In October 1962 the world stood on a brink of the Third World War, perhaps even nuclear war. The world stood closer to Armageddon than at any other moment in history. There was a dangerous confrontation between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The government of the United States discovered that the Soviet Union had secretly stationed nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba, which had led to the further erosion of an international climate.
Reference. In June 1962 the USSR decided to deploy its ballistic missiles in Cuba. The operation’s code name was Anadyr. The Soviets were building nine sites—six for R-12 medium-range missiles with an effective range of 2,000 kilometres and three for R-14 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 4,500 kilometres. Also there was planned the deployment of Russian Il-28 light bombers, MiG-21 fighters, S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile sites and others.
The Cuban Missile Crisis demonstrated how easy the world can descend into a nuclear war, and how peace can be achieved through diplomacy.
Undoubtedly, the conflict’s peaceful resolution was to the credit of the heads of the USSR and USA, Nikita Khrushev and John Kennedy. They confronted with courage the challenge of a new era. But the developments of October 27, later called “Black Saturday”, show it was not easy for them to make sensible and cool-headed decisions. That day an American reconnaissance plane was shot down by Russian missile over Cuba. The 35-year-old pilot of the downed plane, Major Rudolf Anderson, was killed. The stress in negotiations between the USSR and the U.S. intensified.
The UN headed by its Secretary-General, U Thant, played a crucial mediatory role in resolution of the crisis. Thant’s first initiative came on October 24, when he asked Kennedy and Khrushchev to step back and allow time to resolve the crisis peacefully. Thant’s first message to the two leaders contained an urgent appeal for a moratorium of two to three weeks involving both the voluntary suspension of all arms shipments to Cuba and the quarantine measures, especially the searching of ships bound for Cuba. The aim was to gain time to find a peaceful solution. Kennedy and Khrushev hailed Thant’s initiative.
The next day, an urgent meeting of the Security Council was convened; it was one of the most famous UN meetings ever held. And there were definite signs of seeking out a compromise. President Kennedy wrote in his letter to Chairman Khrushchev: “I regret very much that these events should cause a deterioration in our relations. In reliance on these solemn assurances I urged restraint upon those in this country who were urging action in this matter at that time. I hope that your Government will take the necessary action to permit a restoration of the earlier situation”. And Khrushev answered: “I got the feeling that you have some understanding of the situation which has developed and (some) sense of responsibility. I value this. We must not succumb to intoxication and petty passions”.
On October 28 the Cuban Missile crisis comes to a close as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agrees to remove Russian missiles from Cuba in exchange for a promise from the United States to respect Cuba’s territorial sovereignty. Washington promised to remove the missiles from Italy and Turkey.
On January 7, 1963 the issue of Cuban Missile Crisis was eliminated from the UN Security Council agenda.
The Governments of the United States of America and of the Soviet Union expressed their appreciation to U Thant for his efforts in assisting their Governments to avert the serious threat to peace which arose in the Caribbean area.
The example of resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis shows that the success of a mediation process is determined by the will and determination within the parties involved to solve the conflict.