Cuban Missile Crisis The Cuban Missile Crisis was a major confrontation between the United States and Russia over Soviet-supplied missile installations in Cuba. The background to the crisis was Russia’s military strength in Europe. At any time Russia would be able to take over Europe through the use of a surprise attack. The US, however, made an attack of this kind very difficult due to its development of the U2 reconnaissance plane which would give an indication of a Russian intention to attack. To counter the threat, in 1960 Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev launched plans to supply Cuba with ballistic missiles that would put the eastern United States within range of nuclear missile attack. In 1962 U.S. spy planes flying over Cuba spotted the first ballistic missile.
On October 16, President John Kennedy was shown reconnaissance photographs of Soviet missile installations under construction in Cuba. After seven days of guarded and intense debate in the United States administration, during which Soviet diplomats denied that installations for offensive missiles were being built in Cuba, President Kennedy, in a televised address on October 22, announced the discovery of the installations. He proclaimed that any nuclear missile attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union and would be responded to accordingly. He also imposed a naval quarantine on Cuba to prevent further Soviet shipments of offensive military weapons from arriving there. For several tense days Soviet vessels avoided the quarantine zone, and Khrushchev and Kennedy communicated through diplomatic channels. Khrushchev finally agreed to dismantle and remove the weapons from Cuba and offered the United States on-site inspection in return for a guarantee not to invade Cuba. Kennedy accepted and halted the blockade. After the crisis was over both sides realised how close they had both come to a nuclear war. There was a ‘hotline’; established between the White House and Moscow that would be used as a means of diffusing any future crisis. Russia promised not to place any more missiles in Cuba and likewise the US withdrew their missiles from Turkey. The crisis led to the start of serious arms control talks between the two sides which continue to this day.