News / USA

October Marks 50th Anniversary of Cuban Missile Crisis

President John F. Kennedy reports to nation on Cuban missile crisis Nov. 2, 1962
President John F. Kennedy reports to nation on Cuban missile crisis Nov. 2, 1962
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.  Historians say there were several key events that led to the decision by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to station nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962.  

In January 1961 John F. Kennedy assumed office as president of the United States.  One of his major foreign policy dilemmas was how to deal with Fidel Castro, a Cuban nationalist who in 1959 overthrew General Fulgencio Batista, the country’s American-backed president.  Castro ultimately allied himself with the Soviet Union.

In April 1961, Mr. Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to overthrow Mr. Castro.

  • This file photo shows Cuban President Fidel Castro replying to U.S. President John F. Kennedy's naval blockade via Cuban radio and television on October 23, 1962.
  • This is a low level photograph released by the U.S. Defense Department made October 23, 1962 of the medium range ballistic missile site under construction in the San Cristobal area of Cuba.
  • In this October 25, 1962 file photo, U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, far right, describes aerial photographs of launching sites for intermediate range missiles in Cuba during an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council at U.N. Headquarter
  • This aerial reconnaissance photo is of the San Cristobal medium range ballistic missile site No. 3 in Cuba. The U.S. Department of Defense says, shows the site at its maximum readiness on October 27, 1962.
  • This file photo shows pictures released by the U.S.Defense Department of Mariel naval port in Cuba on November 4, 1962.  The department identified the ships at dockside as Soviet freighters. Photo at upper left is a blowup of missile equipment in outline
  • Then-Major Richard ``Steve'' Heyser, left, and General Curtis LeMay, then Air Force chief of staff, center, meet with President John F. Kennedy in the White House in Washington in this 1962 picture, to discuss U-2 spy plane flights over Cuba.
  • Radar towers fill the area near the Dan Beard Research Center near the Nike missile site inside the Everglades National Park, Florida, as seen in a photo from 1968.

Moscow helps Cuba

Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet leader, said Moscow had to help Fidel Castro.

“The Soviet Union, as a superpower, has the obligation to defend all their allies and their clients, even risking nuclear war,” he said. “Soviet intelligence gathered information that Americans planned to invade Cuba sometime in autumn, maybe in October. And so through that period, Cuba became for the Soviet Union the same as West Berlin for the United States - small, useless piece of land deep inside hostile territory,” Khrushchev said.

Graham Allison, author of a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, said at that time, the Soviet Union had a huge advantage over the United States in terms of conventional troops in Europe.

“The U.S. was committed to and determined to defend (West) Berlin at all means,” he said.  “Khrushchev had been trying to ‘solve the problem’ of (West) Berlin by which he meant absorb it into the Soviet sphere.  And the U.S., both under Eisenhower and under Kennedy, were determined that this was not going to happen and were prepared to risk nuclear war over it.  So the Berlin developments were, in effect, a kind of twin to the Cuban missile crisis,” Allison said.

Cuban Crisis, missile rangeCuban Crisis, missile range
x
Cuban Crisis, missile range
Cuban Crisis, missile range
Moscow must defend allies

Sergei Khrushchev saw the same potential outlook, but from the Soviet and Cuban sides.

“If you will not defend it, even risking nuclear war,” he said, “you will lose face and your other allies will not trust you.  And you know that the United States had plans to use nuclear weapons if Soviets tried to take control of West Berlin.  So it was a very similar situation on both sides,” said Khrushchev.

In June 1961, President Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev held a summit meeting in Vienna, Austria.  The issue of West Berlin dominated the session, but no progress was made.  Many experts said Khrushchev came away believing the U.S. President was inexperienced and weak, and that might have contributed to the Soviet leader’s decision to station missiles in Cuba.

Finally, many analysts, including Graham Allison, said Moscow had another motivation to help Castro. “From the perspective of Khrushchev and the Soviet Union,” Allison said, “this was their success story in the Western hemisphere and they were committed to try and keep it alive.”  An effort, said experts that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs