Monday, October 28, 2013

Cuban Missile Crisis - Who won?

Posted on Sunday, 10.27.13

Cuban Missile Crisis: Who won?

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, the United
States had decisive nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union. This
country had more than 400 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)
compared to 78 ICBMs in the Soviet arsenal. The huge strategic advantage
also included the sophisticated Polaris submarines with a devastating
nuclear punch and the overwhelming striking power of some 1,300 bombers
with nuclear ordinance, as opposed to less than 200 belonging to the

Moreover, in the early 1960's the delivery time from the launching site
to the target was a crucial factor. It took approximately 30 minutes for
the Soviet missiles to reach the United States. This was enough time for
the Americans to retaliate with a devastating counter-strike, which was
an essential deterrence for peace. From Cuba, the Soviet missiles would
have been able to destroy most of the U.S. military and urban centers in
7-10 minutes.

Another important factor was that the missile accuracy significantly
increased with the proximity of the target, making the Marxist island of
Cuba the perfect choice to greatly improve Soviet nuclear capacity.

Yuri Pavlov, former head of the Soviet Latin America's Foreign Ministry
and responsible for Soviet-Cuban relations, wrote in 1994: "The Soviet
leadership decided to use the island in order to bring a substantial
part of the United States territory within range of Soviet medium range
ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. Khrushchev, who
initiated this idea, hoped that it would help to address the imbalance
(in) strategic nuclear force."

Anatoly Dobrynin, Soviet ambassador to Washington and a decisive figure
with Robert Kennedy in finding a solution to the crisis, stated, in his
memoirs published in 1995, that Khrushchev's motives for the missiles
deployment in Cuba was strategic. He wrote: "The move was part of a
broader geopolitical strategy to achieve greater parity with the United

A principal factor in the Kremlin's decision to introduce nuclear
missiles into Cuba was the Bay of Pigs disaster, where John Kennedy was
perceived as a weak, indecisive president who would cave in under
pressure. The next move was to get Fidel Castro's cooperation. The
messenger was Ambassador Aleksandr Alexeyev, a veteran KGB agent and
close associate of Raúl Castro.

Fidel Castro welcomed the idea of nuclear missiles in Cuba. In his
meeting with Aleksandr, the Marxist dictator stated: "That is a very
risky move . . . but if making such a decision is indispensable for the
Socialist bloc, I think I am in favor of placing the missiles in our
island. This way we will be able to be the first victims of the
encounter against imperialism." With Castro's endorsement, the secret
shipment and deployment was on.

But on Oct. 14, a U.S. aircraft (U-2) took photos that provided
Washington with the first hard evidence of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Two days later, President Kennedy was informed. For the next five days,
in absolute secrecy, the president and close advisors analyzed the
available options. At the end it was decided to confront, head-on, the
Soviet challenge.

On Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., President Kennedy addressed the nation in a
televised speech disclosing that Soviet nuclear missiles were in Cuba,
announcing a strict quarantine of all offensive weapons being shipped to
the island and warning Moscow that if they were not immediately
withdrawn, the United States was ready to remove them by force.

Dobrynin knew that the Kremlin was caught empty handed by the forceful
American reaction.

In his memoirs he said, "The fatal miscalculation was made by Khrushchev
himself. He did not anticipate that his adventurous thrust would be
discovered in time for Kennedy to organize a sharp reaction, including a
direct confrontation."

It was in this critical moment that Fidel Castro's apocalyptic behavior
became evident. He wrote to Khrushchev, calling on the Soviets to launch
a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States.

On Oct. 27, a U-2 plane was shot down over the island and its pilot
killed. The U.S. military began the final stage of a massive deployment
for the attack on Castro's Cuba. Late that night, Robert Kennedy met
with Dobrynin and went straight to the point. The president demanded the
immediate withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba. Otherwise the United
States would do it by force.

At 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28, the Soviet leadership sent an urgent
message to Dobrynin in Washington indicating that Khrushchev had
accepted the president's demands. To avoid any delays, the news was
broadcasted on Radio Moscow. The agreement also included a secret
covenant for the gradual dismantling of the obsolete American missiles
in Turkey and a pledge not to invade Cuba. During the negotiations,
Castro was ignored and consequently felt humiliated.

But who won? Kennedy was murdered a year later by a pro-Castro assassin.
Khrushchev was sacked as prime minister within two years and Castro has
remained as Cuba's bloody tyrant for over half a century. You decide.

Pedro Roig is senior research associate at the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, historian, attorney and
author of the book "The Death of a Dream: A History of Cuba." He is a
veteran of Brigade 2506.

Source: Cuban Missile Crisis: Who won? - Other Views - -

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