When Fidel Castro announced an end to democratic elections in Cuba, denounced American imperialism and announced that the Cuban government was adopting communist economic and political policies, the United States sensed they have to respond strongly. On February 7, 1962, the United States imposed a full economic embargo on Cuba.
In an effort to deter another United States invasion of Cuba, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev planned the placment of nuclear missiles on the island just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. At the time, United States had no plan in the case of such an event simply because intelligence agencies had been convinced that the Soviets would never dare to install nuclear weapons in Cuba.
Upon the discovery of Russian missiles several possible courses of action quickly discussed. Options were to ignore whole situation or to us diplomatic pressure to get the Soviet Union to remove the missiles. Practical options included sending a message to Castro to warn him of the grave danger of the situation, a naval blockade to block any missiles from arriving on island, an airstrike to destroy the missiles potentially while risking Russian retaliation and lastly, full force invasion of Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro.
Decision finally made
The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously agreed that a full-scale attack and invasion was the only solution. They believed that the Soviets would not attempt to stop the United States from conquering Cuba. But President Kennedy was skeptical because of the previous bad judgments from the intelligence agencies. He believed that Russia simply can't idly stand by and watch if an offensive military action was undertaken.
His reasoning was that they couldn't, after all their public statements, permit the United States to take out their missiles, kill a lot of Russians, and then withdraw. Best case scenario in case of successful massive invasion was the Soviet retaliation in Berlin and Europe. Later at a meeting majority of the generals was more inclined to the naval blockade, a rather neutral yet strong message. Over the course of several anxious days of secret communication between two leaders Khrushchev and Kennedy, mostly through their agents was established. In a agreement to avoid direct conflict and a nuclear war both leaders saved face and gained reputation.
The practical effect of this Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact was that it effectively strengthened Castro's position in Cuba, guaranteeing that the United States would not invade Cuba. Although the Cuban leader was publicly humiliated for being left out of the negotiation, his government remained active in attempts to diminish United States influence in the region. It is possible that Premier Khrushchev only placed the missiles in Cuba to get President Kennedy to remove the missiles from Italy and Turkey and that the Soviets had no intention of resorting to nuclear war.
But in times of the Cold War, mistrust and political struggle were common practice. Only two weeks after the agreement, the Soviets had removed the missile systems and their support equipment, loading them onto eight Soviet ships in early November. A month later, on December 5 and 6, the Soviet Il-28 bombers were loaded onto three Soviet ships and shipped back to Russia.
The naval quarantine was formally ended on November 20, 1962. By September 1963 all American weapons were deactivated in accordance with mutual agreement. An additional outcome of the negotiations was the creation of the Hotline Agreement and the establishment of Moscow–Washington hot line, a direct communications link between Moscow and Washington in a case of emergency.