Read this article to learn about the crisis over missiles in Cuba after the World Wars!
One of the most serious crises in the history of the post-Second World War occurred on the installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba.
The development of nuclear weapons had been accompanied by the development of new systems of delivery, that is, of means of transporting and dropping these weapons on enemy targets.
For this purpose, missiles were developed. These missiles, or rockets, with nuclear warheads, could be directed to hit targets thousands of kilometres away, anywhere in the world. The US had set up these missiles aimed at Soviet targets at bases which she had set up in different parts of the world.
The Soviet Union generally had no bases and her missile sites were within her own territory. Each side also had submarines carrying these nuclear missiles. To begin with, the range of these missiles was limited, say a few hundred kilometres, which had made the setting up of bases near the territory of the enemy countries necessary.
New technology for spying on other countries had also been developed. For example, aeroplanes flying at very high speeds and at very high altitudes could take accurate photographs of the enemy country’s territory and find out exact location of armies installations, tanks, airports, industries, etc. These can also locate missiles and even take photographs of these missiles.
In January 1959, there was a revolution in Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro. The United States turned hostile to Cuba when the new government started adopting radical social and economic measures, introducing agrarian reforms, and nationalising industries.
Another reason was the friendly relations which the new government began to develop with the Soviet Union and China. The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961 and stopped all economic transactions with her.
In April 1961, she landed 2000 Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to overthrow the Cuban government. However, the invasion ended in a fiasco and within two days it was crushed. Even though the entire world had condemned the US for the invasion of Cuba, the US government was not willing to give up its intention of overthrowing the Cuban government. John F. Kennedy, the US President at that time, had openly declared after the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs: “We do not intend to abandon Cuba to the communists”. This was the background of the crisis which broke out in October 1962.
While the Soviet Union was surrounded by US bases, including those with nuclear missiles, the Soviet Union had no bases anywhere near US territory. In October 1962, the US found, from the pictures taken by her spy planes, that the Soviet Union was building missile sites in Cuba which is less than 150 km from the southernmost part of the US.
All through all the wars which the US had fought were in the territories of other countries, with her own territory being completely inviolable. The installation of missiles in Cuba would bring US territory within easy range of attack. This was perceived as a serious threat to the security of the US.
Although the Soviet Union had done for the first time what the US had been doing all along, that is, establishing military bases in other countries, it created the danger of a war between the US and the Soviet Union, something which had not happened in spite of various tensions and conflicts between them. Such a war would have endangered all humanity.
On 22 October 1962, President Kennedy announced a naval and air blockade around Cuba which meant that the US would stop any ship or aircraft moving towards Cuba. The US also prepared to launch an attack on the missile sites in Cuba.
This crisis which had brought the world close to disaster, however, ended on 26 October. On that day, Khrushchev, the Premier of the Soviet Union, sent a message to President Kennedy that the Soviet Union would remove her missiles from Cuba if the US pledged not to attack Cuba. This was agreed to and the crisis was over. The US also agreed to withdraw the missiles which she had installed in Turkey, close to Soviet territory.