U.S. urges Alliance for Progress
In the field of foreign affairs, President Kennedy faced a series of challenging situations in Cuba, in Southeast Asia, in Berlin and elsewhere. He stated his administration's approach to the broad range of international problems as follows: "To those old allies whose cultuial and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. . . . To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom. . . . To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves. . . . To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge-to convert our good words into good deeds-in a new Alliance for Progress-to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. . . . To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support.... Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.... Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."
Less than three weeks before President Kennedy took office, the United States had broken diplomatic relations with Cuba. This action was taken in response to the Castro government's vilification of the United States, its harassment of American embassy personnel, and its use of Cuba as a base for communist efforts to penetrate Latin America. (Later in the year, in a notable speech, Premier Castro admitted that he had secretly been a communist for many years.)
As the Castro dictatorship tightened, thousands of Cubans left their homeland, many of them coming to the United States. In April 1961, a group of Cuban refugees invaded their country in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Castro. Although Americans provided the refugees with training and assistance, no U.S. soldiers participated in the invasion. The world was shocked when Premier Castro demanded a ransom of many millions of dollars in return for freeing captured Cuban democrats.
In October 1962, the world was even more profoundly shocked to learn that the Castro government had allowed the Soviet Union secretly to place offensive missile bases on Cuban soil. These bases, manned exclusively by Soviet technicians, were capable of launching nuclear missiles against most of the major cities of North and South America. The United States demanded prompt removal of the bases and declared a strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba. By a vote of 20 to 0, the Organization of American States recommended that member nations take all measures to block the flow of offensive weapons to Cuba. Faced with such firm resistance, the Soviet government agreed to dismantle its bases and ship them back to Russia under U.N. supervision.
In the field of economics, the relations of the United States with her Latin American neighbors continued to improve. In March 1961, President Kennedy formally proposed an "Alliance for Progress" under which the United States, along 'with other free countries, various international agencies, and private capital would provide $20,000 million in grants and loans over a ten-year period to promote economic growth and raise living standards in Latin America. In August, 19 Latin American nations approved the Alliance charter and pledged themselves to institute land and tax reforms so that economic and social gains under the Alliance would benefit all of the people. At the end of 1961 President Kennedy and his wife saw the program in operation when they visited Venezuela and Colombia, two of the countries which had started redistributing land among small farmers. Alliance funds went into the building of roads, homes and schools, the fmprovement of sanitation and water supply systems, credits to small farmers, and the training of teachers.
Across the Atlantic from South America, the continent of Africa was exploding onto the world scene. Starting with Morocco in 1956 and Tunis and Ghana in 1957, more than 20 African nations had won their independence by 1961. U.S. leaders welcomed these new nations whose emergence from colonial status recalled America's own past. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai E. Stevenson, predicted an increasingly important role for the new African states in that world forum. One of his first acts as Ambassador was to cast the United States vote in support of an Africansponsored proposal calling for a U.N. investigation of racial disorders in the Portuguese colony of Angola in West Africa.
The new Africa presented a complex and challenging problem to the United Nations when the Republic of the Congo erupted in civil strife after winning independence from Belgium in 1960. A U.N. force went to the Congo at the request of President Kasavubu, first to restore order and protect lives and later, in 1961, to help reunite the mineral-rich Katanga province with the rest of the country. Although some Americans criticized the U.N. military action in Katanga as an unwarranted interference in internal Congo affairs, the U.S.government supported the U.N. goal of a united Congo as the only workable answer to the country's economic and political problems. To this end, the United States contributed $40 million in funds, food and services toward the U.N. effort. By 1962, the prospects for a peaceful and united Republic of the Congo had improved.
In Southeast Asia, intensified communist guerrilla attacks threatened the security and independence of Laos and South Viet-Nam. Fourteen nations, including the United States, met in Geneva in May 1961, to seek a solution of the Laos conflict. After six months of negotiation, during which a cease-fire was put into effect, they agreed to urge the Laotian princes leading the three contending factions to join in creating a neutral, unified and independent nation. In South VietNam, however, fighting continued into 1962 as armed communists infiltrated from North Viet-Nam, resorting to kidnappings, assassinations and other forms of terrorism against loyal citizens. At the request of the government, American military personnel helped to train South Viet-Nam troops for the defense of the country's territorial integrity. The United States also encouraged President Diem's government in its efforts to initiate new social and educational reforms and to secure broader popular support in the fight against communist guerrilla invaders.
A further communist effort to nibble away at free world areas was manifested in the creation of a new crisis over the status of West Berlin. In June 1961, Premier Khrushchev again threatened to sign a separate Soviet peace treaty with East Germany, which he said would end existing four-power agreements guaranteeing American, British and French access rights to West Berlin. The three powers replied that no unilateral treaty could abrogate their rights and responsibilities in West Berlin, including unobstructed access to the city. The atmosphere of crisis caused an increase in the number of East Germans crossing over to West Berlin: in July alone, some 30,000 fled to freedom. Suddenly on August 13, the communist regime of East Germany erected a concrete wall between the cast and west sectors of Berlin, forcibly sealing off the inhabitants of East Germany. This action was viewed throughout the world as an admission of the communist system's failure. In the face of allied determination to maintain the rights of access to West Berlin, the Soviet government allowed the year-end deadline to pass without attempting to sign a peace treaty with East Germany.