56 years ago this week, the United States and Soviet Union were on the verge of all-out nuclear war. Suddenly, American families learned that they were in the crosshairs of Soviet nuclear-tipped missiles stationed 90 miles away from Florida, and virtually the entire continental U.S. was now moments away from annihilation. We know how the Cuban Missile Crisis ended, but how did it come about in the first place?
During the early days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a big problem: mutually assured destruction only works when both sides can assure destruction. The United States could target Moscow with intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers, and nuclear-armed submarines. By deploying nuclear missiles to Italy and Turkey, the USSR could be devastated in just minutes. Sure, the Kremlin could target Western Europe and Alaska, but Washington, D.C. was well outside of the reach of the Soviets.
That was a problem. But Nikita Khrushchev saw a solution, and he declared his intention to “throw a hedgehog down Uncle Sam’s pants.”
The Soviet Plan to Hide Iraq’s WMD
The world was well aware of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) stockpiles. Politicians from both parties admitted that Saddam would not disarm voluntarily, and that military force was the only solution. Intelligence sources estimate that Iraq had 100 million tons of munitions, which is an astonishing 60 percent of our own arsenal. According to the House Armed Service Committee, Saddam himself admitted to possessing thousands of tons of WMD. Since we have not found the “smoking gun” proof of a WMD arsenal, they must have gone somewhere else.
Prior to our liberation of Iraq, it was clear we would not receive any support from Russia. In February of 2003, Russian President Vladmir Putin traveled to Germany and France to align the nations against U.S. military aggression, calling instead for further inspections – the same inspections process that yielded nothing in twelve years. WMD was in the hands of a regime that has already used them in war and even against their own country. What would keep Saddam from selling these weapons to terrorist organizations, putting millions of people worldwide at risk? That should have been enough to put Russia, Germany, and France on our side, but something was apparently going on under the radar. Putin called the attack “unwarranted” and “unjustifiable.” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov proclaimed that the United States would fabricate findings of WMD stockpiles. Continue reading “Operation Sarindar”