The Cuban Missile Crisis has been described as one of the tensest moments in the entire history of the Cold War. It brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and the results helped shape the next decade to come.
The crisis was brought on by several factors. Since the time of the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S. was against European nations, especially communist ones, allying with Latin American nations. During the Cold War any Soviet/Latin alliance was a clear threat to the national security of the U.S. When the country of Cuba openly adopted Communism, the U.S. tried to institute a coup during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.
Thinking the U.S. weak in light of the invasions failures, the Soviets decided to make a power play. Knowing that the U.S. led the Soviets in nuclear arms, Nikita Khrushchev and others decided to strengthen their strategic position by offering to play short-range missiles in Cuba. Fidel Castro gladly accepted the offer, hoping the placement of missiles in his nation would dissuade further U.S. invasion. When the U.S. finally got wind of the plot, the opposite became true and the Cuban Missile Crisis began.
The results of the crisis helped steer the course of Soviet/U.S. relations for then next decade. Khrushchev lost face internationally when he agreed to remove the missiles because the fact that the U.S. had agreed to remove their Italian and Turkish batteries was not made public. His fall from power a few years later can be directly linked to how the missile crisis ended.
In the U.S., the resolution was lauded by almost everyone. Although some military officials like Airforce General Curtis LeMay felt it was “the greatest defeat in our military history,” both past and contemporary historians agreed that Kennedy handled the situation extremely well. Some historians suggest however that the U.S.’s victory in this crisis may have spurred their involvement in other military operations like Vietnam.
The missile crisis also led to the creation of the Moscow-Washington Phone Line, also known as the “red phone” which connected the White House and the Kremlin directly. Communication issues between both sides almost led to a nuclear showdown, so it was agreed that in the interest of humanity, such a connection was necessary.