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Key Issues Nuclear Weapons History Cold War Cuban Missile Crisis Introduction

Cuban Missile Crisis

In October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war over the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba. For 13 tense days, a fragile peace hung by only a thread as the US instituted a naval blockade of Cuba to turn back Soviet ships. The crisis was ended when the Soviet Union agreed in a secret negotiation to remove its nuclear weapons from Cuba in exchange for a US agreement to remove its nuclear weapons from Turkey six months later. The time lag was insisted upon by the US so that it would not look to the world like the US had engaged in a quid pro quo regarding the missiles in Cuba.

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The crisis resulted in the creation of a Hotline Agreement between the US and Soviet Union that would allow for instantaneous communications between the leaders of the two countries. The Cuban Missile Crisis stands today as a constant reminder of the immense danger that is ever present in the Nuclear Age. Subsequent meetings among key decision makers in the Cuban Missile Crisis have shown how many misperceptions there were during the tense period of the crisis, and how fortunate the world was to have escaped a dreadful nuclear holocaust between the two "superpower" states.

Read More

The World on the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Evaluation of the Effect on US Operational Plans of Soviet Army Equipment Introduced Into Cuba by Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 2, 1962.

Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis at Fifty by David Krieger, October 2012.