February 18

This Day in History

Cold War

Feb 18, 1964:

United States punishes nations for trading with Cuba

The United States cuts off military assistance to Britain, France, and Yugoslavia in retaliation for their continuing trade with the communist nation of Cuba. The action was chiefly symbolic, but represented the continued U.S. effort to destabilize the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.

The amount of aid denied was miniscule--approximately $100,000 in assistance to each nation. None of the nations indicated that the aid cut-off would affect their trade with Cuba in the least. America's decision to terminate the trade, therefore, hardly had a decisive effect. Many commentators at the time concluded that the U.S. action was largely a result of frustration at not being able to bring down the Castro government.

Since Castro came to power in 1959, the United States had tried various methods to remove him and his communist government. First, the U.S. severed diplomatic relations and enacted a trade embargo. In 1961, it unleashed a force of Cuban exiles (which it had armed, trained, and financed) against Castro in the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. In 1962, the United States set up a naval blockade around Cuba to prevent the shipment of Soviet missiles to the island. Rumors also flew fast and furious about other U.S. efforts, including talks with the Mafia about assassinating the Cuban leader. Despite all of these efforts, Castro survived and prospered, simply replacing most U.S. trade and aid with the same from the communist bloc. The American obsession with Castro provoked the New York Times to observe that the U.S. policies toward Cuba "suggest an extraordinary sensitivity that does not in fact correspond to basic policy judgments."

The decision to cut off military assistance to Britain, France, and Yugoslavia did little to help in this regard. The three nations continued their trade with Cuba and expressed their resentment at the U.S. action. Castro stayed in power and rules communist Cuba to this day.

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