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Cuban Missile Crises

  • Date Submitted: 02/28/2012 02:05 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 37.7 
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The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962

The Cuban missile crisis remains one of the most closely examined episodes of the nuclear era. In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, even more historical material has become available for scholars to examine.5 Though this now allows us to re-examine the crisis, most scholarly and popular accounts have only stressed how close the two superpowers came to a nuclear war. A more surprising outcome was that the nuclear deterrence worked, and that it worked in spite of considerable disparities in the nuclear arsenals of the two powers. Despite enjoying local and strategic superiority, and despite strong sentiment among President Kennedy's advisors (which Kennedy appears to have shared at times) in favour of bombing the missile sites in Cuba, the US was deterred from going to war. What deterred the US was the certainty that some Soviet retaliation would take place. Though the Soviets might have suffered more, the fact that the US would not escape unhurt was sufficient to deter the US.

The decision to place Soviet missiles in Cuba was taken in late May 1962.6 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's primary motivation appears to have been to defend Cuba against continuing American-sponsored attacks by anti-Castro forces and the very real possibility of an American invasion.7 Hoping to present the US with a fait accompli, Khrushchev ordered that the mission be carried out in complete secrecy.8 The extraordinary measures that the Soviet military took to conceal the operation, as well as some favourable weather, allowed the Soviet military to successfully conduct much of the operation in secret. Nevertheless, by the middle of October, American intelligence had begun to suspect that Soviet missiles might have been shipped to Cuba. On October 16, President Kennedy was informed that there was conclusive photo-reconnaissance evidence of Soviet medium-range missiles in Cuba. Though originally contemplating an air strike,...


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