Scandinavia and the World

Comments #9754408:

Thank you so much Petrov 20 4, 10:20pm


I wouldn't say bigger and I wouldn't call any of them heroes (see explanation of this below), but he was another man who made the right decision.

The really dangerous part of the Cuban Missile Crisis was that the Soviets had delegated control over their nukes to the local commanders in the field, while in the US only the president can ever authorize the use of nuclear weapons of course.
With the Soviet Union being as secretive as it was during the Cold War, the west didn't actually know this, but assumed that Soviets commanders had to get authorization directly from the Kremlin to launch nukes.
They also didn't know that the Soviets had equipped some of their submarines with nuclear torpedoes, or just how many tactical nukes the conventional Soviets forces on Cuba had at their disposal (nearly 100).
There where a lot more nukes, and controlled by other people, on and in the waters of Cuba during the missile crisis then the Americans knew at the time.

Therefore, the real risk of the Cuban Missile Crisis was that some local Soviet commander could have felt his position so threatened that he decided to use the nukes under his command for self-defense.
The American side never even knew this was a possibility, as they though local Soviet commanders weren't authorized to make those decisions.

While Khrushchev of course knew full well that he didn't actually have complete control over the Soviet nukes and from his perspective the risk of the situation spiraling out of control was even greater.

Also, there was no direct telephone line between the US and the Soviets, so neither leader could talk directly to the other in real time, but all interactions where by telex or by diplomatic channels, which takes time.

Regarding your claim of a "Turkey Missile Crisis", that's not really an accurate description.
Firstly, the Jupiter missiles in Turkey was agreed upon by Turkey and the US in 1959, when Eisenhower was president - it was not JFK's idea or decision.
Secondly, the Soviet placement of missiles on Cuba was not in retaliation over the US placing missiles in Turkey - it was to protect Cuba from the threat of a US invasion.

The Americans had already tried once to overthrow Castro by a military invasion - but that time it was exile-Cubans in the Bay of Pigs-fiasco in 1961.
But it was widely expected that the next time the US would use it's own forces to do the job - something the US military leadership and many politicians was also openly advocating for at the time.
That's why Castro turned Communist by the way - siding completely with the Soviet Union was the only way he could guarantee safety from a US invasion.
And with the Soviet conventional forces that where then sent to defend Cuba from a US invasion, the medium range ballistic missiles followed too.

The Jupiter missiles in Turkey where a secret part of the deal the US and the Soviets struck at the end of the crisis, that's true.
But those missiles where already obsolete anyway as the US had moved on to submarine launched Polaris missiles by that time, so it's not like withdrawing them from Turkey either weakened the US strategic hand or strengthened the Soviets.

It was more a sweetener to the main deal, which was that in return for the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles the US promised to not invade Cuba.

As you rightly say both major powers can be seen as winners or losers in the crisis, depending on which point you take.
But Castro and his regime certainly gained from it, as the threat of US invasion was rescinded. Without the Soviets deploying troops to Cuba, the missile crisis that followed from that and the deal that followed from that, the US would certainly have invaded Cuba by now.

Explanation regarding "heroes":
I know you Americans tend to call anyone who does their job well in a time of crisis a "hero", but to me (and I believe most of the rest of the world) we don't use that word as frequently.
In times of war or catastrophe a lot of people do their jobs professionally - but they also do so every single day and they get no recognition for that.
Also, it's their job to make these decisions and to get them right. So I won't call them heroic for doing what they're supposed to - and neither would most of these people themselves actually.

I'd reserve the title of "hero" for people like the engineering crew of the Soviet atomic submarine K-19, who knowingly sacrificed their own lives stopping the boats nuclear reactor from a total meltdown by building a jury-rigged cooling system for the reactor, inside the reactor room at lethal radiation levels.
They all died - but they saved the boat, everyone else on it and a large part of the North Atlantic from severe radiation contamination.

There are also the firefighters first on the scene to put out the fires at Chernobyl, and later the soldiers that where sent there to clear radioactive debris from the roof of the reactor building.
Radio controlled machines sent up to do the job broke down because the radiation levels where so high, so the Soviet Union sent in volunteers to do it manually instead.

And many others who've done other things (not all related to radiation of course) that have been INSANELY risky to their own survival and has gone above and beyond any reasonable professional demand on them.

That's the level where I think we should start calling people heroes.
Not just for making the right call in a tight spot or landing a damaged plane when you're the pilot (I'm looking at you Sully - and now that Southwest pilot the other day).