Fyodor Lukyanov: Remembering the Nuclear Red Line

Roundup: Talking About History

Fyodor Lukyanov is editor of Russia in Global Affairs.

Nearly every detail of the Cuban missile crisis has been exhaustively studied and analyzed in the past 50 years. Even if additional documents are one day declassified and new details come to light, the overall picture of what happened will remain unchanged. Some elements of that standoff have passed into history, while others remain pertinent to this day. On the whole, though, it would hardly be possible to find a direct parallel between the October 1962 crisis and current events.
The Cuban missile crisis marked the peak of the Cold War because it drew the red line that neither side was willing to cross. The bitter and ruthless confrontation continued for another 25 years, albeit more indirectly, as a game in which both sides sought to bring as many countries as possible into their own orbits. This rivalry and conflict of interests occasionally erupted into open hostilities in the form of proxy wars.
The risk of a direct nuclear conflict dropped significantly as a result of the Cuban missile crisis, while the ruling elites in both the U.S. and the Soviet Union increasingly came to understand the dangers involved in pursuing adventurist policies. Leaders realized that strategic stability was a prerequisite to lasting peace...
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