The Cuban Missile Crisis was a very tense 13-day confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and is considered the closest the Cold War was to escalating in a full scale war. What could have resulted in the deaths of over 100 million people on both the Russian and American sides, was resolved peacefully. This crisis is also known as the Caribbean Crisis and the Missile scare, took place in October 1962 and was broadcasted on television all over the world.
Discovery of Missiles
After the U.S. tried to overthrow Fidel Castro’s rule in Cuba and failed in the Bay of Pigs invasion, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made a secret deal with Castro to install Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba to foil any other American attempts to invade. During routine surveillance flights, U.S. intelligence however discovered the construction sites of these missiles and president Kennedy went public with the news. Instead of attacking Cuba, the Kennedy-rule decided to rather place their navy and air force in such a way to “quarantine” the missile sites. In the 13 days that followed, negotiations took place in which neither country’s leader was willing to budge.
In the end, instead of going to full blown war, Kennedy proposed a compromise toward the end of the 13 day period: the United States would not invade Cuba if Khrushchev would withdraw the missiles and if the Soviet Union would not accept this offer within 24 hours, the U.S. would attack Cuba right away. The U.S. also promised to withdraw its missiles from Turkey in a 6 months period. Khrushchev accepted the offer. This marked a very important moment in the Cold War, as for the first time, both leaders really tried to understand one another’s intentions and direct communication was set up through a telephone line directly to the White House.
This article is part of our larger collection of resources on the Cold War. For a comprehensive outline of the origins, key events, and conclusion of the Cold War, click here.
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