The Cuban missile crisis

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The Cuban missile

During the Cold War US and Russia (USSR as it was called at that time), faced off in a tense 13-day standoff. In October 1962, an American U-2 spy plane informed the US government about the nuclear missile site that the USSR was building in Cuba. The then US President, John F. Kennedy, told his nation about the threat looming over them. However, as history reiterates, the US had already secretly placed nuclear missiles in Turkey in 1961.

The USSR chose Cuba as a strategic site for its missile. It was 376 km away from Miami, 2,119 km from New York, and 1,833 km from Washington. One wonders if the Soviet Union knew about the US missiles placed in Turkey. If not, then surely the USSR installing missiles in Cuba would have been nothing short of an alarming situation for Washington.

If the missiles from Cuba were to be launched on US soil, they would have altered the future. The nuclear domain that was led by the US at that time would have tilted in favor of the USSR. There would have been an immeasurable amount of loss of life and property, not to mention the uproar from the countries that would have echoed across all continents.

Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader at that time, wanted to enhance his country’s nuclear strike capability. He created a level playing field to counter the US missiles that were placed in Turkey and Western Europe. The Soviet-Cuba relationship strengthened because of the US-Cuba tensions and especially when the US attacked Cuba in 1961. Collaborating with the USSR in placing its missiles allowed Cuba to suppress Washington’s aggression.

Despite having advanced military power, Kennedy did not want to act in haste. He took calculated steps in thwarting this crisis. First, he ordered a blockade to be set up by the US Navy around the island of Cuba. Second, Kennedy delivered an ultimatum to the USSR to pull down the missiles.

However, on October 24, Soviet ships traveling to Cuba came near the point where the US Navy ships were exercising the blockade. The Soviet ships did not breach the blockade otherwise a confrontation leading to a possible nuclear war was inevitable.On October 26, Kennedy informed the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) that the only way to end this crisis was by invading Cuba. He ordered increasing the frequency of low-level flights over the island and to decide upon a crash program for a new government in Cuba if the US were to move ahead with the invasion. Khrushchev was informed about this plan as the Cuban and Soviet plans were actively sharing intelligence.

This period during the Cold War has remained a case study for those interested in international relations and conflict resolution. Just imagine if the two countries went to war. The Cold War would have turned into a nuclear war that would have led to the beginning of the third World War. The relations between the US and Russia have never been positive since then. Even today, the two countries are ready to lock horns and prove who is mightier.