Rising tensions between Washington and Moscow are reminiscent of a crisis from 60 years ago that nearly triggered devastation
History records that on October 16, 1962, then-US President John F. Kennedy received information from the CIA about the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba. This event was the formal beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis — the first, and for a long time, the only event in world history that brought humanity to the brink of nuclear war.Back then, cool heads – who had not yet forgotten the horrors of a real war – were able to prevent a catastrophe. Whether today’s leaders will show the same restraint is far from certain. Nineteenth century American humorist Mark Twain famously said, “History never repeats itself, but it often rhymes.” Pakistani-British historian Tariq Ali is credited with a similar take: “History rarely repeats itself, but its echoes never go away.”
Either could have been referring to today’s Russia-Ukraine conflict, which seems to be rhyming with, and echoing, a perilous episode from 60 years ago and 6,000 miles away – the Cuban Missile Crisis. Observers who recall the US-Soviet showdown of October 1962 can only hope that the latest confrontation between Washington and Moscow doesn’t require as much luck to avert a potentially planet-ending nuclear war. The similarities – rhymes and echoes – are evident. For starters, the Ukraine and Cuban crises were both rooted at least partly in the same principle: A superpower can’t stand idly by when a geopolitical rival upsets the security balance between them.
In 1962, the trigger was the secret placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, right on America’s doorstep. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who ironically grew up in what was then Ukraine, saw the move as a way to protect the island against a US invasion after the failed Bay of Pigs assault in April 1961, as well as a tit-for-tat response to the Pentagon’s deployment of Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Italy, which positioned Washington’s nuclear warheads to hit the USSR’s territory in as few as ten minutes. At the time, the long-range missiles in Soviet territory took hours to fuel up and fire, meaning a delayed response to a US first strike. “Since the Americans have already surrounded the Soviet Union with a ring of their military installations, we should pay them back in their own coin and give them a taste of their own medicine so that they find out for themselves how it feels to live as a target of nuclear arms,” Khrushchev was quoted as saying by Aleksandr Alekseev, then Moscow’s ambassador to Cuba.
Cuban Missile Crisis Archive
Subscribe To The EarthNewspaper.com Newsletter
Support Honest, Independent, And Ad-Free News