The Guardian • Issue #2032


Lessons from the Cuban Missile Crisis Sixty Years


A mobile ground launched cruise missile, Havana. Photo: Martin Trolle Mikkelsen – (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sixty years ago during the Cold War the world came close to a nuclear war between the two superpowers of the day, the Soviet Union led by President Nikita Khrushchev and the United States led by President John F. Kennedy. The USSR had dispatched a large number of medium and long range nuclear missiles to the Caribbean island of the Socialist Republic of Cuba. The previous year, expatriate Cubans had launched a failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and while President Fidel Castro and his revolutionary army had repelled the attack, covert incursions continued to occur and Cuba being on a heightened state of alert, welcomed the missiles. However, when President Kennedy received confirmation of the Russian missiles on Cuban soil, he said they posed a clear and present danger to the existence of the US.

At a forum on the 60th of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Joe Siracusa, Adjunct Professor of Political History and International Security Studies Curtin University, said that Kennedy insisted the threat from the missiles was a military threat to the US when it was a political threat to the US. While the military hawks in Department of Defence were talking up a limited nuclear war with battlefield scale nuclear armaments. The crisis was so dangerous as it was so novel until someone said to Kennedy, “Why don’t we trade missiles to avoid invading Cuba.” 

While there is now talk of a limited nuclear war with Ukraine, it was the US dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki even after Japan had said they were ready to surrender, which would make sure Japan would not want to try again. However, US President Joe Biden has said of a small-scale nuclear war, that once you use small scale nuclear weapons you cant stop going up the nuclear ladder.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, US Air Force General, Curtis Lee May estimated that the US would lose 18,000 men in the first 2 hours of any nuclear conflagration. Siracusa posed the question, “What will happen if Putin uses tactical nuclear weapons in the conflict with Ukraine?” In regards to the conflict in Ukraine, Siracusa observed there had been little attempt by President Biden at diplomacy and negotiation though there had been blackmail, threats and the demonisation of all things Russian.

In regards to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev wanted to rattle the US’s cage by getting them to change their mindset on the Cold War and the Soviet-Russian state and he succeeded when Kennedy quietly moved the US missiles from Turkey that had been pointed at Russia.

Today the dismantling of NATO is long overdue, it is a residue from a geopolitical era that no longer exists and was suggested by a number of world leaders after the Soviet Union collapsed (1989-1991), most notable by French President Francois Mitterrand in the mid-nineties towards the end of his long presidency. At the forum, Siracusa went further suggesting it should be dismantled as, “NATO is a circus and also a corporation which is just growing and growing.” It is a corporation whose goal is to support and prop up US interests in Europe, and it is now very destabilising of peace and security in Europe.

No more so than on 23 February, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine after inauthentic talks between Biden and Putin failed. Siracusa said that Biden should have called Putin and offered to negotiate a diplomatic solution that would meet Russia’s national security interests as well as those of Ukraine.

It was predictable therefore when Putin moved the Russian military into Ukraine. Nine months later are we closer to a full-scale nuclear war; probably not, though a limited nuclear weapon battlefield seems almost inevitable. Siracusa added that the way the US and Europe were conducting the war was giving the Ukrainian people a false hope.

In summing up where the Ukrainian crisis was at the moment, Siracusa said he didn’t know what would happen next, though he said that Putin doesn’t think he is fighting Ukraine but a proxy war against the US and Europe.

In the meantime, 14 million homes have been lost in Ukraine, nineteen per cent of its territory and thousands of lives have been lost while millions have left the country as refugees all the while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says they are winning and will push back the Russian enemy.

In the US President Joe Biden is surrounded by Alpha male and females who are pushing an aggressive proxy war with Russia by supplying Ukraine with millions of dollars’ worth of armaments while a diplomatic negotiated settlement to the conflict seems more remote than ever.

Siracusa also made the point the United States would not tolerate foreign troops on its northern borders at Niagara Falls nor on its southern border with Mexico at El Paso, yet it is wrong for Russia to get upset at the spectre of NATO troops being at its western border with Ukraine had it not decided on the pre-emptive special military operation in February 2022. Biden is poll driven and risk averse which is why he conducts what he considers diplomacy through the NBS News and the media generally.

In case some in the audience thought it necessary that because Joe Siracusa came across as pro-Russian he reminded the forum that he is on a Blacklist from Russia.

The Communist Party of Australia calls on the US to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the crisis confronting Ukraine by showing a preparedness to listen to Russian interests, for the US to dismantle NATO as there is no longer a military or political need for the body which was set up as a response to the cold war but has continued as arguably an economic and political weapon against Russia and resources instead be dedicated to the more pressing global security issues of climate change, homelessness and global shortages of energy, food and water.

The Cuban Missile Crisis between the US and the USSR could have gone down the path of nuclear war but ended up in a negotiated political settlement that gave both parties a little of what each wanted. The same path of a negotiated diplomatic and political settlement is yet to occur between the two de facto political superpowers while a third, China is watching the conflict very closely as Russia’s adversary is also its adversary.

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