GED Social Studies Practice Questions: U.S. Foreign Policy

By Achim K. Krull, Dale E. Shuttleworth, Murray Shukyn

Many important events in American history were related to U.S. foreign policy. For the GED Social Studies test, you should have a general knowledge of topics like World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and American foreign policy since 9/11.

The following practice questions are based on a passage describing the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. If you’re familiar with those events, the questions should be easy to answer; if you aren’t, don’t worry—you can find the answers by carefully reading the text.

Practice questions

The practice questions refer to the following passage about the Cuban Missile Crisis, excerpted from U.S. History For Dummies, by Steve Wiegand (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

During the summer of 1962, the Soviets began developing nuclear missile sites in Cuba. That meant they could easily strike targets over much of North and South America. When air reconnaissance photos confirmed the sites’ presence on October 14, JFK had to make a tough choice: Destroy the sites and quite possibly trigger World War III, or do nothing, and not only expose the country to nuclear destruction but, in effect, concede first place in the world domination race to the USSR.

Kennedy decided to get tough. On October 22, 1963, he went on national television and announced the U.S. Navy would throw a blockade around Cuba and turn away any ships carrying materials that could be used at the missile sites. He also demanded the sites be dismantled. Then the world waited for the Russian reaction.

On October 26, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev sent a message suggesting the missiles would be removed if the United States promised not to invade Cuba and eventually removed some U.S. missiles from Turkey. The crisis — perhaps the closest the world came to nuclear conflict during the Cold War — was over, and the payoffs were ample.

  1. Why was the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba so important to both the Soviet Union and the United States?

    A. This was the only way missiles of that time could reach into North and South America.
    B. The Soviets wanted to show their support for Fidel Castro.
    C. It provided an important trade opportunity.
    D. None of the above.

  2. What triggered the Soviet move to put missiles capable of attacking the United States into bases in Cuba?

    A. The Soviet Union was preparing to attack the United States.
    B. Fidel Castro demanded them as protection against an American invasion of Cuba.
    C. The United States had placed its own missiles in Turkey on the border of the Soviet Union.
    D. The Soviets wanted to divert attention from the Vietnam War.

Answers and explanations

  1. The correct answer is Choice (A).

    At that time, missiles couldn’t cross intercontinental distances. As a result, locations close to your intended target were important. That’s why the United States placed missiles into Turkey that could attack the Soviet Union. The U.S.S.R. was simply responding in kind when it decided to build missile bases in Cuba. There was no trade benefit to the Soviet Union, and although it may have wanted to show support for Fidel Castro, that wasn’t the main reason.

  2. The correct answer is Choice (C).

    The United States had placed missiles in Turkey that directly threatened the heartland of the Soviet Union. Soviet actions in Cuba were a direct response. The Vietnam War hadn’t yet begun, and there’s no evidence that the Soviet Union was preparing to attack the United States. Although Castro may have demanded the missiles as protection, that wasn’t the key element in the Soviets’ decision, nor is that argument supported by the text.