology of the deployment.

One of the new documents, a contemporaneous after-action report written in December 1962 by Major General Igor Statsenko, provides details of the deployment and withdrawal of the Missile Division (the R-12 and R-14 regiments and supporting personnel) under Statsenko’s command (Document 1). A second new document is the report written by Lieutenant General Nikolai Beloborodov (commander of the Soviet nuclear arsenal in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis) in the 1990s, most likely on the basis of his own contemporaneous documents, which describes the delivery, deployment and withdrawal of all nuclear warheads, which were under his command (Document 2).

Former CIA photointerpreter Dino Brugioni takes pictures of FKR and Luna missiles in Cuba, 2002 (photo by Svetlana Savranskaya)

Former CIA photointerpreter Dino Brugioni takes pictures of FKR and Luna missiles in Cuba, 2002 (photo by Svetlana Savranskaya)

Both reports read as understated but pointed condemnation of the Soviet General Staff’s planning of the Cuban operation. Statsenko’s report describes shortcomings in initial reconnaissance and camouflage and ignorance of local conditions on the part of the Operation Anadyr planners. Beloborodov’s report points to difficulties with storing nuclear warheads in the tropical conditions, unanticipated transportation problems, and the camouflage issues. His report also reveals the fact that even as the Soviet Presidium was deciding to pull back the strategic missiles (ships carrying parts of Statsenko’s division turned around on October 25 rather than challenge the U.S. quarantine of Cuba), the Soviet support troops in Cuba were given orders to unload the tactical warheads from Aleksandrovsk, and did that during the nights of October 26, 27 and 28-because at that moment, the Soviets were planning to leave tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba. On the basis of these two reports and all other Soviet documents available today, the following chronology outlines the Soviet decisions relating to the tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Brief chronology of Soviet tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba:

  • May 24, 1962 -original plan for Operation Anadyr included deployment of 80 FKR cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.
  • June 10-Operation Anadyr approved by the Soviet Presidium.
  • September 7-the “Pitsunda decision.” Khrushchev augmented the original plan by adding 6 nuclear bombs for IL-28 bombers and 12 short-range nuclear missiles for the dual-use system Luna/Frog.
  • October 4-Indigirka arrived in Mariel with 36 warheads for R-12, 36 warheads for FKR, 12 warheads for Lunas, and 6 nuclear bombs for Il-28s.
  • October 22-Presidium discussed the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons in the event of an American invasion of Cuba.
  • October 23-Aleksandrovsk arrived in La Isabella with 24 warheads for R-14 and 44 warheads for FKRs.
  • October 26-28-Aleksandrovsk “partially” unloaded-warheads for FKRs were unloaded and sent to units.
  • October 30-Aleksandrovsk ordered back to Severomorsk still carrying the 24 warheads for R-14s, after probably loading the 36 R-12 warheads at Mariel harbor and departing November 3.[2]
  • November 2-Anastas Mikoyan arrived in Cuba as Khrushchev’s special envoy.
  • November 8-Mikoyan suggested transferring “all remaining weapons” to the Cubans after special training.
  • Nov 12-Khrushchev decided to remove the IL-28 bombers.
  • November 22-Mikoyan informed the Cuban leadership that all nuclear weapons would be removed from Cuba.[3]
  • December 1-all tactical nuclear warheads left Cuba on Arkhangelsk.
  • December 20-Arkhangelsk arrived in Severomorsk.

The original Soviet plan for Operation Anadyr, presented to the Presidium on May 24, 1962 and finally approved on June 10, in addition to the deployment of the R-12 and R-14 missiles, provided for the inclusion in the Soviet Group of Forces in Cuba of 80 land-based front cruise missiles (FKR) with the range of 111 miles (Document 3). In September, Khrushchev decided to strengthen the Group of Soviet forces in Cuba and augment the nuclear portion of the deployment with additional 12 tactical dual-use Luna (Frog) launchers with 12 nuclear warheads for them, and 6 nuclear bombs for specially fitted IL-28 bombers, although he rejected a Defense Ministry proposal also to add 18 nuclear-armed R-11 short-range SCUD missiles (Document 5).

The strategic missiles, R-12 and R-14, could only be used by direct orders from Moscow. To the best of our knowledge, Soviet commanders in Cuba did not have the physical capability to use them without the codes sent from the Center. However, there is considerable debate as to whether commanders of tactical weapons units had authority to launch their own nuclear warheads (Document 7). They certainly had the capability.

Initially, at the Havana conference in 1992, General Gribkov stated that such authorization was given by the central command in the event of a U.S. airborne landing in Cuba. He presented a draft order providing for such pre-authorization, but that order was not signed by Defense Minister Malinovsky. According to Gribkov and other Soviet participants of the crisis, such authorization was given by Malinovsky orally to commanders before their departure for Cuba. The cable sent later, on October 27, categorically forbidding Soviet military to use tactical nuclear weapons without an order from Moscow, shows that the Soviet Presidium was very concerned about an unauthorized use of tactical weapons (Document 11). This provides indirect support to the argument that it was the understanding of the field commanders that tactical nuclear weapons would be used to repel a U.S. attack on Cuba. Even if the official pre-authorization order was not signed by the Defense Minister, we can conclude that in all likelihood, tactical nuclear weapons would most definitely be used in a first salvo if U.S. forces had landed in Cuba. The Presidium discussion of October 22 shows that the Soviet top leadership envisioned this scenario as well.

After the most dangerous phase of the crisis was resolved on October 28, and Khrushchev promised to withdraw “the weapons you call offensive” from Cuba, the world rejoiced. However, the Soviet leadership knew better-almost 43,000 troops and all the nuclear warheads were still in Cuba. Now they had to negotiate their own Soviet-Cuban missile crisis. Khrushchev sent his right-hand man, Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan, to Cuba to oversee the removal of the missiles, salvage the Soviet-Cuban friendship, and negotiate the future Soviet-Cuban military agreement.

U.S. low-level reconnaissance photo of Luna/Frog short-range missiles in Cuba, November 1962 (photo from Dino Brugioni Collection, National Security Archive)"

U.S. low-level reconnaissance photo of Luna/Frog short-range missiles in Cuba, November 1962 (photo from Dino Brugioni Collection, National Security Archive)”

When Anastas Mikoyan arrived in Cuba, in the course of his extensive conversations over three days, he informed the Cubans that all the weapons other than those specifically mentioned in the Khrushchev-Kennedy statements would be left in Cuba: “you know that not only in these letters but today also, we hold to the position that you will keep all the weapons with the exception of the ‘offensive’ weapons and associated service personnel, which were promised to be withdrawn in Khrushchev’s letter.”[4] The documents suggest, as of early November 1962, that the Soviet intention was to withdraw the offensive weapons (the strategic missiles), but keep a massive military base in Cuba and make no more concessions to the United States. All tactical nuclear weapons, IL-28s and the combat troops except missile support personnel would remain on the island. This position, however, evolved significantly in the dynamic days of the November crisis.

In his talks with the Cubans, Mikoyan gradually realized that this would not be an easy relationship. He was taken aback by the Cuban romanticism and their professed willingness to “die beautifully.” But at the same time, his priority was to keep Cuba as a Soviet ally. He thought perhaps the best solution could be to strengthen the Cuban defenses but not to keep a large Soviet base. On November 8, he proposed to the Presidium to gradually transfer all the remaining weapons to the Cuban armed forces after a period of training by Soviet military specialists (Document 13). Because none of the these tactical weapons were mentioned in the Kennedy-Khrushchev correspondence and because the Americans were essentially oblivious to their delivery to the island, at the time it seemed to him that it would have been the most natural and logical way to resolve the Soviet-Cuban crisis. He requested permission from the Central Committee to tell Castro regarding the future military agreement that rather than maintaining a Soviet military base, “the Cuban personnel with the assistance of our specialists will gradually start to operate all Soviet weapons remaining in Cuba. […] As these personnel become prepared, gradually the Soviet people will be replaced with the Cubans. Upon completion of a certain time period necessary [to master] the military technology, all Soviet personnel will be replaced by the Cuban personnel, and those Soviet experts in special areas, without whom it would be difficult for the Cuban army [to function] will stay with you and work here as advisers in such number and for such a period of time as necessary.” On November 9, Presidium member Gromyko in a cable approved Mikoyan’s new line for negotiations with the Cubans.

Just as soon as Mikoyan presented the idea to his Cuban hosts, Khrushchev decided to agree to the U.S. demand to withdraw IL-28 bombers, which created a new crisis with the Cubans, who now had good grounds to expect further Soviet concessions and unleashed their fury on Mikoyan. Trying to mend relations once again, the Soviet envoy repeated to his Cuban hosts that although IL-28s would be withdrawn, all other weapons would stay, that “Cuba’s fire power is very strong.[…] not a single other socialist country, if we leave out the Soviet Union, possesses such modern powerful combat weapons as you have.” In his conversation with Castro on November 13, speaking about the military agreement, Mikoyan stated: “I want to reiterate that very powerful defensive weapons remain in Cuba. We will be able to transfer them to you when the Cuban military officials become familiar with them. This military equipment is incomparably more powerful than any equipment that Cuba currently has. These are the most advanced weapons comrade Pavlov [Gen. Issa Pliyev, commander of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba] currently has. The CC CPSU’s resolution is to transfer them to you over the course of time.” Mikoyan added that “even with ground inspections, it is practically impossible to find the warheads.” (Document 14).

Over the next several days, the Cubans, from the Soviet point of view, started behaving even more erratically, making the situation more dangerous and unpredictable. Castro ordered the Cuban air defenses to shoot at low-flying U.S. aircraft and sent a message to the Cuban representative at the United Nations, Carlos Lechuga, that “we possess tactical nuclear weapons, which we should keep.” What became clear to Mikoyan during numerous conversations with the Cuban leadership is that the Soviets could not really control their Cuban ally, and that if they were going to maintain Cuba as an ally, they would need to accept the fact that the Cubans would not always follow the Soviet script and that in fact they would develop quite an independent foreign policy. In these circumstances, transferring nuclear weapons to such an ally would be too risky. The Soviets had to pull them back.

Mikoyan understood that it would be his task to reconcile his hosts to the loss of all the nuclear weapons which they were promised. He suggested this course of action to the Presidium in a cable written right after midnight on November 22. In that cable, he also proposed that as an explanation, he could tell the Cubans that the Soviet Union had an “unpublished law” that prohibited the transfer of nuclear weapons to other countries (Document 16). In the morning on November 22, Mikoyan received a cable with the Presidium’s approval of his proposal (Document 17). Mikoyan met with the top Cuban leadership to explain this decision during the long late night conversation on November 22. Castro tried to persuade Mikoyan to leave the tactical weapons in Cuba. The Cuban leader pointed out that the Americans were not aware of the presence of these weapons on the island, and that the Soviets did not have to keep a military base in Cuba but could train the Cuban military, as the initial agreement had stipulated. He said these weapons could be hidden in caves. He begged the Soviet representative to leave him the weapons that meant so much to the Cubans. But Mikoyan was not swayed by his arguments. The tactical warheads had to go home (Document 18).

On November 25, the Soviet support troops started pulling the warheads from the storage facilities to the port of Mariel and loading them on the Arkhangelsk. The loading was completed and the ship departed Cuba on December 1, 1962.

Previously declassified U.S. documents published by the National Security Archive show that U.S. intelligence did not detect any of the nuclear warheads in Cuba during the crisis — either for the strategic missiles or for the tactical delivery systems — and close examination of U.S. overhead photography by author Michael Dobbs established that U.S. intelligence never located the actual storage bunkers for the warheads. U.S. planners assumed the missile warheads were present in Cuba, but discounted the possibility — even after seeing the dual-capable Luna/Frog in reconnaissance photographs as early as October 25 — that tactical warheads were on the island or might ever be used. U.S. analysts completely mistook the FKR cruise missiles for the conventionally-armed Sopka coastal defense missiles, and never understood the likelihood that the U.S. base at Guantanamo would be smoking radiating ruin from an FKR nuclear warhead if the U.S. invaded. Thus the shock to former officials such as Robert McNamara when they heard from Soviet veterans during the historic 1992 Cuban Missile Crisis conference in Havana that tactical nuclear weapons had been part of the operation from the beginning.[5]

The National Security Archive has worked since 1986 to open Cuban Missile Crisis files in the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and Cuba, including the successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that forced release of the famous Kennedy-Khrushchev letters. The Archive’s publications on the Missile Crisis include two massive indexed collections of thousands of pages of declassified U.S. documents, two editions of a one-volume documents reader, the multi-volume briefing book for the landmark 2002 Havana conference organized by the Archive on the Missile Crisis, the 50th anniversary collection from dozens of overseas archives co-published with the Cold War International History Project, and most recently the inside account from the Soviet side by Sergo Mikoyan and Svetlana Savranskaya, which published the transcripts of the contentious Soviet-Cuban talks over withdrawal of Soviet weapons after most of the world thought the missile crisis was over.


THE DOCUMENTS

Document 1: Report of Major-General Igor Demyanovich Statsenko, Commander of the 51st Missile Division, about the Actions of the Division from 07.12.62 through 12.01.1962. Circa December 1962.

This contemporaneous after-action report, published here for the first time in English, provides invaluable detailed information on the deployment of the 51st missile division as part of the Soviet Group of Forces in Cuba. While the report describes the difficulties of the deployment, it also points to shortcomings of the General Staff planning for the deployment. The report shows how even in adverse circumstances, with part of the shipment of missiles and missile support troops interrupted by the U.S. quarantine, the 51st division deployed and assumed battle readiness ahead of schedule, and as the Cuban Missile Crisis reached its peak “on October 27th, 1962, the division was able to deliver a strike from all 24 launchers.”

Document 2: The War was Averted (Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba, 1962). Memoir of Lieutenant General Nikolai Beloborodov, head of the Soviet nuclear arsenal in Cuba. Circa early 1990s.

This memoir-report was written by Nikolai Beloborodov in the 1990s, most likely on the basis of his own contemporaneous after-action report. It provides details of transportation, deployment and removal of nuclear warheads from Cuba. His report also reveals the fact that even as the Soviet Presidium was deciding to pull back the strategic missiles (ships with missiles started turning around on October 25 so as not to challenge the U.S. quarantine line), the Soviet support troops were given orders to unload the tactical warheads from Aleksandrovsk, and did so during the nights of October 26, 27 and 28 — because at that moment, the Soviets were planning to leave tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba. It is not clear from this report whether the warheads for R-12 missiles were loaded back on Aleksandrovsk before it sailed back to Moscow on November 3 but other evidence suggests that was the case.

Document 3: Memorandum from Malinovsky and Zakharov on deployment of Soviet Forces to Cuba, 24 May 1962. Translated by Raymond L. Garthoff for CWHIP.[6]

This is the original General Staff plan of Operation Anadyr presented to the Soviet Presidium on May 24 and finally approved by the Soviet leadership on June 10, 1962. As part of a large-scale deployment of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba, this plan provided for 16 ground-based front cruise missile launchers and five “special” nuclear warheads for each launcher — 80 in total — with a range up to 180 kilometers (111 miles).

Document 4: Memorandum from R. Malinovsky to N.S. Khrushchev. On the Possibility of Reinforcing Cuba by Air. 6 September 1962. Translated by Raymond L. Garthoff for CWHIP.

Defense Minister Malinovsky presented these proposals on expediting the shipments of weapons to Cuba and augmenting the deployment with additional tactical nuclear weapons. His proposal included adding 12 Luna/Frog launchers with nuclear warheads, 6 nuclear bombs for IL-28 planes, and 18 nuclear-armed R-11M missiles [Scud A with a range of 150 kilometers].

Document 5: Memorandum from R. Malinovsky and M. Zakharov to Commander of Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba, 8 September 1962. Translated by Raymond L. Garthoff for CWHIP.

After Khrushchev’s decision on September 7, Malinovsky and Zakharov sent a revised deployment plan to the Commander of the Soviet Group of Forces. The addition of Lunas and bombs for Il-28s was approved by the top leadership, but Khrushchev canceled the deployment of R-11s.

Document 6: Memorandum from R. Malinovsky and M. Zakharov to the Chief of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense.

Orders to the 12th Main Directorate-the unit of the Defense Ministry responsible for nuclear warheads-confirm the addition of 12 Luna warheads and 6 bombs for Il-28s to be shipped to Cuba.

Document 7: [Draft] Memorandum from R. Malinovsky and M. Zakharov to Commander of Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba on Pre-delegation of launch authority, 8 September 1962.

This memorandum, which was prepared but never signed by Defense Minister Malinovsky authorized local commanders in Cuba to make a decision to use tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a U.S. attack on Cuba if they could not establish contact with Moscow (a very similar pre-delegation policy was followed by the U.S. at the time). General Anatoly Gribkov, one of the principal planners of Operation Anadyr stated in 1992 that the memo reflected the oral instructions that commanders received in Moscow before their deployment to Cuba. The existence of this draft suggests that it was Malinovsky’s preferred option but Khrushchev probably had not approved it-therefore the memo was never signed. However, it is clear that Soviet commanders in Cuba had the capability to launch tactical nuclear weapons, and many of them subsequently stated that they had received pre-delegation instructions orally.

Document 8: Malinovsky Report on Special Ammunition for Operation Anadyr, 5 October 1962.

The Defense Minister’s report to Khrushchev about the progress of shipping of Soviet armaments to Cuba specifically states that Aleksandrovsk was fully loaded and ready to sail.

Document 9: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 22 October 1962.

On the day that President Kennedy publicly announced the U.S. discovery of the missiles in Cuba and the U.S. quarantine, the Soviet Defense Minister orders the Commander of the Soviet Group of Forces to raise the level of combat readiness and prepare to repel a possible U.S. invasion with combined Soviet and Cuban forces but specifically excluding the missile forces (Statsenko) and all nuclear warheads (“Beloborodov Cargo”).

Document 10: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 25 October 1962.

Malinovsky orders Pliyev not to unload the warheads for R-14s from the Aleksandrovsk and get the ship ready to sail back to the USSR. The telegram does not include any instructions regarding either the FKR warheads (they were unloaded and transferred to storage) or R-12 warheads (most likely they were returned to the Soviet Union on Aleksandrovsk).

Document 11: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 27 October 1962.

Moscow issues strict orders prohibiting local commanders from using tactical nuclear weapons. This concern on the part of the central leadership gives indirect support to Gribkov’s argument that local commanders were instructed in the spirit of the September 8 memo-that in case of an American attack, they had the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons. Now Khrushchev wanted to make it very clear that under no condition were tactical nuclear weapons to be used.

Document 12: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, circa 5 November 1962.

The telegram instructs Pliyev that tactical nuclear warheads would most likely be left in Cuba under his control.

Document 13: Telegram from Mikoyan to CC CPSU and Gromyko’s response, 8-9 November 1962.

Anastas Mikoyan, who was negotiating the resolution of the Soviet-Cuban Missile crisis with the Cuban leadership, came to the conclusion that it would be inexpedient to keep a full-scale Soviet military base in Cuba. He proposed to the Soviet Presidium to gradually transfer all the remaining weapons to the Cuban armed forces after a period of training by Soviet military specialists–“the Cuban personnel with the assistance of our specialists will gradually start to operate all Soviet weapons remaining in Cuba.” He requested Presidium approval for him to present this idea to the Cubans. The proposal was approved in the telegram signed by Gromyko on the next day.

Document 14: Record of Conversation between A. I. Mikoyan and F. Castro, 13 November 1962.

In this conversation, the first one after Khrushchev decided to remove Il-28s from Cuba, Mikoyan was trying to assure Fidel Castro that the Soviet Union was not abandoning its Latin American ally and would make no further concessions to the United States. He informed Castro that the CC CPSU passed a resolution to leave all the remaining weapons in Cuba and to transfer them to the Cuban Army over time. The Cuban firepower would not diminish and it will retain powerful defensive weapons: “These are the most advanced weapons comrade Pavlov [Gen. Pliyev, commander of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba] currently has. The CC CPSU’s resolution is to transfer them to you over the course of time.” Mikoyan added that “even with ground inspections, it is practically impossible to find the warheads.”

Document 15: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 20 November 1962.

This telegram orders Pliyev to load all tactical warheads on steamship Atkarsk and send them back to the Soviet Union. This might have been a draft cable, anticipating an imminent policy change, or there might be a mistake in the date, which was transcribed from an original that is not available. We know from Beloborodov that on November 22 all tactical nuclear weapons were still in Cuba, that they only started to be pulled to the Mariel pier on November 25 and that loading lasted till November 30. Also, they were loaded and shipped back to the Soviet Union on Arkhangelsk, not Atkarsk. This telegram was probably the basis of General Gribkov’s oft-cited assertion that all Soviet tactical weapons left Cuba on November 20, 1962.

Document 16: Telegram from Mikoyan to CC CPSU, 22 November 1962.

This telegram was sent by Mikoyan either right after midnight on November 22, or late in the evening on November 21 but put into his logbook as of November 22. Mikoyan was scheduled to have a meeting with the entire top Cuban leadership to discuss the future of the Soviet-Cuban military agreement. By this time, Mikoyan came to the conclusion that leaving tactical nuclear weapons in the hands of the Cubans was dangerous, so he requested from the Central Committee to approve his suggestion-to tell the Cubans that the Soviet Union had an “unpublished law” prohibiting transfer of nuclear weapons to third parties. Most likely, Mikoyan made up this “law” for the occasion, but it seems to have stuck as a precedent for future Soviet policy. The Presidium gave its approval next morning.

Document 17: CC CPSU additional instructions to Mikoyan, 22 November 1962.

This cable signed by Gromyko approves Mikoyan’s suggestion from the previous night and categorically states that he was to tell Castro and the top Cuban leadership that all tactical nuclear weapons would be removed from Cuba.

Document 18: Record of Conversation between A.I. Mikoyan and F. Castro, 22 November 1962.

This crucial conversation, which lasted over four hours in the evening of November 22 settled all the main remaining issues of the Cuban Missile Crisis-most importantly the fate of the remaining tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba. Mikoyan admitted that they were still in Cuba and that the Americans indeed had no idea that they were deployed, but that the Soviet Union decided to pull them back due to the “unpublished law” prohibiting the transfer. This memcon provides an extraordinary glimpse into the microcosm of the Soviet-Cuban relations and helps one understand the depth of Castro’s humiliation at the Soviet hands during the Cuban missile crisis. For him, the resolution of the crisis meant that he was abandoned by his Soviet ally and left to the mercy of the American imperialists-because the Cuban security now depended not on the powerful Soviet weapons but on the U.S. non-invasion assurances, which the Cubans were not inclined to trust.


NOTES

[1] See especially Raymond L. Garthoff, “New Evidence on the Cuban Missile Crisis: Khrushchev, Nuclear Weapons, and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” CWIHP Bulletin 11, pp. 251-262; Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali , “The Pitsunda Decision,” CWIHP Bulletin 10, pp. 223-227; and Svetlana Savranskaya, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Cuba: New Evidence,” CWIHP Bulletin 14/15, pp. 385-398. The question of tactical nuclear weapons also gets detailed treatment in Sergei Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev: Rozhdenie Superderzhavy (Moscow: Vremya, 2010).

[2] There is a Malinovsky cable dated October 30 ordering the commander of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba to load the R-12 warheads on the Aleksandrovsk and send to Severomorsk; and the CIA retrospective in January 1963 of overhead photography of the Aleksandrovsk‘s movements placed the ship at Mariel on November 3, at sea on November 10, and back at Severomorsk on November 23 with “missile nose cone vans” on deck. (See Dwayne Anderson, “On the Trail of the Alexandrovsk,” Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 10, Winter 1966, declassified 1995, available at www.foia.cia.gov). Beloborodov’s account has Aleksandrovsk leaving Havana on October 30, but it is likely that he is referring to the order from Malinovsky.  Less likely is the possibility that the R-12 warheads may have remained for the Arkhangelsk to carry.

[3] In the Defense Ministry cables that were transcribed by Russian veterans for publication in 1998, one dated November 20 orders the commander of the Group of Soviet Forces to load all tactical warheads on “steamship Atkarsk“; but Beloborodov’s account specifically cites the Arkangelsk, not the Atkarsk, and the cables between Mikoyan and Moscow place the decision to withdraw the tacticals only on November 21 and 22. The Defense Ministry transcription may be misdated, or if the date is correct, perhaps the Ministry was already anticipating the political decision.

[4] Telegram from Mikoyan to CC CPSU, November 6, 1962 in Sergo Mikoyan, edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis: Castro, Mikoyan, Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Missiles of November (Washington and Stanford: Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 2012), p. 344.

[5] See Raymond L. Garthoff, “The Havana Conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis: Tactical Weapons Disclosure Stuns Gathering,” CWIHP Bulletin 1, Spring 1992, pp. 2-4.

[6] In this document, the number of the missile division is given as the 43rd missile division, but in the military documents from the fall of 1962, the number of the division is consistently the 51st missile division.  Most likely, the number was changed when the division was reorganized in the summer, according to the General Staff directive of June 13.  Statsenko describes the radical reorganization of the division, which resulted in the situation where he only knew one regiment commander out of five, and 500 officers and 1000 sergeants and soldiers were replaced.

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Revisando viejos archivos, encontré este ensayo sobre el expansionismo norteamericano que escribí hace ya varios años por encargo del Departamento de Educación del gobierno de Puerto Rico. Desafortunadamente,  el libro de ensayos del que debió formar parte nunca fue publicado. Lo comparto con mis lectores con la esperanza  que les sea interesante o útil.  

 La expansión territorial es una de las características más importantes del desarrollo histórico de los Estados Unidos. En sus primeros cien años de vida la nación norteamericana experimentó un impresionante crecimiento territorial. Las trece colonias originales se expandieron  hasta convertirse en  un país atrapado por dos océanos. Como veremos, este fue un proceso complejo que se dio a través de la anexión, compra y conquista de nuevos territorios

Es necesario aclarar que la expansión territorial norteamericana fue algo más que un simple proceso de crecimiento territorial, pues estuvo asociada a elementos de tipo cultural, político, ideológico, racial y estratégico. El expansionismo es un elemento vital en la historia de los Estados Unidos, presente desde el mismo momento de la fundación de las primeras colonias británicas en Norte América. Éste fue considerado un elemento esencial en los primeros cien años de historia de los Estados Unidos como nación independiente, ya que se veía no sólo como algo económica y geopolíticamente necesario, sino también como una expresión de  la esencia nacional norteamericana.

No debemos olvidar que la  fundación de las trece colonias que dieron vida a los Estados Unidos formó parte de un proceso histórico más amplio: la expansión europea  de los siglos XVI y XVII. Durante ese periodo las principales naciones de Europa occidental se lanzaron a explorar y conquistar  dando forma a vastos imperios en Asia y América. Una de esas naciones fue Inglaterra, metrópoli de las trece colonias norteamericanas. Es por ello que el expansionismo norteamericano puede ser considerado, hasta cierta forma, una extensión del imperialismo inglés.

Los Estados Unidos  experimentaron dos tipos de expansión en su historia: la continental y la extra-continental. La primera es la expansión territorial contigua, es decir, en territorios adyacentes  a los Estados Unidos.  Ésta fue  vista como algo natural y justificado pues se ocupaba terreno  que se consideraba “vacío” o habitado por pueblos “inferiores”. La llamada expansión extra-continental se dio a finales del siglo XIX y llevó a los norteamericanos a trascender los límites del continente americano para adquirir territorios alejados de los Estados Unidos (Hawai, Guam y Filipinas). Ésta  provocó una fuerte oposición y un intenso debate en torno a la naturaleza misma de la nación norteamericana, pues muchos le consideraron contraria a la tradición y las instituciones políticas de los Estados Unidos.

 El Tratado de París de 1783

El primer crecimiento territorial de los Estados Unidos se dio en el mismo momento de alcanzar su independencia. En 1783, norteamericanos y británicos llegaron a acuerdo por el cual Gran Bretaña reconoció la independencia de las  trece colonias y se fijaron los límites geográficos de la nueva nación. En el Tratado de París las fronteras de la joven república fueron definidas de la siguiente forma: al norte los Grandes Lagos, al oeste el Río Misisipí y al sur el paralelo 31. Con ello la joven república duplicó su territorio.

Los territorios adquiridos en 1783 fueron objeto de polémica,  pues surgió la pregunta de qué hacer con ellos. La solución a este problema fue la creación de las Ordenanzas del Noroeste (Northwest Ordinance, 1787). Con ésta ley se creó un sistema de territorios en preparación para convertirse en estados. Los nuevos estados entrarían a la unión norteamericana en igualdad de condiciones y derechos que los trece originales. De esta forma los líderes norteamericanos rechazaron el colonialismo y crearon un mecanismo para la incorporación política de nuevos territorios. Las Ordenanzas del Noroeste sentaron un precedente histórico que no sería roto hasta 1898: todos los territorios adquiridos por los Estados Unidos en su expansión continental serían incorporados como estados de la Unión cuando éstos cumpliesen los requisitos definidos para ello.

La compra de Luisiana

La república estadounidense nace en medio de un periodo muy convulso de la historia de la Humanidad: el periodo de las Revoluciones Atlánticas. Entre 1789 y 1824, el mundo atlántico vivió un etapa de gran violencia e inestabilidad política producida por el estallido de varias revoluciones socio-políticas (Revolución Francesa, Guerras napoleónicas, Revolución Haitiana, Guerras de independencia en Hispanoamérica). Estas revoluciones tuvieron un impacto severo en las relaciones exteriores de los Estados Unidos y en su proceso de expansión territorial.

Para el año 1801 Europa disfrutaba de un raro periodo de paz. Aprovechando esta situación   Napoleón Bonaparte obligó a España a cederle a Francia el territorio de Luisiana. Con ello el emperador francés buscaba crear un imperio americano usando como base la colonia francesa de Saint Domingue (Haití). Luisiana era una amplia extensión de tierra al oeste de los Estados Unidos en donde se encuentran ríos muy importantes para la transportación.

Esta transacción preocupó profundamente a los funcionarios del gobierno norteamericano por varias razones. Primero, ésta ponía en peligro del acceso norteamericano al río Misisipí y al puerto y la ciudad de Nueva Orleáns, amenazando así la salida al Golfo de México, y con ello al comercio del oeste norteamericano. Segundo, el control francés de Luisiana cortaba las posibilidades de expansión al Oeste. Tercero, la presencia de una potencia europea agresiva y poderosa como vecino de los Estados Unidos no era un escenario que agradaba al liderato estadounidense. En otras palabras, la adquisición de Luisiana por Napoleón amenazaba las posibilidades de expansión territorial y representaba una seria amenaza a la economía y la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos. Por ello no nos debe sorprender que algunos sectores políticos norteamericanos propusieran una guerra para evitar el control napoleónico sobre Luisiana. A pesar de la seriedad de este asunto, el liderato norteamericano optó por una solución diplomática. El presidente Thomas Jefferson ordenó al embajador norteamericano en Francia, Robert Livingston, comprarle Nueva Orleáns a Napoleón. Para sorpresa de Livingston, Napoleón aceptó vender toda la Luisiana porque el reinició de la guerra en Europa y el fracaso francés en Haití frenaron sus sueños de un imperio americano. En 1803, se llegó a un acuerdo por el cual los Estados Unidos adquirieron Luisiana por $15,000,000, lo que constituyó uno de los mejores negocios de bienes raíces de la historia.

La compra de Luisiana representó un problema moral y político para el Presidente Jefferson, pues éste era un defensor de una interpretación estricta de la constitución estadounidense. Jefferson pensaba que la constitución no autorizaba la adquisición de territorios, por lo que la compra de Luisiana podía ser inconstitucional. A pesar de sus reservas constitucionales, el presidente adoptó una posición pragmática y apoyó la compra de Luisiana. Para entender porque Jefferson hizo esto es necesario enfocar su visión de la política exterior y del expansionismo norteamericano. Jefferson era el más claro y ferviente defensor del expansionismo entre los fundadores de la nación norteamericana. Éste tenía un proyecto expansionista muy ambicioso que pretendía lograr de forma pacífica.  Según él, los Estados Unidos tenían el deber de ser ejemplo para los pueblos oprimidos expandiendo la libertad por el mundo. De esta forma Jefferson se convirtió en uno de los creadores de la idea de que los Estados Unidos eran una nación predestinada a guiar al mundo a una nueva era por medio del abandono de la razón de estado y la aplicación de las convicciones morales a la política exterior. Esta idea de Jefferson estaba asociada a la distinción entre  republicanismo y monarquía. Las monarquías respondían a los intereses de los reyes y las repúblicas como los Estados Unidos a los intereses del pueblo, por ende, las repúblicas eran pacíficas y las monarquías no. Jefferson rechazaba la idea de que las repúblicas debían de permanecer pequeñas para sobrevivir. Éste creía posible la expansión pacífica de los Estados Unidos, es decir, la transformación de la nación norteamericana en un imperio sin sacrificar la libertad y el republicanismo democrático.

Territorio adquirido en la compra de Luisiana

Para Jefferson, conservar el carácter agrario del país era imprescindible para salvaguardar la naturaleza republicana de los Estados Unidos, pues era necesario que el país continuara siendo una sociedad de ciudadanos libres e independientes. Sólo a través de la expansión se podía garantizar la abundancia de tierra y, por ende, la subsistencia de las instituciones republicanas norteamericanas. Al apoyar la compra de Luisiana, Jefferson superó sus escrúpulos con relación a la interpretación de la constitución para garantizar su principal razón de estado: la expansión.

La era de los buenos sentimientos

Años de controversias relacionadas a los derechos comerciales de los Estados Unidos culminaron en 1812 con el estallido de una guerra contra Gran Bretaña. El fin de la llamada Guerra de 1812 trajo consigo un periodo de estabilidad y consenso nacional conocido como la  Era de los buenos sentimientos. Sin embargo,  a nivel internacional la situación de los Estados Unidos era todavía complicada, pues era necesario resolver dos asuntos muy importantes: mejorar las relaciones con Gran Bretaña y definir la frontera sur. La solución de ambos asuntos estuvo relacionada con la expansión territorial.

Mejorar las relaciones con Gran Bretañas tras dos guerras resultó ser una tarea delicada que fue facilitada por realidades económicas: Gran Bretaña era el principal mercado de los Estados Unidos.En 1818, los británicos y norteamericanos resolvieron algunos de sus problemas a través de la negociación. Los reclamos anglo-norteamericanos sobre el territorio de  Oregon era  uno de ellos. Los británicos tenían una antigua relación  con la región gracias a sus intereses en el comercio de pieles en la costa noroeste del  Pacífico.  Por su parte, los norteamericanos basaban sus reclamos en los viajes del Capitán Robert Gray (1792) y en famosa la expedición de Lewis y Clark  (1804-1806). En 1818, los Estados Unidos y Gran Bretaña acordaron una ocupación conjunta de Oregon.  De acuerdo a ésta, el territorio permanecería abierto por un periodo de diez años.

Una vez resuelto los problemas con Gran Bretaña los norteamericanos se enfocaron en las disputas con España con relación a Florida. El interés norteamericano en la Florida era viejo y basado en necesidades estratégicas: evitar que Florida cayera en manos de una potencia europea. En 1819, España y los Estados Unidos firmaron el Tratado Adams-Onís por el que Florida pasó a ser un territorio norteamericano a cambio de que los Estados Unidos pagaran los reclamos de los residentes de la península hasta un total de $5 millones. La adquisición de Florida también puso fin a los temores de los norteamericanos de un posible ataque por su frontera sur.

La Doctrina Monroe

El fin de la era de las revoluciones atlánticas a principios de la década de 1820 generó nuevas preocupaciones en los  Estados Unidos. Los líderes estadounidenses vieron con recelo los acontecimientos en Europa, donde las fuerzas más conservadoras controlaban las principales reinos e imperaba un ambiente represivo y extremadamente reaccionario.  El principal temor  de los norteamericanos era la posibilidad da una intervención europea para reestablecer el control español en sus excolonias americanas. A los británicos también les preocupaba tal contingencia  y tantearon la posibilidad de una alianza con los Estados Unidos. La propuesta británica provocó un gran debate entre los miembros de la administración del presidente James Monroe. El Secretario de Estado John Quincy Adams  desconfiaba de los británicos y temía que cualquier compromiso con éstos pudiese limitar las posibilidades de expansión norteamericana. Adams temía la posibilidad de una intervención europea en América, pero estaba seguro que  de darse  tal intervención Gran Bretaña se opondría de todas maneras para defender sus intereses, sobre todo, comerciales. Por ello concluía que los Estados Unidos no sacarían ningún beneficio aliándose con Gran Bretaña. Para él, la mejor opción para los Estados Unidos era mantenerse actuando solos.

Los argumentos de Adams influyeron la posición del presidente Monroe quien rechazó la alianza con los británicos. El 2 de diciembre de 1823, Monroe leyó un importante mensaje ante el Congreso. Parte del  contenido de este mensaje pasaría a ser conocido como la Doctrina Monroe. En su mensaje, Monroe enfatizó la singularidad (“uniqueness”) de los Estados Unidos y definió el llamado principio de la “noncolonization,” es decir, el rechazo norteamericano a la colonización, recolonización y/o transferencia de territorios americanos. Además, Adams estableció una política de exclusión de Europa de los asuntos americanos y definió  así las ideas principales de la Doctrina Monroe. Las palabras de Monroe constituyeron una declaración formal de que los Estados Unidos pretendían convertirse en el poder dominante en el hemisferio occidental.

Es necesario aclarar que la Doctrina Monroe fue una fanfarronada porque en 1823 los Estados Unidos no tenían el  poderío para hacerla cumplir. Sin embargo, esta doctrina será una de las piedras angulares de la política exterior norteamericana en América Latina hasta finales del siglo XX y una de las bases ideológicas del expansionismo norteamericano.

El Destino Manifiesto

John L. O’Sullivan

En 1839, el periodista norteamericano John L. O’Sullivan escribió un artículo periodístico justificando la expansión territorial de los Estados Unidos. Según O’Sullivan, los Estados Unidos eran un pueblo  escogido por Dios y destinado a expandirse a lo largo de América del Norte. Para O’Sullivan, la expansión no era una opción para los norteamericanos, sino un destino que éstos no podían renunciar ni evitar porque estarían rechazando la voluntad de Dios. O’Sullivan también creía que los norteamericanos tenían una misión que cumplir: extender la libertad y la democracia, y ayudar a las razas inferiores.  Las ideas de O’Sullivan no eran nuevas, pero llegaron en un momento de gran agitación nacionalista y expansionista en la historia de los Estados Unidos.  Éstas fueron adaptadas bajo una frase que el propio O’Sullivan acuñó, el destino manifiesto, y se convirtieron en la justificación básica del expansionismo norteamericano.

La idea del destino manifiesto estaba enraizada en la visión de los Estados Unidos como una nación excepcional destinada a civilizar a los pueblos atrasados y expandir la libertad por el mundo. Es decir, en una visión mesiánica y mística que veía en la expansión norteamericana la expresión de la voluntad de Dios. Ésta estaba también basada en un concepto claramente racista que dividía a los seres humanos en razas superiores e inferiores. De ahí que se pensara que era deber de las razas superiores “ayudar” a las inferiores. Como miembros de una “raza superior”, la anglosajona, los norteamericanos debían cumplir con su deber y misión.

La anexión de Oregon

Como sabemos, en 1819, los Estados Unidos y Gran Bretaña acordaron ocupar de forma conjunta el territorio de Oregon. Ambos países reclamaban ese territorio como suyo y al no poder ponerse de acuerdo optaron por compartirlo.  Por los próximos veinte cinco años, miles de colonos norteamericanos emigraron y se establecieron en Oregon estimulados por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Las elecciones presidenciales de 1844 estuvieron dominadas por el tema de la expansión. La candidatura de James K. Polk por los demócratas estuvo basada en la propuesta de “recuperar” Oregon y anexar Texas. Polk era un expansionista realista que presionó a los británicos dando la impresión de ser intransigente y estar dispuesto a una guerra, pero que en el momento apropiado fue capaz de negociar. En 1846, el Presidente Polk solicitó la retirada británica del territorio de Oregon aprovechando que complicada por problemas en su imperio, Gran Bretaña no estaba en condiciones para resistir tal pedido.  Tras una negociación se acordó establecer la frontera en el paralelo 49 y todo el territorio al sur de esa  frontera pasó a ser parte de los Estados Unidos.

American Progress, John Gast , 1872

Texas

En 1821, un ciudadano norteamericano llamado Moses Austin fue autorizado por el gobierno mexicano a establecer 300 familias estadounidenses en Texas, que para esa época era un territorio mexicano. La llegada de Austin y su grupo de emigrantes marcó el origen de una colonia norteamericana en Texas. El número de norteamericanos residentes en Texas creció considerablemente  hasta alcanzar un total de 20,000 en el año 1830. Las relaciones con el gobierno de México se afectaron negativamente cuando los mexicanos, preocupados por el gran número de norteamericanos residentes en Texas, buscaron reestablecer el control político del territorio. Para ello los mexicanos recurrieron a frenar la emigración de ciudadanos estadounidenses y a limitar el gobierno propio que disfrutaban los texanos (norteamericanos residentes en Texas). Todo ello llevó a los texanos a tomar acciones drásticas. En 1836, éstos se rebelaron contra el gobierno mexicano buscando su independencia.  Tras una derrota inicial en la Batalla del Álamo, los texanos derrotaron a los mexicanos en la Batalla de San Jacinto y con ello lograron su independencia.

Después de derrotar a los mexicanos y declararse independientes, los texanos solicitaron se admitiera a Texas como un estado de la unión norteamericana. Este pedido provocó un gran debate en los Estados Unidos, pues no todos los norteamericanos estaban contentos con la idea de que Texas, un territorio esclavista, se convirtiera en un estado de la unión. Los sureños eran los principales defensores de la concesión de la estadidad a Texas, pues sabían que con ello aumentaría la representación de los estados esclavistas en el Congreso (la asamblea legislativa estadounidense). Los norteños se  oponían a la concesión de la estadidad a Texas porque no quería fortalecer políticamente a la esclavitud dando vida a un nuevo estado esclavista. Además, algunos norteamericanos estaban temerosos de la posibilidad de un guerra innecesaria con México por causa de Texas, pues creían que el gobierno mexicano no toleraría que los Estados Unidos anexaran su antiguo territorio.

El tema de Texas sacó a flote las complejidades y contradicciones de la expansión norteamericana. La expansión podría traer consigo la semilla de la libertad como alegaban algunos, pero también de la esclavitud y la autodestrucción nacional. Cada nuevo territorio sacaba a relucir la pregunta sobre el futuro de la esclavitud en los Estados Unidos y esto provocaba intensos debates e inclusive la amenaza de la secesión de los estados sureños.

La guerra con México

La elección de Polk como presidente de los Estados Unidos aceleró el proceso de estadidad para Texas. Éste era un ferviente creyente de la idea del destino manifiesto y de la expansión territorial. Durante su campaña presidencial, Polk se comprometió con la anexión de Texas. En 1845, Texas fue no sólo anexada, sino también incorporada como un estado de la Unión. Ello obedeció a tres razones: la necesidad de asegurar la frontera sur, evitar intervenciones extranjeras en Texas y el peligro de una movida texana a favor de Gran Bretaña. Como habían planteado los opositores a la concesión de la estadidad a Texas, México no aceptó la anexión de Texas y  rompió sus relaciones diplomáticas con los Estados Unidos. Con la anexión de Texas, los Estados Unidos hicieron suyos los problemas fronterizos que existían entre los texanos y el gobierno de México, lo que eventualmente provocó una guerra con ese país. La superioridad militar de los norteamericanos sobre los mexicanos fue total. Las tropas estadounidenses llegaron inclusive a ocupar la ciudad capital del México.

Las fáciles victorias norteamericanos desataron un gran nacionalismo en los Estados Unidos y llevaron a algunos norteamericanos a favorecer la anexión de todo el territorio mexicano. Los sureños se opusieron a la posible anexión de todo México por razones raciales, pues consideraban a los mexicanos racialmente incapaces de incorporarse a los Estados Unidos.  Algunos estados del norte, bajo la influencia de un fuerte sentimiento expansionista, favorecieron la anexión de todo México. Tras grandes debates sólo fue anexado una parte del territorio mexicano.

Territorio arrebatado a México en 1848

En el Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)  que puso fin a la guerra, los Estados Unidos duplicaron su territorio al adquirir los actuales estados de California, Nuevo México, Arizona, Utah, y Nevada; México perdió la mitad de su territorio; México reconoció la anexión de Texas y los Estados Unidos acordaron pagarle  a México una indemnización de  $15 millones. Con ello los Estados Unidos lograron expandirse del océano Atlántico hasta el océano Pacífico. La guerra aumentó del poder de los Estados Unidos, fortaleció la seguridad del país y se abrió posibilidades de comercio con Asia a través de los puertos californianos. Sin embargo, la expansión alcanzada también expuso las debilidades domésticas de los Estados Unidos, exacerbando el  debate en torno a la esclavitud en los nuevos territorios, lo que endureció el problema del seccionalismo y llevó a la guerra civil. La victoria sobre México también promovió la expansión en territorios en poder de los amerindios norteamericanos lo que desembocó en  las llamadas guerras indias y en la reubicación forzosa de miles de nativos americanos.

Expansionismo y esclavitud

La década de 1850 estuvo caracterizada por un profundo debate en torno al futuro de la esclavitud en los Estados Unidos. Los estados sureños vieron en la expansión territorial un mecanismo para fortalecer la esclavitud incorporando territorios esclavistas a la unión norteamericana. Con ello pretendían alterar el balance político de la nación a su favor creando una mayoría de estados esclavistas. Es necesario señalar que los esfuerzos de los estados sureños fueran bloqueados por el  Norte que se oponía  a la expansión de la esclavitud.

El principal objetivo de los expansionistas en este periodo fue la isla de Cuba por ser ésta una colonia esclavista de gran importancia económica y estratégica para los Estados Unidos. En 1854, los norteamericanos trataron, sin éxito, de comprarle Cuba a España por $130 millones de dólares. Los Estados Unidos tendrían que esperar más de cuarenta años para  conseguir por las armas lo que no lograron por la diplomacia.

La compra de Alaska

William H. Seward

En el periodo posterior a la guerra civil la política exterior norteamericana estuvo desorientada, lo que frenó el renacer de las ansias expansionistas. El resurgir del expansionismo estuvo asociado a la figura del Secretario de Estado William H. Seward (1801-1872). Seward era un ferviente expansionista que tenía interés en la creación de un imperio norteamericano que incluyera  Canadá, América Latina y Asia. Los planes imperialistas de Seward no pudieron concretarse y éste tuvo que conformarse con la adquisición de Alaska.

Alaska había sido explorada a lo largo de los siglos XVII y XVIII por británicos, franceses, españoles y rusos. Sin embargo, fueron estos últimos quienes iniciaron la colonización del territorio. En 1867, los Estados Unidos y Rusia entraron en conversaciones con relación al futuro de Alaska. Ambos países tenían interés en la compra-venta de Alaska por diferentes razones. Para Seward, la compra de Alaska era necesaria para garantizar la seguridad del noroeste norteamericano y expandir el comercio con Asia. Por sus parte, los rusos necesitaban dinero, Alaska era un carga económica y la colonización del territorio había sido muy difícil. Además, el costo de la defensa de Alaska era prohibitivo para Rusia. En marzo de 1867 se llegó a un acuerdo de compra-venta por $7.2 millones.

El problema de Seward no fue comprar Alaska, sino convencer a los norteamericanos de la necesidad de ello. La compra enfrentó fuerte oposición, pues se consideraba que Alaska era un territorio inservible. De ahí que se le describiera con frases como  “Seward´s Folly,” Seward´s Icebox,” o “Polar Bear Garden.” Tras mucho debate, la compra fue eventualmente aceptada y aprobada por el Congreso. Lo que en su momento pareció una locura resultó ser un gran negocio para los Estados Unidos, pues hoy en día Alaska produce el 25% del petróleo de los Estados Unidos y posee el 30% de las reservas de petróleo estadounidenses.

Hawai

Para comienzos de la década de 1840, Hawai se había convertido en una de las paradas más importantes para los barcos norteamericanos en un ruta a China. Esto generó el interés de ciertos sectores de la sociedad norteamericana.  Los primeros norteamericanos en establecerse en las islas fueron comerciantes y misioneros.  A éstos le siguieron inversionistas interesados en la producción de azúcar. Antes de 1890 el principal objetivo norteameamericano no era la anexión de Hawai, sino prevenir que otra potencia controlara el archipiélago. La actitud norteamericana hacia Hawai cambió gracias a la labor misionera, la creciente importancia de la producción azucarera como consecuencia de la reciprocidad comercial con los Estados Unidos y la importancia estratégica de las islas. El crecimiento de la población no hawaiana (norteamericanos, japoneses y chinos)  despertó la preocupación de los locales, quienes se sentían invadidos y temerosos de perder el control de su país ante la creciente influencia de los extranjeros.  La muerte en 1891  del rey Kalākaua y el ascenso al trono de  su hermana Liliuokalani provocó una fuerte reacción de parte de la comunidad norteamericana en la islas, pues la reina era una líder nacionalista que quería reafirmar la soberanía hawaiana. Los azucareros y misioneros norteamericanos la destronan en 1893 y solicitaron la anexión a los Estados Unidos. Contrario a los esperado por los norteamericanos residentes en Hawai, la estadidad no les fue concedida. Además, el Presidente Grover Cleveland encargó a James Blount investigar lo ocurrido en Hawai.  Blount viajó  a las islas y redactó un informa muy criticó de las acciones de los norteamericanos en Hawai, concluyendo que a mayoría de los hawaianos favorecían a la monarquía. Cleveland era un anti-imperialista convencido por lo que el informe de Blount lo colocó en un gran dilema: ¿restaurar por la fuerza a la reina o anexar Hawai?  Lo controversial de ambas posibles acciones llevó a Cleveland a no hacer nada.

Liliuokalani, última reina de Hawaii

Ante la imposibilidad de la estadidad, los norteamericanos en Hawai optaron por organizar un gobierno republicano. El estallido de la Guerra hispano-cubano-norteamericana en 1898 abrió las puertas a la anexión de  Hawai. Noventa  y cinco  años más tarde el Presidente William J. Clinton firmó una  disculpa oficial por el derrocamiento de la reina Liliuokalani.

La expansión extra-continental

Como hemos visto, a lo largo del siglo XIX los norteamericanos se expandieron ocupando territorios contiguos como Luisiana,  Texas y California. Sin embargo, para finales del siglo XIX la expansión territorial norteamericana entró en una nueva etapa caracterizada por la adquisición de territorios ubicados fuera  de los límites geográficos de América del Norte. La    adquisición  de Puerto Rico, Filipinas, Guam y Hawai dotó a los Estados Unidos de un imperio insular.

La expansión de finales del siglo XIX difería del expansionismo de años anteriores por varias razones. Primero, los  territorios adquiridos no sólo no eran contiguos, sino que algunos de ellos estaban ubicados muy lejos de los Estados Unidos. Segundo, estos territorios tenían una gran concentración poblacional. Por ejemplo, a la llegada de los norteamericanos a Puerto Rico la isla tenía casi un millón de habitantes. Tercero, los territorios estaban habitados por pueblos no blancos con culturas, idiomas y religiones muy diferentes a los Estados Unidos. En las Filipinas los norteamericanos encontraron católicos, musulmanes y cazadores de cabezas. Cuarto, los territorios estaban ubicados en zonas peligrosas o estratégicamente complicadas. Las Filipinas estaban rodeadas de colonias europeas y demasiado cerca de una potencia emergente y agresiva: Japón. Quinto, algunos de esos territorios resistieron violentamente la dominación norteamericana. Los filipinos no aceptaron pacíficamente el dominio norteamericano y se rebelaron. Pacificar las Filipinas les costó a los norteamericanos miles de vidas y millones de dólares. Sexto, contrario a lo que había sido la tradición norteamericana, los nuevos territorios no fueron incorporados, sino que fueron convertidos en colonias de los Estados Unidos. Todos estos factores explican porque algunos historiadores ven en las acciones norteamericanas de finales del siglo XIX un rompimiento con el pasado expansionistas de los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, para otros historiadores –incluyendo quien escribe– la expansión de 1898 fue un episodio más de un proceso crecimiento imperialista iniciado a fines del siglo XVIII.

Para explicar la  expansión extra-continental se han usado varios argumentos. Algunos historiadores  han alegado que los norteamericanos se expandieron más allá de sus fronteras geográficas por causas económicas. Según éstos, el desarrollo industrial que vivió el país en las últimas décadas del siglo XIX hizo que los norteamericanos fabricaran más productos de los que podían consumir. Esto provocó excedentes que generaron serios problemas económicos como el desempleo, la inflación, etc. Para superar estos problemas los norteamericanos salieron a buscar nuevos mercados donde vender sus productos y fuentes de materias primas. Esa búsqueda provocó la adquisición de colonias y la expansión extra-continental.

Otros historiadores han favorecidos explicaciones de tipo ideológico. Según éstos, la idea de que la expansión era el destino de los Estados Unidos jugó, junto al sentido de misión, un papel destacado en el expansionismo norteamericanos de finales del siglo XIX. Los norteamericanos tenían un destino que cumplir y nada ni nadie podía detenerlos porque era la expresión de la voluntad divina.

La religión y la raza también ha jugado un papel importante en la explicación de las acciones imperialistas de los Estados Unidos. Según algunos historiadores, los norteamericanos fueron empujados por el afán misionero, es decir, por la idea de que la expansión del cristianismo era la voluntad de Dios. En otras palabras, para muchos norteamericanos la expansión era necesaria para llevar con ella la palabra de Dios a pueblos no cristianos.  Como miembros de una raza superior –la anglosajona– los estadounidenses debían cumplir un papel civilizador entre las razas inferiores y para ello era necesaria la expansión extra-continental.

Alfred T. Mahan

Los factores militares y estratégicos también han jugado un papel de importancia en la explicación del comportamiento imperialista de los norteamericanos. Según algunos historiadores, la necesidad de bases navales para la creciente marina de guerra de los Estados Unidos fue otra causa del expansionismo extra-continental. Éstos apuntan a la figura del Capitán Alfred T. Mahan como una fuerza influyente en el desarrollo del expansionismo extra-continental . En 1890, Mahan publicó un libro titulado The Influence of Sea Power upon History que influyó considerablemente a toda una generación de líderes norteamericanos. En su libro Mahan proponía la construcción de una marina de guerra poderosa que fuera capaz de promover y defender los intereses estratégicos y comerciales de los Estados Unidos. Según Mahan, el crecimiento de la Marina debía estar acompañado de la adquisición de colonias para la construcción de bases navales y carboneras.

Una de las explicaciones más novedosas del porque del expansionismo imperialista recurre al género. Según la historiadora norteamericana Kristin Hoganson, el impulso imperialista era una manifestación de la crisis de  la masculinidad norteamericana amenazada por el sufragismo femenino y las nuevas actitudes y posiciones femeninas. En otras palabras, algunos norteamericanos como Teodoro Roosevelt defendieron y promovieron el imperialismo como un mecanismo para reafirmar el dominio masculino sobre la sociedad norteamericana.

La expansión norteamericana de finales del siglo XIX fue un proceso muy complejo y, por ende, difícil de explicar con una sola causa. En otras palabras, es necesario prestar atención a todas las posibles explicaciones del imperialismo norteamericano para poder entenderle.

La Guerra hispano-cubano-norteamericana

En 1898, los Estados Unidos y España pelearon una corta, pero muy importante guerra. La principal causa de la llamada guerra hispanoamericana fue la isla de Cuba. Para finales del siglo XIX, el otrora poderoso imperio español estaba compuesto por las Filipinas, Cuba y Puerto Rico. De éstas la más importante era, sin lugar a dudas, Cuba porque esta isla era la principal productora de azúcar del mundo. La riqueza de Cuba era fundamental para el gobierno español, de ahí que los españoles mantuvieron un estricto control sobre la isla. Sin embargo, este control no pudo evitar el desarrollo de un fuerte sentimiento nacionalista entre los cubanos. Hartos del colonialismo español, en 1895 los cubanos se rebelaron provocando una sangrienta guerra de independencia.  Al comienzo de este conflicto el gobierno norteamericano buscó mantenerse neutral, pero el interés histórico en la isla, el desarrollo de la guerra, las inversiones norteamericanas en la isla (unos $50 millones) y la cercanía de Cuba (a sólo 90 millas de la Florida) hicieron imposible que los norteamericanos no intervinieran buscando acabar con la guerra. La situación se agravó cuando el 15 de febrero de 1898 un barco de guerra norteamericano, el USS Maine, anclado en la bahía de la Habana, explotó  matando a 266 marinos. La destrucción del Maine  generó un gran sentimiento anti-español en los Estados Unidos que obligó al gobierno norteamericano a declararle la guerra a España.

El Maine hundido en la bahía de la Habana

La guerra fue una conflicto corto que los Estados Unidos ganaron con mucha facilidad gracias a su enorme superioridad militar y económica. En el Tratado de París que puso fin a la guerra hispanoamericana, España renunció a Cuba, le cedió Puerto Rico a los norteamericanos como compensación por el costo de la guerra y entregó las Filipinas a los Estados Unidos a cambio $20,000,000. A pesar de lo corto de su duración, esta guerra tuvo consecuencias muy importantes. Primero, la guerra marcó la transformación de los Estados Unidos en una potencia mundial. El poderío que demostraron los norteamericanos al derrotar fácilmente a España dio a entender al resto del mundo que la nación norteamericana se había convertido en un país poderoso al que había que tomar en cuenta y respetar. Segundo, gracias a la guerra los Estados Unidos se convirtieron en una nación con colonias en Asia y el Caribe lo que cambió su situación geopolítica y estratégica. Tercero, la guerra cambió la historia de varios países: España se vio debilitada y en medio de una crisis; Cuba ganó su independencia, pero permaneció bajo la influencia y el control indirecto de los Estados Unidos; las Filipinas no sólo vieron desaparecer la oportunidad de independencia, sino que también fueron controladas por los norteamericanos por medio de una controversial guerra; Puerto Rico pasó a ser una colonia de los Estados Unidos.

Con la expansión extra-continental de finales del siglo XIX se cerró la expansión territorial de los Estados Unidos, pero no su crecimiento imperialista ni su transformación en la potencia dominante del siglo XX.

            Norberto Barreto Velázquez, PhD

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