1962 is a long way back. However, with Castro having turned 90 one is reminded of the time when the world almost went to war during what is known as the Cuban missile crisis. At that time the president of the USA was John Kennedy while the first secretary of the Communist party in Russia was Nikita Khrushchev. These two men locked horns and the world narrowly missed a nuclear war. During the entire crisis, all credit must go to the American president who refused to listen to hawks in his cabinet who wanted an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy didn't even enforce a blockade but only used the word quarantine as he insisted that offensive weapons would not be allowed.

The beginning of the crisis

After the failure of the bay of Pigs invasion the USA readied another invasion plan of Cuba. An alarmed Fidel Castro in a secret agreement with the Soviet leader agreed to position nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba to ward off a second invasion of Cuba. Work on installing the missiles commenced and photographs by U-2 spy planes confirmed that the Russians were installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. Kennedy called a meeting of his closest advisors and the Chiefs of staff suggested the sites be bombed and Cuba invaded. Kennedy listened but kept his judgment and chose a middle path. He decided to enforce a quarantine, then a blockade which would be an act of war.

The quarantine went into effect and Kennedy publicly called for the removal of the missiles.

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A Russian tanker carrying oil was allowed to proceed as it was assumed that it was carrying no weapons. In the meantime, a US spy plane was shot over Cuba and this heightened tensions. The US armed forces wanted retaliation, but Kennedy knew the danger of a nuclear war and refused to retaliate till another plane was shot down. He decided to give one more chance to Khrushchev.

Khrushchev was also under pressure and he proposed in a message to Kennedy that in case the USA gave an undertaking not to destabilize the Castro regime he could consider removing the missiles. But just a few hours later Khrushchev gave a belligerent statement in which he called for the removal of the Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The clock was ticking and Kennedy decided to ignore the Soviet leader's second message and allowed his ambassador to have a secret meeting with the Soviet ambassador. An agreement was hammered out and the Russians agreed to remove the missiles. Kennedy gave an assurance not to destabilize the Castro regime.

Last word

Castro was furious at the removal of the missiles, but he was only a bystander. Khruschev bypassed him and agreed to remove the missiles. In April 1963, the Americans removed the Jupiter missiles from Turkey. Actually, Castro felt more secure after the missile crisis as he continued to rule without a chance of an invasion from the US mainland. The US honored its pledge for 50 years and now the ice is broken by president Obama and 50 years of hostility is over. Who won the missile crisis? It is clear that Kennedy did not listen to hawks and a world war was averted.