The Australian Government, the US alliance, and the Cuban Missile Crisis: A history and policy analysis

Thompson, Laura (2017) The Australian Government, the US alliance, and the Cuban Missile Crisis: A history and policy analysis. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


In October 1962, the world was brought to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. The Cuban Missile Crisis marked the closest the United States (US) and the Soviet Union came to military conflict that might have led to nuclear annihilation during the Cold War. This thesis investigates the Australian Government’s policy response to the crisis. In doing so, it makes an original contribution to Australian Cold War history and to the extensive literature on the crisis. The Australian Government’s policy response to the crisis is examined in the context of the Australia-US alliance. A diplomatic history, this thesis relies heavily on declassified government records from Australian and American archives. Additionally, oral history interview transcripts, audio-visual materials, Hansard, newspapers, and private collections, were consulted in order to reconstruct comprehensively Australia’s policy on this matter and the factors that shaped it. This thesis examines: Australia’s awareness of the Cuban situation; the Menzies Government’s policy on the crisis, specifically, factors it considered—and did not consider—in formulating its policy; and the Government’s immediate implementation of that policy, including the reactions of some sections of the Australian community to that policy. It demonstrates that despite limited advance notice and awareness of the Cuban situation, the Government swiftly declared support for the US in the crisis, specifically, its resolution to be presented to the United Nations Security Council. It reveals that certain politicians, diplomats, and public servants were concerned about: Australia’s obligations under the Australia New Zealand United States Security Treaty; the legality of the US response; the precedent set by the quarantine; the implications of US policy on the crisis regarding Australian nuclear ambitions; Australia maintaining its trade relationship with Cuba; and the repercussions the crisis could have on collective defence arrangements, which Australia relied on for its security. Despite these concerns and challenges, the Government considered the successful management of the US alliance paramount in formulating and implementing its policy on the crisis.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1605 Policy and Administration
Historical > FOR Classification > 1606 Political Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 2103 Historical Studies
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords Cold War, foreign policy, international relations, 1962, intelligence, defence, nuclear ambitions, nuclear weapons, nuclear war, politics, trade, Australia, United States, Soviet Union, Cuba, Australian-American relations, Garfield Barwick, ANZUS, Robert Menzies, John Kennedy, historiography
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