Following warnings on Wednesday that Russia intends to respond to any US attempts to deploy nuclear missiles in Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin added that his nation is militarily ready for a “Cuban-style Missile crisis” if the US wants one.
The 1962 Cuban Missile crisis between the United States and Soviet Union is one of the closest times the two nations came to nuclear war. The crisis ended with a secret deal that saw both sides remove nuclear arms from one another’s borders.
Putin’s comments clearly seek to draw a parallel between the US placing nuclear arms in Turkey in the 1960s and Russia’s fear that the US will use the collapse of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as an excuse to position nuclear arms in Europe, in areas along the border with Russia.
Putin has said Russia is determined to keep parity with the US in ability to strike and time to impact, and has suggested in these latest comments that could include a growing reliance on naval delivery vehicles positioning nuclear missiles closer to the US mainland.
In the previous crisis, these tit-for-tat escalations eventually settled down with a deal to restore a less dangerous state of affairs. While that can certainly be hoped for, the danger remains that another such precipitous crisis will not see cooler heads ultimately prevail, but rather spiral out of control.
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