1

Today's situation in Ukraine reminds somewhat of the so called Cuba Crises of 1962.

What are the similarities, if any, and differences between the two?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis

17
  • 4
    Whom does today's situation remind of the Cuban Missile Crisis? What reasons do these people give?
    – xyldke
    Jun 3 at 11:55
  • 10
    In the Cuban missile crisis no one was killed, no shot was fired, no country was invaded. It seems very different from the current Ukrain situation to me. Maybe if you focus on the proxy war aspects Ukraine today is somewhat similar to the US-Vietnam war and the Russia-Afghanistan war but I don't see any connection to the Cuban missile crisis.
    – quarague
    Jun 3 at 12:41
  • 3
    @Mithridates the Great Looks like you misunderstood the similarities, which ar now exactly opposite direction. In Cuba Russia (USSR) has threatened USA now NATO is threatening Russia in Ukraine.
    – convert
    Jun 3 at 17:44
  • 6
    The parallels with Cuba go further: it was a US satellite that suddenly swung to the hostile camp, the US refused to vacate its military base in Cuba (Guantanamo), and tried to remove government ny force (Bay of pigs) and economic pressure (embargo). Jun 3 at 17:52
  • 3
    The South African invasion of Angola is also a contender for a similar situation (though smaller in scale) - both involve one country invading another in order to keep the invaded country from aligning politically with the invader's rivals, as well as significant outside support to the invaded country through proxies. The biggest difference is that the Angolan government was far less established than the Ukrainian government is today, as the SA invasion occurred after shortly after Angolan independence and in the midst of a civil war.
    – Kupyn
    Jun 3 at 21:29

4 Answers 4

8

I'm sorry, but beyond minor superficialities I see no similarities whatsoever.

I may be too young to have experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis first-hand. Nevertheless, this standoff

  • lasted just over a month
  • did not involve an army landing in or crossing into a different country
  • the only casualty was the pilot of a spy plane which was shot down; this was not the first spy plane shot down during the Cold War and probably not the last

By contrast, in Ukraine

  • the situation has been ongoing for eight years as of writing this
  • a hot war is ongoing involving the armies of two sovereign nations and UN member states
  • there are many casualties, both military and civilian
  • part of one sovereign state's territory was annexed by another at a rather early stage of the conflict which has been condemned by most of the world but the annexing country de facto controls this territory

You can squint and point at things like the state whose capital is Moscow being involved in both events or the fact that many in western Europe fear the war might be coming their way but those aren't good arguments in my opinion and aren't helping anyone.

0
6

Similarities:

  • A standoff between two major nuclear powers, with the heightened threat of WWIII and a major catastrophic nuclear conflict.

  • One party in the conflict was the United States, the other was USSR or its major successor, the Russian Federation.

Differences:

  • In 2022, Russian Federation scaled up the invasion of Ukraine that started in 2014. Russia destroyed cities (e.g., Mariupol) carried out genocide, killings and rapes of civilians, and other war crimes. Casualties among the military and civilians numbered in the tens of thousands. In 1962, the USSR deployed ballistic missiles in Cuba, but did not invade any country. No genocide or other war crimes have been committed. There was one casualty.

  • In 2022, the scaled-up war in Ukraine lasted for more than 3 months so far, with no clear signs of a quick resolution (while the entire invasion lasted for 8 years, since 2014). In 1962, the crisis lasted 35 days.

  • In 2022, many countries, both NATO and non-NATO members, supplied weapons to the conflict. In 1962, only 4 countries were directly involved: USSR, Cuba, USA and Turkey.

  • In 2022, the cost of the conflict so far was in tens of billions of dollars, mostly from the destruction of civilian and military objects. In 1962, the cost of the conflict was many orders of magnitude lower.

  • In 2022, world food supplies are expected to be substantially disrupted (Ukraine and Russia are major food producers), with many experts predicting hunger and subsequent civil unrest around the globe. In 1962, world food supplies were not affected.

  • In 2022, international sanctions against Russia were unprecedented. The sanctions involved many countries refusing to buy products from Russia (which exports mostly gas, oil, and other raw components), refusing to sell to Russia products critical to the Russian economy, denying Russians visas, seizing and spending Russian assets, excluding Russian financial institutions from the international financial system. Many Russian athletes, scientists, artists were kicked out from international competitions, conferences, arts events across the globe. In 1962, none of this took place.

REFERENCES:

3
  • 1
    Third bullet point is a bit inaccurate. The Cuban missile crisis involved 4 countries: USSR, Cuba, USA, and Turkey.
    – uberhaxed
    Jun 4 at 0:57
  • @uberhaxed: Thank you! Updated. Jun 4 at 1:27
  • @TimurShtatland, I disagree with uberhaxed regarding Turkey. The US deployed Jupiter to the UK, Italy, and Turkey, and pulled them back from Turkey. So one might replace "Turkey" with NATO, except that NATO is no country.
    – o.m.
    Jun 5 at 8:45
2

Both sides in the conflict are trying to put their cause into a historical narrative to justify and promote their actions.

  • The Cuban Missile Crisis was part of the superpower confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Russia sees itself in another superpower confrontation with the United States and acts accordingly.
    While the United States clarified that it will not send troops to fight in Ukraine, Russian state media is communicating the likelihood of the conflict escalating into a nuclear war.
  • During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States threatened a small country in "their" hemisphere when it became the base for Soviet nuclear weapons. The United States blockaded but did not invade Cuba to get those weapons removed, and it did only embargo (and not blockade) Cuba to cause a regime change.
    During the Ukraine invasion, Russia invaded a smaller country in "their" hemisphere which was not the base for American nuclear weapons. So far all specific allegiations of US biowar labs have been debunked.
  • The US did not attempt to turn Cuba into one of their states. It was and is holding Guantanamo by an old treaty which it refuses to change. Russia is trying to integrate occupied territories into their administrative structure piece by piece.

By highlighting similarities between the two situations, the nuclear threat is reinforced, the invasion is justified on "spheres of influence" grounds, and the land grab is downplayed.

6
  • 1
    I think this has the completely wrong idea about the Cuban missile crisis and the rest of the answer follows. The Cuban missile crisis started when the US put a nuclear base in Turkey and the Soviets responded by replicating the situation in the western hemisphere with Cuba. Deescalation of the crisis had both sides withdraw to precrisis positions. Did you not find it strange in your explanation that the Soviets would concede Cuban positions for no reciprocal concessions?
    – uberhaxed
    Jun 3 at 16:47
  • @uberhaxed, how were missiles in Turkey fundamentally different from Jupiters in Italy?
    – o.m.
    Jun 3 at 17:09
  • 2
    distance to major cities? This is like asking how Cuba is different from Siberia.
    – uberhaxed
    Jun 3 at 17:11
  • 1
    @uberhaxed, Moscow would have been in range from Italy. And Leningrad from the UK. But do you really think this point you are trying to make somehow puts the fundamental difference between the Cuban crisis and the Ukraine invasion in question.
    – o.m.
    Jun 3 at 18:28
  • 1
    There are buffer countries behind the iron curtain that could shoot down missiles going to the USSR. Do you think the politicians in the past are idiots or something? There's a reason geopolitics post WWII were the way they were. I don't think this situation is at all like the Cuban missile crisis but politicians in Russia will make the comparison of putting missiles in Russia's border states to putting missiles in Turkey. Your "knowledge" of the middle crisis doesn't seem to involve Turkey which is why you can't seem to comprehend the point they are making.
    – uberhaxed
    Jun 3 at 18:34
2

Comparing apples and bacon.

1962's Cuba ...

involved a direct confrontation between 2 nuclear blocs, at the time competing aggressively for global hegemony, on the subject of their nuclear forces. Kennedy coerced Krushnev (despite the US having similar missile bases in Turkey). This was done because he knew there was massive pro-US missile gap with the USSR being on the bad end of it (note: Kennedy campaigned on the doom and gloom of a Soviet advantage missile-gap in 1960 and was serving on a congressional Arms Commitee before that).

Kennedy dared Krushnev to escalate a blockade or else withdraw his missiles.

  • The world came close to nuclear war
  • Krushnev - who may or may not have been one of the more reasonable Soviet leaders - got ousted eventually, this might have had something to with it? Unsure.
  • the USSR quickly built more ICBMs.
  • There was no war, almost no one died, though there was an additional bit of drama when a Soviet sub under depth charge warnings?/attacks? almost launched a nuclear torpedo at USN ships.
  • The US dramatically upped its DEFCON levels, launching nuclear bombers on rotation, IIRC.
  • The US missiles in Turkey were later quietly withdrawn.

We came darn close to nuking each other. No one died.

2022 Ukraine...

involves Russian pursuing a war of choice in a neighbor that did not menace it (paranoid fantasies about biowarfare labs and Ukraine nukes aside). Russia and NATO are not in any real sense engaged in a struggle for global hegemony, that ship has sailed. Russian troops are engaged in hot combat (and happily ignoring the laws of war) on Ukrainian territory and have killed tens of thousands of people.

It does not:

  • directly involve NATO forces

  • concern nuclear weapons

  • involve an asymmetric nuclear capability. Both NATO and Russia are fully capable of destroying each other. While that applies Russia -> NATO, it also fully applies NATO -> Russia.

  • both systems have learned from the Cuban Missile crisis and have among things hotlines

  • while Russia loves to play up the victim card, how "NATO is fighting it" and how that justifies "talking about Russian nuclear capabilities", a closer analogue might be Soviet support for North Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Did the US consider using tac nukes in Vietnam? Yes. Did the US throw a hissy fit and threaten USSR itself with its nukes? No, it would not have been a credible threat.

  • we are not at risk of nuclear war unless the situation dramatically escalates, either through Putin becoming irrational or because NATO does something stupid like impose a no-flying zone and shoots down Russian planes while doing it.

  • Russia is not engaged in a struggle for global supremacy with the West, it has already lost. It has nothing much to win, at a national level, with going nuclear.

  • If this was Taiwan vs China, rather than Ukraine vs Russia, then, yes, China's ambitions are, or are perceived to be, in direct hegemonial pursuit vs the West. Yes, that would be a massive risk, because China would have everything to win by not backing down and everything to lose by doing so. This, again, is not where Russia's war is sitting at.

  • conversely NATO should be very careful to avoid making this war existential for Russia/Putin:

    • seeking regime change
    • insisting war crimes trials for Russian leaders
    • degradation of Russian forces, beyond what Ukraine is inflicting in its self-defense
    • war damage reparations
    • pushing Ukraine to fight beyond its own self-interest
    • etc...
  • Going along with the above, though it is not politically correct to do so: NATO has no critical, existential, interests in Ukraine not losing and should not threaten escalation on its end to avoid it. It should merely continue to arm Ukraine as long as Ukrainians fight to defend their territory. If Ukraine lost, I am sure most contingency plans in January 2022 pertain to the eventuality of Russia's victory, rather than Ukraine's courageous stand. Things like arming rebels a la Mujahideen were probably on the menu.

  • The US has refused to up its nuclear readiness levels and has foregone some minor exercises and tests. Russia has declared a state of heightened nuclear alert which isn't even on its official organization charts.

  • thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have died. Some under apparently war crime circumstances.

We are at higher risk than normal than nuclear war, make no mistake, but very, very, far from 1962 levels. Tens of thousands have died..

1
  • //seeking regime change// Under what realistic scenarios could peace be established with Putin in power? The only remotely plausible one I can think of would be a Korea-style DMZ inside the Russian border.
    – supercat
    Jun 3 at 20:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .