Cuban Missile Crisis Redux?

The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. It seems history may rhyme after all if current news reports are to be believed. According to the AFP, there was discussion in the Russian news of Moscow flying long range bombers to Cuba again.

Russia would cross “a red line for the United States of America” if it were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba, a top US air force officer warned on Tuesday.”If they did I think we should stand strong and indicate that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America,” said General Norton Schwartz, nominated to be the air force’s chief of staff. He was referring to a Russian news report that said the military is thinking of flying long-range bombers to Cuba on a regular basis.

It was unclear from the report whether that would involve permanent basing of nuclear bombers in Cuba, or just use of the island as a refueling stop. In his confirmation hearing to become the air force’s chief of staff, Schwartz was asked what he would recommend if Russia were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba. “I would certainly offer the best military advice that we engage the Russians not to pursue that approach,” he said.

The newspaper Iszvestia on Monday cited an unnamed senior Russian air force official in Moscow as saying that Russia may start regular flights by long-range bombers to Cuba in response to US plans to install a missile defense system in eastern Europe. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the Russian report because there had been no “official response from the Russian government.”

I’ve written about the missle shield here and here but in short, my position is that Russia’s rhetoric merely masks its continued role of trying to play the spoiler for US policies and is using it as an excuse to ‘misbehave’ elsewhere under the cover of so-called US aggression. Do readers more knowledgeable on missile defense and nuclear affairs have a more detailed take?

As things stand, the missile shield wouldn’t pose any real threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent for some time and could at most destroy a few of thousands of missiles, making it essentially useless. However, as time goes on, so does technology and the shield could one day pose an actual threat. On top of that, where is the line between defense and offensive missiles? Not being an expert, I’m not sure how valid of a point this is. Wouldn’t the agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland prohibit stationing offensive or nuclear weapons at these sites?

Lastly, my understanding is that the only real threat the missile shield presents now is that of almost giving the US first strike capability. Given the poor state of Russia’s military, nuclear weapons and radar system, a 2006 Foreign Affairs article argued that the US could soon have the ability to strike first and take out most of Russia’s first and second strike sites. The few missed, should the missiles even launch (due to poor maintenance, command and control etc.) the new shield could protect against them.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the US missile shield? What legitimate points does Russia have? And what could the stationing of Russian bombers in Cuba lead to, assuming it is even a real possiblitiy?

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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7 Responses to Cuban Missile Crisis Redux?

  1. IJ says:

    Sabre rattling nuclear threats between a couple of nations? Better rules are needed.

    Perhaps a greater concern is the proliferation of nuclear missiles throughout the world. Iran is the case study that was discussed yesterday at CSIS by former US national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.

    Brzezinski thinks that Iran wants to give itself a capability similar to what Japan possesses today: “to be a peace-oriented nuclear power with a capacity for rapid acquisition of nuclear weapons if they decide to go that way.”

    Scowcroft agreed, but cautioned that the way things are going now the world is standing on the brink of another forward surge in proliferation. “It’s not nearly so much just will Iran develop a nuclear capability. But the consequences would be you would have Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey in the region and then who knows who else around the world would want to do the same thing just to prepare themselves for a different kind of a world. And we can have 30, 40 countries months away from a nuclear. That is not a better world. And to me, that’s what we’re really focusing on. And to me, whether or not Iran itself has it is a less important question than what it will do to proliferation around the world.”

  2. Pingback: Russian Bombers Could Be Deployed to Cuba In Response To Missile Shield : Homeland Security National Terror Alert - Homeland Security News

  3. Richard says:

    Another enemy?
    My favorite book of late is “the Coldest Winter” by Halberstam.
    In it he talks about George Keenan and the Russian character.
    The Russians, so he says, have a inate need for a strong authoritarian/despotic “ruler” and the need to be a world power. And a pathological hatred of foreigners.
    He was a man way ahead of his times.

  4. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    Actually not so ahead of his times, since he was just describing reality at that time, and just repeating what Pyotr Chaadaev had written over 100 years before (see the URL for a summary of Chaadaev).

  5. Dan Nexon says:

    “I’ve written about the missle shield here and here but in short, my position is that Russia’s rhetoric merely masks its continued role of trying to play the spoiler for US policies and is using it as an excuse to ‘misbehave’ elsewhere under the cover of so-called US aggression.”

    No, they’re just flexing their striving-to-return-to-great-power-status muscles.

    They’re also genuinely pissed off about the BMD deployments, US policy towards Russia in the 1990s, NATO expansion, our virtual abandonment of the PfP project, etc. But there’s not all that much we can do, or ought to do, to make up for that as this point.

  6. Dan Nexon says:

    Here’s what various people over at my place have been saying about Russia for the past year or so.

  7. Barbara Poyng says:

    Russia would be better off in the long run paying attention to normalizing relationship with its neighbour, in particularly its more Western neighbours, building a stable political system that supports a diversified economy and develop a more consumer base economy that integrates with the world economy.

    In my view, Europe and its NATO allies have recently won a very important victory against Russia in the way they have reacted to her behaviour against Georgia. This assessment is in view of the last over 150 years history of events in Europe. What the Russians do not seems to realise, and I doubt that the Europeans and the American for that matter does, is that human History has a thread to it which is not always what it seems to be on the outside. It takes a bit of insight and self control to know how to correctly deal with issues and to be in control. The aggressive, reckless and arrogant approach of the Russians clearly demonstrates that they do not have these virtues and therefore can not be in real control of what they seem to be pursuing. This is probably a good explanation as to why they would be more reliant on Nostradamus predictions about dominance and power rather than the simple approach base on the virtues of wisdom, self control and the rule of law.

    The best conclusion I can come to is to say that their lack of insight and the virtues of wisdom and self control is very likely to a legacy of the old communist ideology which once had a grip on that and other regions but have already served its purpose. I am very convince from all the evidence so far that Russia’s behaviour is not base on deterrent but on bullying and aggression. There is also an Imperial agenda in its behaviour which is backward and contradictory of the aspirations of 20th century communist and socialist driven 3rd world regimes.