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Cuban Missile Crisis - Close Call for Nukes

Cuban Missile Crisis

The world’s closest call with nuclear war was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Steaming this problem on was both Soviet insecurity and Cuba’s fear of U.S. invasion. Tension and secrecy drove the three nations to the breaking point, and yet, miraculously, not a missile was launched.

What caused such a virulent situation? Well, there were two main factors provided by Cuba and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was far behind in the arms production race with the U.S., and they feared a first strike from the U.S.’s base in Turkey which was only 150 miles away. Khrushchev noted that Cuba was only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, but the 60 mile difference was "nothing for a missile." Most of all, however, Khrushchev feared a first-strike by the U.S. If the Soviet Union lost the arms race so badly, he worried, it would invite a first-strike nuclear attack from the U.S. Consequently, Khrushchev began looking for a way to counter the United State's lead. Secondly, Cuban Premier Fidel Castro feared that Cuba was not safe from invasion. The Armed Forces conducted a mock invasion of a Caribbean island to overthrow a fictitious dictator whose name, Ortsac, was Castro spelled backwards. Additionally, the U.S. was drafting a plan to invade Cuba (Operation Mongoose). The mock invasion and invasion plan were devised to keep Castro nervous. Finally, the CIA had also been running covert operations throughout Cuba trying to damage the Castro government. Consequently, Castro was convinced the U.S. was serious about invading Cuba.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a close call to nuclear war. The Soviets had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of the United States. U.S. armed forces were at their highest state of readiness. Soviet field commanders in Cuba were authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons if invaded by the U.S. The fate of millions literally hinged upon the ability of two men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev, to come to an agreement.

In 1962, the Soviet Union was desperately behind the United States in the arms race. Soviet missiles were only powerful enough to...

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