Friday, October 28, 2011

Cuban Missle Crisis Ends

On October 22nd, 1962 President Kennedy announced that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from our shores. Acting under the auspices of the Monroe Doctrine he gave a 17 minute speech in which he outlined his response to the Soviet action, including the famous quarantine of Cuba, in which all Soviet ships headed to Cuba were boarded and searched. Those ships which refused to be searched were turned back by our Navy. On October 28th, 6 days later, the crisis came to an end when Soviet premier Khrushchev announced the withdrawal of the missiles. On the surface the United States had won a huge victory. Or, so it would seem.

In reality the United States had done the same thing to the Soviet Union by placing over 600 Jupiter missiles along the Turkish border, all aimed at strategic targets within the Soviet Union. This was akin to our violating the Soviet Union’s right of the principles of the Monroe Doctrine, which we were using to have the Soviet missiles removed from Cuba.

Moscow's position was correct, if we could have missiles on their border, they could have missiles on ours. Unknown to American military intelligence at the time, was that there were, and had been, low yield "tactical" nuclear weapons, though not missiles, in Cuba since the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. These weapons were for combat use, typically for the repulsion of invading forces. Had our troops landed in support of the coup, they would have been met with small scale nuclear arms. And that would have triggered a nuclear response from the United States, which of course would have set off a response from the Soviet Union. Now, here we were, one year later, facing off with the Soviet Union for a second time.

Kennedy and Khrushchev were both very concerned about losing control of their respective armed forces at the time. The Joints Chiefs of Staff wanted to invade over the missile issue, and the President wanted to negotiate. Officially, at the time, the so-called "Doomsday" clock stood at 1 minute to midnight, the closest the Soviet Union and the United States had ever come to a nuclear war. A solution, acceptable to both sides, needed to be found, and quickly!

Within 6 days of JFK's speech, Khrushchev announced the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba. This was hailed as a great victory for America at the time. A closer look would have revealed otherwise. The facts would not come to light for several more years, and when they did surface it didn't look like we got such a great deal after all.

President Kennedy had proposed, and the Soviets accepted, the dismantling of 600 operational nuclear missiles on the Soviet border in exchange for removing 5 non-operational missiles from Cuba. There was one caveat; the terms of the deal could not be announced. The concessions by the United States were to be kept quiet. And they were, for several years.

The Soviet Union got exactly what they wanted, and in a way, so did we. At the time we were dismantling the Jupiter missiles on the Turkish border, we were installing newer, longer range missiles, all aimed at the same targets, throughout Germany and Western Europe.

By 1964 both Kennedy and Khrushchev were out of office, Kennedy felled by an assassin’s bullet(s), and Khrushchev removed to a Dachau, where he would spend his remaining days in seclusion. Both men had fallen victim to the forces that would thwart any peace efforts. Those forces are still with us, to this very day.

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