The Cuban Missile Crisis Explained in 5 Minutes

October 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the ‘closest calls’ of the Cold War. It was believed that a ‘hot’ or even nuclear war could have broken out between the two superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States.

After Fidel Castro’s successful revolution in Cuba ended the right-wing Batista regime, which was supported by the US, Castro punished those deemed criminal by the standards of the revolution. Many, mostly elites and other pro-Batista Cubans, fled to the US, mainly settling in the state of Florida. Land reforms and other socialist measures such as the nationalisation of American holdings caught the ire of the United States, which instituted a trade embargo.

Castro had little option but to turn to the Soviet Union or risk bankruptcy. The failed US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 soured US-Cuba relations further. In 1962 US spy planes spotted what could only be a Russian nuclear missile base on the island. Prompted by one of two differing letters from Soviet Premier Khruschev, US President John F. Kennedy demanded the missiles be removed from Cuba or the US would invade. In 2 months they were gone.

Though some believe Kennedy was brash and reckless with his negotiations, the Cuban Missile Crisis is generally remembered as a success for the US president and a failure for Khruschev as well as instrumental in his eventual removal from power.

Graham is an editor and contributor at Made From History. A London-based writer originally from Washington, DC, he holds a master's degree in Cultural History from Malmö University in Sweden. Graham also contributes environmental news articles to and