What happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis – and why is it compared to Russia’s war in Ukraine? | world news

US President Joe Biden has been heard saying that Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine carries the greatest risk of the use of nuclear weapons since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser in New York on Thursday, Mr. Biden said“For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat of the use of nuclear weapons if, in fact, things continue on the path they are on.

Effigy of Putin burned outside Moscow; follow updates from Ukraine live

“We haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Mr Putin himself has also threatened to use Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal.

Last month he said: “I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction…and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal.”

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What is a tactical nuclear weapon?

Why is Biden talking about nuclear Armageddon?

In the face of unexpected and successful Ukrainian counter-offensives in recent weeks, some Western intelligence officials and defense analysts believe the Kremlin may resort to drastic face-saving measures.

According to Russian nuclear doctrine, it could launch a first-strike nuclear attack if the country’s existence was deemed to be threatened.

Given Mr. Putin’s claims about why he started the war, any involvement of NATO troops in the Ukraine conflict could put that plan into action.

And after Moscow held “referendums” on the annexation of four eastern Ukrainian regions, its leader could also use a Ukrainian attack on any of those territories to justify a nuclear strike.

Read more:
What nuclear weapons does Russia have?
Analysis: Putin’s nuclear threat could be catastrophic

If that happened, NATO would have to react, but currently officials have suggested they would only use conventional weapons in retaliation.

Several analysts believe that, although Mr Putin says he is “not bluffing”, any nuclear activity by Russia would be just as damaging to him – as it would be to the West – and is therefore unlikely.

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Professor Michael Clarke: Russia “keeps the nuclear debate going”

What was the Cuban Missile Crisis?

The Cuban Missile Crisis is considered the closest the world has ever come to nuclear annihilation.

The 13-day confrontation in 1962 took place during the Cold War and after the United States discovered that the Soviet Union had secretly deployed nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Aerial images appear to show the construction of intermediate ballistic missiles in Cuba
Aerial images appear to show the construction of intermediate ballistic missiles in Cuba

In response to the presence of American ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey, as well as the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to place missiles on the island, a few hundred kilometers from the American coast.

In response, then-US President John F Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine of the island to prevent the delivery of further missiles.

After several days of tension, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev reached an agreement for the Soviet Union to dismantle its weapons in Cuba in exchange for Mr. Kennedy’s promise that the United States would not invade the island. .

The United States has also secretly agreed to dismantle all of its medium-range ballistic missiles in Turkey.

Soviet ships sail to Cuba.  Photo: AP
Soviet ships sail to Cuba. Photo: AP

It has seen the warring geopolitical powers establish the Moscow-Washington hotline to facilitate rapid and direct communication between them should tensions escalate further.

Although the two leaders reached an agreement not to deploy arms, bitter tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union until the end of the Cold War in 1991 left the rest of the world fearful of an attack. nuclear for decades.

‘Protect and Survive’ adverts warn Britons of nuclear attacks

Those who lived through the 1970s and 1980s in Britain will remember the government’s ‘Protect and Survive’ campaign.

Designed to prepare people for a nuclear attack and supposedly give them the best chance of survival, it came in the form of pamphlets, television and radio advertisements.

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1975 Nuclear Threat Preparedness Video

An example recorded for use on BBC Radio 4 read: “This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons.

“Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known.

“We will bring you more information as soon as possible. In the meantime, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay at home.”

Exercises were also conducted in schools, workplaces and public buildings.

Airborne sirens used in World War II were repurposed and would be used to issue attack warnings and “fallout warnings” in the event of a nuclear incident.

The word “fallout” refers to harmful radioactive material released by nuclear explosions.

The adverts advised people to move to the safest area of ​​the house – known as the “fallout” room – farthest from the wars outside and preferably on the ground floor or basement.

A nuclear preparedness video from 1975 tells people to take cover if they can't get home after hearing the warning sound
A nuclear preparedness video from 1975 tells people to take cover if they can’t get home after hearing the warning sound
A nuclear readiness video from the 1970s tells people to lie flat in a
1970s nuclear preparedness video tells people to lie flat in a ‘ditch or hole’ if they can’t find cover

Families were instructed to close their windows and doors, draw their curtains and even build an “inner refuge” in the fallout room.

Fashioned by wedging a door or a plank of wood against the wall, people were advised to cover it with bags or suitcases filled with sand.

Families were also instructed to ration food, water and other essentials in the event of a nuclear strike, as they would be advised to stay in their fallout room for at least two days afterwards.

Their fatalistic tone had a lasting psychological and cultural impact on the population, much like the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign “Don’t die of ignorance” of the 1980s.

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