Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban missile crisis—known as the October crisis in Cuba and the Caribbean crisis (Russian: Kарибский кризис, tr. Karibskiy krizis) in the USSR—was a 13-day confrontation between the Soviet Union and Cuba on one side, and the United States on the other, in October 1962. It is one of the major confrontations of the Cold War, and is generally regarded as the moment in which the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict. It is also the first documented instance of the threat of mutual assured destruction (MAD) being discussed as a determining factor in a major international arms agreement.

After provocative political moves and the failed US attempt to overthrow the Cuban regime (Bay of Pigs, Operation Mongoose), in May 1962 Nikita Khrushchev proposed the idea of placing Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba to deter any future invasion attempt. During a meeting between Khrushchev and Raúl Castro that July, a secret agreement was reached and construction of several missile sites began in the late summer. These preparations were noticed, and on 14 October a US U-2 aircraft took several pictures clearly showing sites for medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) under construction. These images were processed and presented on October 15, which marks the beginning of the 13-day crisis from the US perspective.

The United States considered attacking Cuba via air and sea, but decided on a military blockade instead, calling it a "quarantine" for legal and other reasons. The US announced that it would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba, demanded that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases already under construction or completed, and return all offensive weapons to the USSR. The Kennedy administration held only a slim hope that the Kremlin would agree to their demands, and expected a military confrontation.

On the Soviet side, Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote in a letter from October 24, 1962 to President John F. Kennedy that his blockade of "navigation in international waters and air space" constituted "an act of aggression propelling human kind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war". However, in secret back-channel communications the President and Premier initiated a proposal to resolve the crisis. While this was taking place, several Soviet ships attempted to run the blockade, increasing tensions to the point that orders were sent out to US Navy ships to fire warning shots and then open fire. On 27 October a U-2 was shot down by a Soviet missile crew, an action that could have resulted in immediate retaliation from the Kennedy crisis cabinet, according to Secretary of Defense McNamara's later testimony. However, in the event itself, Kennedy stayed his hand and the negotiations continued.

The confrontation ended on October 28, 1962, when Kennedy and United Nations Secretary-General U Thant reached an agreement with Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for a US public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba. Secretly, the US agreed that it would dismantle all US-built Jupiter IRBMs deployed in Turkey and Italy.

After the removal of the missiles and Ilyushin Il-28 light bombers, the blockade was formally ended at 6:45 pm EDT on November 20, 1962. An additional outcome of the negotiations was the creation of the Moscow–Washington hotline, a direct communications link between Moscow and Washington, D.C.

Read more about Cuban Missile Crisis:  Earlier Actions By The United States, Balance of Power, Soviet Deployment of Missiles in Cuba, Cuba Positioning, Missiles Reported, Operational Plans, Blockade ("Quarantine"), Secret Negotiations, Crisis Ends

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