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What happened during the Cuban missile crisis – and why is it being compared to Russia’s war in Ukraine?

Joe Biden, the US President, has been heard saying that Vladimir Putin’s War in Ukraine poses the greatest risk for nuclear weapons being used since 1962’s Cuban missile crisis.

On Thursday, Mr Biden stated that he was speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser.

Putin’s effigy was set on fire outside Moscow. Follow Ukraine updates

“We haven’t faced the possibility of Armageddon since Kennedy or the Cuban missile crisis.”


Putin has threatened to use Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal.

He stated last month that he had “reminded you” that Russia also has many means of destruction. To protect Russia and its people, we will use every tool at our disposal when it is threatened with its territorial integrity.

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What is a tactical nuke weapon?

Why does Biden talk about nuclear Armageddon

Some Western intelligence officers and defense analysts believe that the Kremlin might resort to extreme measures to save face in the face of the unexpected, highly successful counter-offensives launched by the Ukrainians over the past weeks.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine states that it can launch a nuclear attack first-strike if there is a threat to the country’s existence.

Given the claims of Mr Putin about his motivation for starting the war, NATO troops could be involved in the Ukraine conflict to implement this plan.

After Moscow held’referenda” on the annexation of four regions of Eastern Ukraine, its leader might also use an attack by Ukraine on any of these territories to justify a nuclear war.

Continue reading:

What are Russia’s nuclear weapons?

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NATO would need to respond if that happened, although officials currently suggest they will only use conventional weapons as a retaliation.

Many analysts believe that even though Mr Putin claims he is not bluffing, any Russian nuclear activity would be equally damaging to him as it would for West. Therefore, it is unlikely.

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Professor Michael Clarke: Russia keeps the nuke debate alive

What was the Cuban Missile Crisis?

The Cuban missile crisis is widely considered to be the closest nuclear annihilation the world has ever seen.

The 1963 Cold War saw the end of the Cold War. It was also during which the US learned that the Soviet Union had secretly sent nuclear weapons to Cuba.

Image The aerial images show intermediate ballistic missile production in Cuba

In response to American ballistic missiles being present in Italy and Turkey as well as the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba 1961, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, agreed to place missiles onto the island, just a few hundred yards from the US coast.

John F Kennedy, the then-US president, ordered a naval quarantine on the island to stop further missiles being delivered.

After several days of tension, Mr Kennedy was able to reach an agreement with Mr Khrushchev for the Soviet Union’s disarmament of their weapons in Cuba. In return for Mr Kennedy promising that the US would not invade the island,

Secretly, the US also agreed to destroy all medium-range missiles it had in Turkey.

Image: Soviet ships sail to Cuba. Pic: AP

It was the start of the Moscow-Washington hotline, which allowed for quick and direct communication between the two countries in case of tensions rising again.

Even though the leaders reached an agreement not to use the weapons, the US and Soviet Union remained at odds until 1991 when the Cold War ended. The rest of the world feared a nuclear attack for many decades.

The ‘Protect and Survive’ ads warned Britons about nuclear attack

People who lived in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s will be familiar with the government’s “Protect and Survive” campaign.

It was designed to prepare people for a nuclear attack, and give them the best chance at survival. The pamphlets, radio ads, and TV advertisements were all part of this plan.

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Nuclear threat readiness video starting in 1975

BBC Radio 4 recorded one example: “This is Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country was attacked with nuclear weapons.

“Communications were severely disrupted and there are unknown details about the casualties and extent of the damage.

“We will provide you with more information as soon as we can. Keep tuned to this channel, remain calm, and keep your house clean.”

Also, drills were conducted in schools, public buildings, and workplaces.

The Second World War air sirens were reused. They would now be used to issue attack warnings or ‘fallout warnings’ in case of nuclear incidents.

Fallout refers to radioactive material that is released from nuclear explosions.

Advertisements advised that people move to the most secure area of their house, also known as the “fallout” room. This is the one farthest from outside wars. It should be on the ground floor or basement.

Image This 1975 video about nuclear readiness tells people to get cover if they are unable to return home after hearing the alarm sound
Image In a 1970s nuclear readiness video, people are told to lie down in a ‘ditch’ or a ‘hole’ if there is no cover

Families were told to shut their doors and windows, open their curtains and build an “inner refuge” in the fallout room.

People were instructed to prop a wooden plank or door against the wall and then cover it with bags or suitcases filled with sand.

Families were also instructed to ration food, water, and other necessities in the event that a nuclear strike occurs. They would also be advised to remain in their fallout rooms for at least two more days.

They had a fatalistic tone that had a lasting psychological impact on the people, much like the 1980s ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.


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