Letters: The Russian who saved the world in 1962

I was astonished to read Richard Gott’s suggestion that the Cuban missile crisis was “not quite as serious as it seemed at the time” (Cuba won the missile crisis, 13 October). This is amazing, given the flood of frightening details that have emerged over the years since. To take just one example, it was only decades after the event that the world learned that during the crisis there were Soviet submarines in the Caribbean armed with nuclear torpedoes. In one famous incident, the captain of one of these submarines, being depth-charged by US warships, decided that the third world war had begun, and ordered the use of nuclear weapons. It was only the opposition of his second-in-command, whose consent was required for launch, that prevented the start of global nuclear war. That man’s name was Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, a name that Peace News is determined to make as famous as that of the warmongers who brought us to the brink of disaster. This incident was the direct result of the massive naval blockade imposed on Cuba – unilaterally and illegally – by US president John F Kennedy, who Gott believes “behaved in an exemplary manner”.
Milan Rai
Co-editor, Peace News

• Richard Gott fails to mention the reason the Russians wanted to install missiles in Cuba in the first place: because the US had installed nuclear missiles in Turkey, on the border with the Soviet Union. Khrushchev was under pressure to retaliate, to see how the Americans would like having missiles on their border. They didn’t, hence the crisis. Gott also fails to mention that Khrushchev agreed to remove his missiles from Cuba only if Kennedy removed his missiles from Turkey, as well as promising that the US would never try to invade Cuba. Which he did, and they haven’t, resorting to 50 years of blockade and sanctions instead. The US has never been keen to publicise this agreement – the American public had to be assured that Khrushchev had “backed down”, and the US had “won”.
Tony Cheney
Ipswich, Suffolk

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