I have heard that the brinkmanship foreign policy of Eisenhower and Kennedy lead, in part, to the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, I am curious: did the Truman Doctrine also contribute, in part, to the Cuban Missile Crisis?

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    It was certainly a stepping stone. What would you consider to be sufficient to make it a 'contribution' to the Cuban Missile Crisis? Commented May 17, 2019 at 16:32

3 Answers 3


It is unfair, in my opinion, to qualify all resistance to Soviet expansion post WW2 as brinkmanship. Truman managed, quite well, the response to an unprovoked attack in Korea and was confronted with a powerful block of nations subjugated by the USSR with a fundamentally inimical drive to impose their ideology on the world. Led, until 1953, by which time Truman was gone, by Stalin, who was a homicidal paranoid.

The Truman Doctrine, coming soon after WW2, was basically saying "we will not sit idly by as the world did in 1933". It is a fairly measured stance, although the USSR was, on occasions, reminded that US nukes were on standby, should it not do as the US wanted. Yes, there were abuses in anti Communist hysteria, such as McCarthy, but that does not make resistance against a political system which spawned the Gulags and the 1932 Ukraine famine unjustified.

If brinkmanship there was, it was all Kennedy's. He got elected in 1960 by campaigning on a missile gap at the US's detriment. But he was also on the Senate Defence Committee so he knew perfectly well that, while there was a missile gap, it was all the other way, which is why he strongly suspected they would blink during the crisis. The US had stationed missiles in Italy and Turkey - long range nukes which were not so much a defence for the country hosting them as a threat to Russia itself.

Bay of Pigs. Involvement in Vietnam. Cuban Missile Crisis. These are all Kennedy's. The Truman Doctrine provided a reasoned and thoughtful framework to counteract the Soviet threat, but was just a formalization of US intents. Kennedy went all in on his own judgment, mostly with fairly negative results. Later on, to little benefit, US fighting capacity would be getting bled out in Vietnam while US forces in Western Europe were understrength, all without a single Russian being at risk.

Contrast Kennedy in a way with Reagan, who also got elected on a tough-on-Communism approach. But was smart enough to grasp the opportunity Gorbachev's reform was offering and avoid direct US military adventures (although it must be said, the stain of the Central American CIA-supported death squads is largely on his watch).

No, Kennedy's reckless adventures are his own and the Truman Doctrine is not to be blamed for it. The intent was good, to resist Communism. The ways he went about it were unnecessarily risky and I am always surprised by how popular he remains. More to do with his looks and his assassination than his achievements, in my opinion. Even his handling of the Civil Rights movement is nothing to brag about.

  • Fwiw, reading an SF novel that is very much about international negotiations. Author clearly is a history buff and claims less brinkmanship from JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis would have resulted in his impeachment, for weakness, by hawks. Not qualified to have an opinion, but I will cautiously, treat that as a potential reason to temper the above criticism. Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 21:43

To start, I think it's safe to say that regardless of doctrine, the USA was not going to tolerate nuclear weapons on its doorstep.

While it's clear that the USA was staunchly anti-communist, the Truman Doctrine also had a focus on providing aid to countries fighting the threat of Communism. By this point Cuba was already Communist, and the Bay of Pigs Invasion was an attempted overthrow of the Communist government.

Indirectly, with this doctrine of providing aid to other countries, American nukes were placed in Turkey and Italy (NATO members), which scared and angered the Russians, and prompted the installation of nukes in Cuba.

In summary, as with many events during the Cold War, the causes are not always singular and categorical, and there may be multiple reasons and their interactions for what eventually transpires.


The Truman Doctrine had absolutely nothing to do with The Cuban Missile Crisis.

First, in terms of chronology, The Truman Doctrine was inveigled in 1947, at the starting point of The Cold War, whereas the Cuban Missile Crisis took place in 1962.

Second, The Truman Doctrine, was specifically interested in aiding-(and eventually allying with), the nation-states of Greece and Turkey, in anticipation that both these countries-(which were in close geographical proximity to the Communist Soviet Union), would likely fall victim to Communist Soviet southward expansion....(and beyond).

At the time, Greece was entangled in a brutal civil war pitting Communists-(who were probably supported, both financially and logistically by the Soviets) and Anti-Communists-(who may have also had some financial and logistical support from the British). In addressing the Greek Civil War, the United States was expanding its geopolitical interests beyond mainland Europe and focusing on Southern Europe and the greater Middle East, in relation to an expanding Soviet Union.

Third, The Cuban Missile Crisis, which involved U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, had to do with The Soviet Union's expansion beyond the Eurasian geopolitical "theater". With the rise of Fidel Casto and his Communist regime in Cuba, the Soviet Union "took notice" and forged a geopolitical friendship/partnership with Havanna-(much to the chagrin of the United States).However, the Cuban-Soviet geopolitical friendship/ partnership, would eventually involve the Soviet Union's depositing of nuclear and radiological weapons inside Cuba-(which is only 90 miles from the Florida Keys). If left unaddressed by the United States, the Soviet nuclear advancement into Cuba may have grown far bigger and more threatening to the United States.

These were the distinct differences, both chronologically and geopolitically, between The 1947 Truman Doctrine and The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

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