- The October of 1962 saw the Cold War hit its height, when the two great superpowers, the Soviet Union and the US, teetered on the brink of nuclear warfare for 13 days.
- The standoff, known as the Cuban missile crisis, was resolved and disaster was narrowly averted.
- This is accredited to timely negotiations between Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev and US President John F Kennedy.
- An important precursor of the Cuban missile crisis was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.
- In this, US-backed Cuban counter-revolutionaries attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in the country and establish a non-communist government friendly to the US.
- After successfully fending off the operation, Castro turned increasingly towards the USSR and its premier Khrushchev, to deter any future invasion
Major Causes for the Cuban Missile Crisis
- Soviet desire to counterbalance US nuclear superiority,
- US attempts to undermine the Castro regime in Cuba
- Strategic Importance of Cuba in the Western Hemisphere
- Soviet Response to US missile deployment in Turkey
- by the US.
Course of events:
- USSR’s missile installation in Cuba:
- Having promised to defend Cuba with Soviet arms, the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev initiated the installation of Soviet medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba.
- Such missiles could hit much of the eastern United States within a few minutes if launched from Cuba.
- Khrushchev also wanted to place nuclear weapons in Cuba to counter the urgent threat of US missiles close to its own borders.
- US action & naval “quarantine”:
- Kennedy announced that U.S. forces would seize “offensive weapons and associated matériel” that Soviet vessels might attempt to deliver to Cuba.
- Kennedy ordered a naval “quarantine” of Cuba.
- In this, US destroyers and submarines were placed around Cuba in order to prevent military supplies from being brought to the island.
- As the two superpowers hovered close to the brink of nuclear war, On October 28 Khrushchev capitulated, informing Kennedy that
- Work on the missile sites would be halted and
- The missiles already in Cuba would be returned to the Soviet Union.
- In return, Kennedy committed the United States to never invading Cuba.
- Both superpowers began to fulfill their promises over the coming weeks, and the crisis was over by late November.
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