Putin, Khrushchev and the Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Putin has invoked the crisis to revive the perception of Russia as a superpower.

George Friedman |February 26, 2019

In October 1964, Leonid Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin and Nikolai Podgorny removed Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev from office, supposedly because of Khrushchev’s “harebrained schemes.” Most have assumed that this referred to Khrushchev’s plan to turn Siberia into an agricultural heartland, but I have always believed it actually referred to his attempt to slip missiles into Cuba. Given how that plan ended, it would be a logical fit. It is therefore fascinating that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that he’s ready for another Cuban missile crisis if the United States decides to deploy medium-range missiles in Europe. Given his comments, it’s important that we understand how the crisis unfolded and its relevance, if any, to what’s happening today.

During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy sought to discredit the Eisenhower administration by claiming that the Soviet Union’s missile capabilities exceeded those of the United States. The claim w

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