Six decades ago, the thirteen days showdown brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war. The Cuban missile crisis was among the most petrifying episode of the Cold War. Cuba was a close ally of the United States under the command of General Batista, but the picture transposed following the 1959 revolution piloted by Fidel Castro. Castro sought to patch things up but the Eisenhower administration put its step back without understanding the consequences. Castro was lured to communism by Khrushchev’s government’s camaraderie and cooperation. He nationalized every American-owned business in Cuba and steadfastly refused to make restitution. The US now had a pro-communist state in its backyard, which tested its policy of containment.
The recent cataclysmic events display that the world is once again on the verge of another nuclear calamity.
As the Russia-Ukraine war ingress, more than the 400th day, the scenario takes unforeseen turns. While events unfold, Russian President, Vladimir Putin enunciates that they are willing to take this war to the next level. Russia and Belarus’ neighbors endorsed that Moscow could station tactical nuclear weapons on its territory, without violating the non-proliferation treaty. Putin proclaim that for a prolonged period, the United States had nuclear weapons stationed on the soil of its European allies. Subsequently, we are merely shielding ourselves and not breaching any obligations.
Furthermore, Russia contends that they have already positioned 10 aircraft in Belarus that are capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons including several Iskander tactical missile systems. The US moved very cautiously on Putin’s statements believing that there is no direct indication that Moscow is intending to use nuclear weapons that compel them to adjust their strategic nuclear posture. Though the US didn’t securitize Russia’s recent statements the international community is concerned, as International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) deemed Russia’s proclamation an extremely dangerous escalation.
With all the humans at stake, West needs to move very carefully on the recent events. The likelihood of any miscalculation and misinterpretation is extremely possible. Political figures can make grave mistakes in traditional warfare and still ensure that the human race survives, wrecked but intact. The standoff between the two nuclear powers worsens the situation and risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Even a small misunderstanding or miscommunication gaffe during a nuclear standoff can have devastating implications. The Cuban missile crisis is often referred to as the pivotal conflict of the contemporary era and the closest the world has ever been to experiencing nuclear war. With Vladimir Putin having put himself in a bind by claiming that vast portions of neighboring Ukraine are “forever” Russia’s and the odds of nuclear escalation are there, the war in Ukraine poses perils of at least a similar scale.
The World can’t afford to spin the cylinder in this game of Russian roulette. The only way forwards is through the dialogue to prevent doomsday.
One can recall the lesson of history, before moving ahead. The back door diplomacy was applied by then-President John F. Kennedy to ease the situation and face-saving of both sides by striking a secret deal with Khrushchev. Both sides agreed on removing US nuclear missiles from Turkey in exchange for de-escalation from Cuba. So the crucial lesson learned was; a diplomatic compromise that Moscow and Washington must heed, as the world faces the threat of obliteration once again.
Musfirah Rashid is a Quaid e Azam University graduate, remained associated with Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), and works extensively on Human Security and Geopolitics. She can be reached at email@example.com
Twitter handle: @musfirah_rashid