Cuban Missile Crisis

Professor Len Scott.

Professor Len Scott.

24 October 2012

This month sees the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, known also as the October Crisis and the Caribbean Crisis, which was a 13 day confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States over the presence of missile sites in Cuba.

To mark the anniversary, the Centre for Intelligence and International Security Studies at Aberystwyth University and the Cambridge Intelligence Group at the University of Cambridge are hosting a major international conference at Gregynog Hall near Newtown from 25-27 October.  

Professor Len Scott, from the Department of International Politics, explains, “The discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba was one of the dramatic periods of the Cold War, and possibly the most dangerous moment in human history.

“The conference will seek to address the legacies and lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis by means of a number of papers and roundtable discussions. It will include contributions from a number of the most eminent international scholars of nuclear history, intelligence, espionage, political science and the Cold War.”

As well as Professor Len Scott, the speakers will include Professor Christopher Andrew of the University of Cambridge, Professor Campbell Craig also of Aberystwyth University, Dr Michael Goodman from King's College London, Professor Don Munton, University of Northern British Columbia and Dr Peter Catterall, University of Westminster.

On October 14, 1962, an American U-2 spy plane secretly photographed nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union in Cuba. President Kennedy did not want the Soviet Union and Cuba to know that he had discovered the missiles and after many long and difficult meetings, Kennedy decided to place a naval blockade - a ring of ships - around Cuba.

The aim of the blockade was to prevent the Soviets from bringing in more military supplies. He demanded the removal of the missiles already there and the destruction of the sites. On October 22, President Kennedy spoke to the nation about the crisis in a televised address.

Both Kennedy and Khrushchev recognised the devastating possibility of a nuclear war and on October 28, publicly agreed to a deal that the Soviets would dismantle the weapon sites in exchange for a pledge from the United States not to invade Cuba. In a separate deal, which remained secret for more than twenty-five years, the US also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey and Italy.