Cuban Missile Crisis
The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was the most dangerous confrontation in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and was triggered by the stationing of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.
In October 1962, the world narrowly escaped disaster. The Soviet Union tried to deploy nuclear missiles in a secret military operation in Cuba, which was allied with the Soviet Union. This made the neighboring USA feel threatened. The subsequent crisis lasted thirteen days (October 16-28, 1962). It is considered the climax and “hottest” phase of the Cold War. The USA and the Soviet Union, which faced each other in the East-West conflict, were on the verge of using mutually directed nuclear weapons. A worldwide nuclear war threatened. It just didn’t happen because both sides gave in at the last moment.
Cuba – an island nation on the USA’s doorstep
According to Vaultedwatches, Cuba is an island nation in Central America. Less than 200 kilometers separate it from the southeast coast of the USA, where the state of Florida is located. Because of this geographical proximity, the large neighbor in the north showed a keen interest in what was happening in Cuba early on. In the Spanish-American War of 1898, the USA ended Spain’s four hundred years of colonial rule over Cuba and secured decisive influence there for itself.
Cuba officially became an independent republic in 1902. In fact, until 1934, the USA retained the right to intervene militarily in Cuba as a “protecting power” at any time. They also built a naval base in Guantánamo Bay in the east of the island, which is still there today.
Economically, too, Cuba came largely under the control of the USA. The cultivation of sugar cane and the export of sugar to the USA became the most important source of income for Cuba, which at the same time imported all important goods from there. The USA ensured that “Sugar Island” was ruled by dictators who were friendly to America. The last was Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (* 1901, † 1973), who was Cuban President from 1940-1944 and 1952-1958. At the turn of the year 1958/59 he was overthrown by a revolution led by F. Castro and Che Guevara.
Cuba in the field of tension between the USA and the Soviet Union
When Castro expropriated American property on the island republic in 1960, the US government imposed a trade and economic blockade (embargo ) on Cuba and broke off diplomatic relations in 1961. At the same time, the United States was preparing to overthrow Castro. The secret service CIA was commissioned to organize attacks, acts of sabotage and even assassinations on Castro in Cuba. In order to hold its own, the new Cuban government relied on outside support. The Soviet Union used this situation to bind Cuba to itself and to the camp of “socialist states” led by the Soviet Union during the Cold War through extensive economic and armaments aid.
In April 1961, an attack by the CIA by Cubans in exile in southern Cuba failed, and went down in history as the “Bay of Pigs invasion”. But as early as November 1961, the US government was pursuing new plans for military action against Cuba with “Operation Mongoose” (Mungo). As a result, the Soviet Union began – with the consent of the Cuban government – to transport nuclear missiles to Cuba on camouflaged cargo ships from the summer of 1962. The deployment of Soviet nuclear missiles in close proximity to the United States undoubtedly served not only as a deterrent to attack plans against Cuba. Above all, the Soviet Union wanted to create a counterweight to the US nuclear missiles stationed in Turkey. Because these were directed to Soviet territory.
The end of the crisis and its consequences
On the evening of October 27, 1962, Kennedy sent a confidential message to Khrushchev through the Soviet ambassador to the USA. In this he indicated that he urgently needed a public signal from the Moscow leadership to give in. Otherwise he would no longer have any recourse against the numerous generals and politicians who demanded immediate military action. Kennedy also held out the prospect of a withdrawal of American medium-range missiles from Turkey, just not officially (because NATO would see this as a “buckling” in front of the Soviet Union) and only after some time.
The redeeming answer came just in time on October 28, 1962. Khrushchev officially announced on Radio Moscow that the Soviet government had given orders to dismantle the nuclear missiles in Cuba and bring them back to the USSR.
The crisis came to an end after 13 nerve-wracking days. US President Kennedy was considered the shining winner in the struggle for the withdrawal of the Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba. But Khrushchev had also achieved important successes: on the one hand, he saved Cuba from an American invasion and thus ensured the continued existence of a socialist state allied with the Soviet Union in the immediate vicinity of the USA. On the other hand, he achieved the dismantling of American missiles in Turkey.
In order to ensure fast and secure communication in future crises, a direct telex connection (“hot wire”) was set up between the American and Soviet leadership in 1963. The events of 1962 also gave an impetus to the start of negotiations on nuclear disarmament.