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Reputation for ResolveHow Leaders Signal Determination in International Politics$
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Danielle L. Lupton

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501747717

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501747717.001.0001

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A Reputation for Irresolute Action

A Reputation for Irresolute Action

Kennedy, Berlin, and Cuba

(p.115) Chapter 5 A Reputation for Irresolute Action
Reputation for Resolve

Danielle L. Lupton

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies how Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev viewed the resolve of President John F. Kennedy, looking at Khrushchev's decision making surrounding the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. According to evidence made available from declassified and translated Soviet archives, as well as information drawn from additional sources, Kennedy quickly formed a reputation for irresolute action largely because of his repeated failure to back up his strong rhetoric with firm action and his wavering support of the Bay of Pigs invasion early during his tenure. While Kennedy rather quickly established a poor reputation for resolve, it was difficult for him to alter this reputation. Throughout the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and during the early stages of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev continued to doubt Kennedy's firmness and determination, despite the president's repeated attempts to signal his resolve. Declassified Soviet documents further indicate that Kennedy was able to change this negative perception of his resolve during the Cuban Missile Crisis only by presenting a consistently resolute position and altering his signals of strategic interest. Thus, it was Kennedy's communication of high strategic interest in Cuba combined with his resolute behavior during the missile crisis that enabled him to alter his poor reputation.

Keywords:   Nikita Khrushchev, John F. Kennedy, 1961 Berlin Crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, political reputation, political resolve, leader behavior, strategic interest

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