The Cuban Missile Crisis is the closest that the United States and the USSR have ever come to fighting a nuclear war. The U.S. and Cuban governments were each compelled to action by the fear of each other. Both countries posed a threat, real and implied, to the other. Nuclear bomb paranoia swept the post World War II world. In no place or time was this fear more apparent than during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During the 1962 crisis, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Kennedy jockeyed for the upper hand, each employing bold moves that brought the world to the brink of possible annihilation. In April 1961 a group of Cuban rebels backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in a plan approved by the president invaded southern Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The invasion was an attempt to overthrow Castro by instigating a Cuban rebellion, but all rebels participating in the invasion were killed or captured within four days of the landing. So he could later deny U.S. involvement, Kennedy refused to provide any air support dooming the mission (Frankel, 2004, p.50). Alarmed by this escalating threat by a major world super-power, Castro escalated the importation of missiles from the Soviets in what he and Khrushchev described as a “defensive mechanism” to thwart future aggressive acts by its neighbor 90 miles to the north.
The Soviet Union, deeply involved in a cold war with the U.S., eagerly sent munitions, medium-range missiles, and equipment to build airfields in Cuba. Castro viewed the Soviets’ aid as building blocks to a strong Cuba-U.S.S.R. alliance. For the Soviets’ part, Khrushchev was motivated to arm Cuba in order to take U.S. attention away from the Berlin Wall being erected. The Soviets did not want the U.S. to occupy Berlin and use the German city as a spying base while promoting anti-Soviet propaganda.