Theme : International Relations
Paper : GS - 2
TABLE OF CONTENT
- Status of Russia-Ukraine War
- What is the Cuban Crisis
- Precursor of Cuban Missile Crisis
- Lessons from Cuba
- Role of India
- Nuclear Signaling by Russia
- Road Ahead
Context : With the risks for escalation and miscalculations growing in the Ukraine war, it is time to revisit the sobering lessons of the 1962 Cuban Crisis.
Status of Russia-Ukraine War :
- Neither President Volodymyr Zelensky or his western partners, nor his Russian adversary, President Vladimir Putin, can predict how the war will end. Earlier assumptions have been upended — Russia’s short ‘special military operation’ to ‘deNazify and de-militarise’ Ukraine is already a nine-month-war, and likely to extend into 2023.
- Meanwhile, the trans-Atlantic North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) unity under U.S. leadership despite visible internal differences has not collapsed; Mr. Zelensky’s emergence as a wartime leader is surprising; and, poor Russian military planning and performance, a shock. For the present, Russia is too strong to lose and Ukraine, despite NATO support, too weak to win; so, the war grinds on with no ceasefire in sight.
What is the Cuban Crisis ?
- The Cuban Missile Crisis was the13 day long confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.
- It escalated into an international crisis when American deployments of missiles in Italy and Turkey were matched by Soviet deployments of similar ballistic missiles in Cuba.
Precursor of Cuban Missile Crisis :
- The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, in which US-backed Cuban counter-revolutionaries attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in the country to establish a non-communist government friendly to the US.
- After the failed invasion Castro turned increasingly towards the USSR and its premier Khrushchev, to deter any future invasion by the US.
- An agreement was made between the two, and by July 1962, a number of clandestine missile launch facilities began to be constructed in Cuba.
- From the late 1950s, Washington started placing nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy,which had the capability of destroying strategic centers within the USSR in response to the USSR placing its nuclear arsenal in Cuba.
Lessons from Cuba :
- Yet, there is one outcome that must be prevented — a breakdown of nuclear deterrence. Nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945 and a global conscience has sustained the nuclear taboo for over 75 years.
- But it is time to revisit the sobering lessons of the Cuban Missile crisis that brought the world to the edge of nuclear Armageddon, as the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.
- This unfolded in the backdrop of a growing distrust between the capitalist USA and increasingly communist regime of Cuba. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an attempt in 1961 (during the Cold War) to remove Fidel Castro from power in Cuba. The CIA trained Cuban exiles and these exiles launched an attack in a bay called the Bay of Pigs. The invasion was a failure and most of the attackers were captured or killed. While US President Kennedy oversaw the botched attack, it brought him into direct conflict with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev and Cuban Prime Minister Castro.
- In October 1962, Kennedy was informed that Soviet Russia (U.S.S.R.) was preparing to deploy medium and intermediate range nuclear missiles in Cuba. After deliberating with his core group of advisers, he rejected the idea of an invasion or a nuclear threat against Moscow, and on October 22, declared a naval ‘quarantine’ or Blockade of Cuba. Simultaneously, he started a back-channel talk with the Soviet.
- The crisis defused on October 28 when Soviet Premier Khruschev announced that Soviet nuclear missiles and aircraft would be withdrawn in view of U.S. assurances to respect Cuba’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. What was kept a secret by both leaders was the fact that reciprocally, the U.S. also agreed to withdraw the Jupiter nuclear missiles from Turkey.
- The key lesson learnt was that the two nuclear superpowers should steer clear of any direct confrontation even as their rivalry played out in other regions, thereby keeping it below the nuclear threshold. Deterrence theorists called it ‘the stability-instability-paradox’.
- With their assured-second-strike-capability guaranteeing mutually assured destruction (MAD), both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R were obliged to limit the instability to proxy wars. Nuclear war games over decades remained unable to address the challenge of keeping a nuclear war limited once a nuclear weapon was introduced in battle.
Role of India :
- India is the incoming chair for G20. India has refrained from condemning Russia, keeping communication channels open. In a bilateral meeting with Mr. Putin in Samarkand last month, Mr. Modi emphasized that “now is not the era of war”.
- In the run-up to the G-20 summit, Mr. Modi is well placed to take a diplomatic initiative to persuade Mr. Putin to step away from the nuclear rhetoric. This means emphasizing the deterrent role of nuclear weapons and not expanding it; to reiterating Russia’s official declaratory position that restricts nuclear use for “an existential threat”.
Nuclear Signaling by Russia :
- The Ukraine war is testing the old lessons of nuclear deterrence. Russia sees itself at war, not with non-nuclear Ukraine, but with a nuclear armed NATO. Mr. Putin has therefore engaged in repeated nuclear signaling . He also ordered a ‘partial mobilization’ and conscription. He announced referendums in the four regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
- Russian ground troops have also attacked Ukrainian civil nuclear energy assets in Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia, raising fears of a nuclear meltdown and associated environmental and human hazard.
- However, Russian nuclear use makes little operational sense. In 1945, Japan was on the verge of surrender and only the U.S. possessed nuclear weapons. Use of a tactical nuclear weapon will only strengthen Ukrainian national resolve.
- NATO response is unlikely to be nuclear but will be sharp. International political backlash would be significant and Mr. Putin may find himself increasingly isolated. Many countries in East and Central Asia could reconsider nuclear weapons as a security necessity, leading to a regional nuclear arms race.
Road Ahead :
- The fighting in Ukraine will intensify in future. This raises the risks for escalation and miscalculations. Right now, the goal of a ceasefire seems too distant.
- The United Nations (UN) appears paralysed given the involvement of permanent members of the Security Council (UNSC).
- Therefore, it is for other global leaders who have access and influence, to convince Mr. Putin that nuclear escalation would be a disastrous move.
1. What is the Cuban Crisis?
Answer : The Cuban Missile Crisis was the13 day long confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.It escalated into an international crisis when American deployments of missiles in Italy and Turkey were matched by Soviet deployments of similar ballistic missiles in Cuba.
2. What was the Bay of Pigs Invasion?
Answer : The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an attempt in 1961 (during the Cold War) to remove Fidel Castro from power in Cuba. The CIA trained Cuban exiles and these exiles launched an attack in a bay called the Bay of Pigs. The invasion was a failure and most of the attackers were captured or killed. While US President Kennedy oversaw the botched attack, it brought him into direct conflict with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev and Cuban Prime Minister Castro.