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?
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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
By contrast, in Ukraine
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.
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.
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.
War crimes in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_crimes_in_the_2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine
Russia Spending an Estimated $900 Million a Day on Ukraine War: https://www.newsweek.com/russia-spending-estimated-900-million-day-ukraine-war-1704383
Russia’s Invasion Has Cost Ukraine Up To $600 Billion, Study Suggests: https://www.forbes.com/sites/madelinehalpert/2022/05/04/russias-invasion-has-cost-ukraine-up-to-600-billion-study-suggests/
International sanctions during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_sanctions_during_the_2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine
How could the war in Ukraine impact global food supplies? : https://ourworldindata.org/ukraine-russia-food
Both sides in the conflict are trying to put their cause into a historical narrative to justify and promote their actions.
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.
Comparing apples and bacon.
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.
We came darn close to nuking each other. No one died.
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:
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..