Erstellt am: 26. 10. 2012 - 18:26 Uhr
13 Days and 50 Years
If I were to ask you what your greatest fear is, what would you answer? Probably some problem of a financial nature like: "Will I get a good job?"; "Will I be able to get a university degree without racking up a huge debt?"; "Will have a pension when I am old?". You probably wouldn’t answer "being wiped out by a nuclear bomb", would you? But fifty years ago, that’s precisely what many people on this planet would have said.
In October 1962 the world was gripped with fear during the Cuban missile crisis. An American U-2 spy plane flying high over Cuba had snapped aerial photographs of Soviet ballistic missile sites that could launch nuclear warheads with little warning at the United States, just 140 kilometres away. It was the height of the Cold War, and many people feared nuclear war would annihilate human civilisation.
Soviet ships carrying nuclear equipment steamed toward the "quarantine" zone around the island that President John F. Kennedy had defined, but they turned around before reaching the line. "We're eyeball-to-eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked," U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk famously said, a quote that largely came to be seen as defining the crisis.
In the five decades since the nuclear standoff between Washington and Moscow, much of the long-held conventional wisdom about the missile crisis has been knocked down, including the common belief that Kennedy's bold brinksmanship ruled the day.
Reality Check Special: Cuban Missile Crisis
Saturday, 27th October, 12-13h
Subscribe to the Reality Check podcast and get the whole programme after the show.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, historians now say it was behind-the-scenes compromise rather than a high-stakes game of chicken that resolved the faceoff, that both Washington and Moscow wound up winners and that the crisis lasted far longer than 13 days. Declassified documents, oral histories and accounts from decision-makers involved in the standoff have turned up new information that scholars say provides lessons for leaders embroiled in contemporary crises.
This Saturday’s Reality Check special looks at the Cuban missile crisis, talking to historians and experts about the events of those fateful "13 Days" and some of the lessons to be learned for today.
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