This year marks sixty years since the world came to the very brink of nuclear war. The event has
come to be known as the “Cuban Missile Crisis”. We now know from the documents released
from the US State Department, the Kennedy papers and more recently from the archive in the
former Soviet Union that we were really on the edge of a precipice.
Had such a war broken out human life, according to scientists, would have been extinct.
It is important to recall the reasons for that terrible crisis. It was during the period of the cold
war. The US was trying to get missiles close to the USSR as possible. They installed weapons in
Turkey which was on the border of the then USSR.
At about the same time the Cuban Revolution occurred. The new Cuban government, headed by
Fidel Castro announced that the Cuban Revolution was a socialist revolution, in 1961, just after
the US attempted invasion at the Bay of Pigs. The government then proceeded to develop very
close relations with the Soviet Union, then regarded as the leader of the Socialist world.
The USSR recognized the hostility of the US administration to Cuba and decided to take
advantage of the situation. It persuaded the Cuban administration to allow it to install missiles on
the island for Cuba’s protection from an American invasion. That was not the only reason.
The other position was that the USSR grasped at the opportunity to move closer its missiles to
the US, as the US had done to the USSR.
On discovering missiles on the Island, the US felt very threatened for the first time of its
existence. This was because while the US fought many wars, they were always thousands of
miles away from its borders. The Second World War, the Korean War and Vietnam were very
far away from the US. In 1962 for the first time they had such devastating weapons only ninety
miles from its borders. It scared the US administration and the whole population.
The Kennedy administration reacted very strongly. It established a blockade around Cuba and
they demanded that the missiles be removed. The US was ready to go to war and for a few days
the world stood still in deep tension. I was a child at the time, but I remember vividly how I felt
and the people around me.
Fortunately, we still had some very educated and leaders who were aware of war. General
Secretary Khrushchev was one of the commanders in the Red Army during the Second World
War, where the USSR lost almost thirty million lives. He knew the horrors of war.
President John F. Kennedy’s experience of war first hand as well. The boat he was commanding
was sunk and he almost lost his life. Apart from that he was a highly intelligent man.
Those two leaders, having gone to the brink used that experience to try to make the world a
better place. The first Arms Control Treaty came about as a result of that dastardly experience.
Sixty years is a long time in an individual’s life. It appears as we moved further away from then
we have forgotten how close we were to a disaster. We have moved back to the days when we
want to construct international relation based on military might. So here we are now facing a
similar situation as we did sixty years ago.
This time the table has turned. The US and its NATO allies have been surrounding Russia with
military bases. Now they are pushing right on the Russian border, in Ukraine. Russia, as the US
did sixty years ago, is saying no way we would accept this.
Russia knows the devastation of war. Every time it was attacked by Napoleon or by Hitlerite
Germany, it was in that same vicinity. It is therefore very nervous and is expressing the feeling
of being betrayed.
This is because the USSR was told by senior persons in the US administration that should it
allow the re-unification of Germany in 1989 the NATO alliance would not move another inch to
the east. That assurance was given orally to Mikhail Gorbachev the last president of the USSR.
That promise was never kept. The Clinton administration aware that Russia was very weak after
the collapse of the Soviet Union took advantage and began moving NATO ever closer to Russia.
It appears that even though Russia had abandoned its Socialist system and became a fully
capitalist state, the US continued to put pressure on it.
The US even had a big hand in removing a government in Kiev that was friendly to Russia. The
combination of these factor and more has convinced Moscow that the West has no good
intention towards it.
It is clear now that the US seem to be determined that Russia must never become a super power
again therefore it has to be kept as an enemy and contained. This weak, Capitalist Russia. is now
subjected to all kinds of sanctions and humiliations by even threatening to sanction its President.
In response to NATO presence coming closer to Russia and the arming of the regime in Kiev, the
Russians have amassed large amounts of troops close to its border with Ukraine. This has upped
the ante and an ocean of propaganda against the Russian move began to flow.
The western media, completely ignoring NATO’s expansion are presenting the news that Russia
on Ukraine’s border. Russia is being presented as the aggressors and are escalating the tensions.
Listening to the various news station one gets the impression that those media houses are
goading the NATO powers to attack Russia. The emphasis is to show strength. The media has
created an expectation of war and more or less insisting that NATO must not back down
completely ignoring Russia’s security concerns.
The talks that were held between Russia and the US seem to be the case that ‘the mountain went
into labour and produced a mouse.’
How will Russia react? No one really knows for sure. The options that it has are not many all of
which can lead to war, possibly nuclear war. All are dangerous to the world.
It can invade Ukraine, either wholesale or in parts. That would lead to further sanctions and
increase the possibilities of counter attacks and eventually an all out war.
It can also consider attempting what the USSR did in 1962 and make some military alliance in
this region with countries which have problems with the United States. Three of these come to
mind, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Already the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Lavrov, has
stated that Russia is looking to expand their relations with these countries. This is extremely
The situation can easily spin out of control. Let us not forget that both World Wars have had
their origins in Europe.
Finally, I am concerned of the deafening silence of the leaders in Latin America and the
Caribbean, and other regions of the world.
This is very unfortunate, because if war breaks out we will all be affected. If it develops into
nuclear war then we could all be incinerated. It is tragic that in this situation has negative global
consequences but mainly two countries are talking and the rest are just onlookers.
We must demand a say in the future of the world, after all, this is the only one we have. We must
not stand by like “innocent bystanders”, as our national poet said “We are all involved.” So let us
do what we can, not to be consumed. Raise your voices for peace.