Cuban Missile Crisis

Summary

There were also about 700 medium-range ballistic missiles R-12 and R-14.

The Soviet Navy included 25 submarines equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles: 5 nuclear-powered Project 658 SSBNs and 20 diesel-powered Project 629 SSBNs. These submarines and their 650-km range missiles were less advanced than their U.S. counterparts, were quite noisy, and had surface launch missiles (three times shorter range), which exposed them to de-masking. There were also four nuclear-powered 659 and 12 diesel-powered 644 and 665 submarines with 60 P-5 cruise missiles.

The destruction of Major Andersen”s U-2 plane

Captain Moltsby”s U-2 flying over Chukotka

A few hours later, two U.S. Navy RF-8A Cruiser photographic reconnaissance planes were fired upon by anti-aircraft guns during a low-altitude overflight of Cuba. One was damaged, but the pair returned safely to base.

It is generally accepted that Black Saturday, October 27, 1962, was the day when the world was closest to global nuclear war.

On the night of October 27-28, Robert Kennedy met again with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin at the Justice Department building, as ordered by the president. According to Dobrynin”s recollections, “Kennedy”s office was a mess, with a crumpled plaid lying on the couch: the owner of the office was fast asleep. Kennedy shared with Dobrynin the president”s fears that “the situation was about to get out of hand and threatened to create a chain reaction.” Robert Kennedy said his brother was willing to give guarantees of non-aggression and an early lifting of the embargo on Cuba. Dobrynin asked Kennedy about the missiles in Turkey. “If that is the only obstacle to reaching the settlement mentioned above, the president sees no insurmountable difficulty in resolving the issue,” Kennedy replied. According to then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Jupiter missiles were already obsolete from a military point of view (although they had been placed on combat duty only two years before), but in private negotiations Turkey and NATO were strongly opposed to including such a clause in a formal agreement with the Soviet Union, as it would have been a sign of U.S. weakness and would have called into question U.S. guarantees to protect Turkey and NATO countries.

1) You will agree to withdraw your weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate UN supervision and to take steps, subject to appropriate security measures, to halt the supply of such weapons systems to Cuba. 2) We, for our part, will agree, subject to an adequate system of UN assistance to ensure compliance with these obligations, to a) quickly lift the blockade currently in place and b) provide guarantees of non-aggression against Cuba.

At noon, Khrushchev gathered the Presidium of the Central Committee at his dacha in Novo-Ogaryovo. The meeting was discussing the letter from Washington, when a man came in and asked Khrushchev”s aide, Troyanovsky, for the phone: Dobrynin called from Washington. He relayed to Troyanovsky the gist of his conversation with Robert Kennedy and expressed his fears that the U.S. president was under intense pressure from the military. Dobrynin relayed verbatim the words of the U.S. president”s brother: “We should get an answer from the Kremlin today, on Sunday. There is very little time left to solve the problem. Troyanovsky returned to the hall and read out to the audience what he had managed to write down in his notebook while listening to Dobrynin”s report. Khrushchev immediately invited a stenographer and began dictating the consent. He also dictated two confidential letters to Kennedy personally. In one, he confirmed the fact that Robert Kennedy”s message had reached Moscow. In the second, that he regarded the message as agreement to the USSR”s condition for withdrawing Soviet missiles from Cuba – to remove the missiles from Turkey.

Fearing all kinds of “surprises” and disruption of negotiations, Khrushchev forbade Pliev to use anti-aircraft weapons against American planes. He also ordered all Soviet planes patrolling the Caribbean Sea to return to their airfields. To be sure, it was decided that the first letter would be broadcast on radio so that it would reach Washington as soon as possible. An hour before the broadcast of Nikita Khrushchev”s message (16:00 Moscow time), Malinovsky sent an order to Pliev to begin dismantling the R-12 launch pads.

A few months later, the U.S. Jupiter missiles were also withdrawn from Turkey as “obsolete. The U.S. Air Force did not object to the decommissioning of these MRBMs, because by that time the U.S. Navy had already deployed the much more forward-looking Polaris SLBMs, which made the Jupiter complex obsolete, on submarines.

The peaceful resolution of the crisis did not satisfy everyone. Khrushchev”s dismissal two years later can be partly attributed to irritation in the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee over the concessions Khrushchev made to the United States that led to the crisis.

At the end of the crisis, analysts of the Soviet and American secret services suggested that a direct telephone line (the so-called “red telephone”) be established between Washington and Moscow, so that in case of a crisis the superpower leaders would be able to contact each other immediately rather than using the telegraph.

According to data declassified in 2017 by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, 64 Soviet citizens died in Cuba for various reasons between August 1, 1962, and August 16, 1964.

It is impossible to say definitively whether removing the missiles from Cuba was a victory or a defeat for the Soviet Union. On the one hand, the plan conceived by Khrushchev in May 1962 was not completed and the Soviet missiles could no longer ensure Cuba”s security. On the other hand, Khrushchev obtained from the U.S. leadership guarantees of non-aggression against Cuba, which, despite Castro”s misgivings, were respected and are still respected today. A few months later, the U.S. missiles in Turkey, which Khrushchev said provoked him to deploy weapons in Cuba, were also dismantled. Eventually, thanks to advances in missile technology, there was no need to deploy nuclear weapons in Cuba or in the Western Hemisphere at all, because in a few years the Soviet Union already had enough intercontinental missiles capable of hitting any city and military facility in the United States directly from Soviet territory.

We, comrades, put missiles, medium-range missiles in Cuba. Why did we put them in, what made us put them in? We reasoned that the Americans can”t stand Cuba, they say it outright, that they can eat Cuba. I was talking to the military, to Marshal Malinovsky. I asked: if we were in America”s shoes, if we took a course for ourselves to break such a state as Cuba, how long would it take us, knowing our means? – Three days at the most, and we”d wash our hands.

In 1992, it was confirmed that by the time the crisis erupted, Soviet units in Cuba had received nuclear warheads for tactical and strategic missiles, as well as nuclear bombs for IL-28 medium-range bombers, totaling 162. General Gribkov, who participated in the Soviet operation headquarters, stated that General Pliev, commander of Soviet troops in Cuba, had the authority to use them in the event of a full-scale U.S. invasion of Cuba.

The short duration of the Caribbean crisis and the extensive documentation of decision-making on both sides make it an excellent case study for analyzing state decision-making processes. In The Essence of Decision, authors Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow use the crisis to illustrate different approaches to analyzing state action. The intensity and scope of the crisis also provides excellent material for drama, as illustrated in the film Thirteen Days by American director R. Donaldson. The Caribbean crisis was also one of the main themes of the 2003 documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.

In October 2002, Robert McNamara and Arthur Schlesinger, along with other guests of honor, attended a meeting with Castro in Cuba to further explore the crisis and release declassified documents. At this conference it became clear that the world was much closer to nuclear confrontation than previously thought. Thus, it is possible that only the common sense of the senior aboard the Soviet submarine B-59 (Project 641) Vasily Arkhipov prevented a full-scale conflict.

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Sources

  1. Карибский кризис
  2. Cuban Missile Crisis