1962 Kennedy / Khruchchev rematchHow many were alive in 1962 to see and hear the standoff between John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev which came close to nuclear war? It was a defining moment for both. The good news is that both men backed away while still saving some face. America blocked Russian ships bound for Cuba in exchange for removal of certain missiles from Europe.
This has been burning away inside people like Putin ever since. Are we at that point again? Cuba is weak and needs help. Russia wants to provide it but at a severe cost. Sergey Lavrov is already hinting at missiles in Cuba again.
Some big differences exist. Kennedy was a young and very smart President. Biden is smart but old. Premier Khrushchev was old and full of bluster. Putin is young and means business. In 1962 both leaders remembered the recent effects of atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Neither wanted a repeat. Both have proven nuclear weaponry today. Castro is gone. Russia has nuclear subs that can strike America and transport missiles to Cuba. Trump is still a reckless and untrustworthy possible future President. If Putin is overthrown, any number of ambitious extreme military men might replace him. The nuclear option would be very real. Several other powerful countries also have them and would take sides.
The biggest contrast is that NATO has done exactly what Kennedy feared but in reverse. Now it is Russia that fears missiles on their borders in NATO countries. It would be difficult for America to take the same stance as Kennedy if Putin tried again to set up bases and missiles in Cuba as Khrushchev attempted to do. It would be hypocrisy at its worst. Putin would feel entirely justified. We hope that Cuba still wants its independence enough to draw a line at that, especially seeing what is happening in Ukraine. Who would help Cuba?
I don't look forward to the largest fireworks display the world would ever see. It would be the last.
Final point I have raised before. Would female world leaders have brought us to this point? I suspect not.