You didn't miss anything. The book will explain it all at the end. The kind of confusion you're experiencing was my biggest annoyance with the novel, but it will all get sorted out if you keep at it.
Thank you for that! I figured that if I kept at it, all would reveal itself. I am currently in the section where Saavik has accepted her 'father's proposal, and am wondering what will happen next. The order in which this book is written is frustrating at times, but I am hopeful that the confusion will be worth it in the end.