On the Missile Crisis

From Economic Principles


The /Real/ Club of Rome Turns Forty, in Vienna
Sun, 28 Oct 2012 20:01:59 GMT

Fifty years ago this week, the United States and Soviet Union came closer to nuclear war than anyone, including John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, knew at the time. On Friday, October 26, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, a US destroyer dropped practice depth charges, the size of hand grenades, on a Soviet submarine, whose rattled commander may have prepared to fire a nuclear missile, before being overruled by his onboard commodore.

The explosive devices were intended to be signals to surface, but the submariners didn’t know about that. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had unilaterally altered the rules of engagement without telling anyone. The next day, Soviet missile technicians shot down a U-2 reconnaissance plane overCuba. That was enough for Khrushchev. Seizing on a suggestion in a Walter Lippmann column, he agreed on Sunday to recall the nukes and call off the crisis, in exchange for a secret promise to withdraw some US missiles from Turkey a few months later, and also a promise not to invade Cuba.


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