Guest Author - Vance Rowe
In May of 1960, Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet Premier, had promised Cuba that Russia would protect the island country with Soviet arms. Khrushchev mistakenly thought that the United States would do nothing to stop the Soviet Union from sending missiles to Cuba, both medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles. It wasn’t until July of 1962 that U.S. President John F. Kennedy found out about the shipments of missiles and accessories from the Soviet Union to Cuba. The following August, U.S. U-2 spy planes flew over the island country and they spotted new military construction and the manifestation of Soviet engineers there. Then in October, the spy planes reported seeing a ballistic missile in Cuba.
After receiving this news, President John F. Kennedy started weighing his options. He considered an invasion of Cuba, air strikes of the missile sites, or a blockade of the country, and decided on the latter. The president placed a blockade on Cuba to prevent any more shipments of missiles from the Soviet Union.
On October 22, 1962, President Kennedy announced the quarantine and warned the Soviets that U.S. forces would confiscate all offensive weapons and any materials that went with the weapons. During the days that followed, the Soviet ships that were heading to Cuba had changed course, steering away from the blockades. The two countries, the United States and Russia were on the brink of a full out nuclear war. This would be come to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Although there was a lot of rigidity on both sides, President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev had messages sent between them to try and curb the potential attack against U.S. soil. Finally, on October 28. Nikita Khrushchev and President Kennedy finally came to terms and the Soviet leader said that the work on the missile sites would be stopped and the missiles in Cuba would be returned to the Soviet Union.
President Kennedy told Khrushchev that the United States will never invade Cuba, for his concession. Kennedy also promised to withdraw the nuclear missiles that the United States had stationed in Turkey, several years earlier. At the time, the deal about the missile withdrawal from Turkey was not public knowledge. This deal was made in secret. During the weeks that followed, both sides began fulfilling their promised obligations and Cuba’s communist leader, Fidel Castro was angered that Khrushchev had kowtowed to the demands of the United States, but could do nothing to stop it.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the United States had come to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union and it is also believed that the backing down of Khrushchev, played a big role in his fall from power in the Soviet Union in 1964.