The outcome of the Missile Crisis served to buttress the Cuban dictatorship to the extent that the United States pledged not to invade Cuba in exchange for the withdrawal of the atomic weapons. But that crisis brought us so close to World War III and the possible destruction of the world that, from that time on, both Washington and Moscow acted with much greater care.
- How do you think Fidel Castro’s character had an impact on the Cuban Revolution and subsequent alliance with the USSR?
Batista would have fallen with Fidel Castro or without him, but only Fidel had the cunning, the leadership and the lack of scruples that were needed to drag the island to the communist side and make it a participant in the Cold War. Without Fidel, the revolution would not have been communistic. It was his decision, with the aid of a small group of his followers, basically Raúl and Che.
- Which event really began the Cuban Missile Crisis?
Nikita Khrushchev’s tactical error of believing that he could place the missiles 90 miles from the U.S. without reprisals.
- I understand that you have a negative opinion of Fidel Castro. How harmful for Cuba was he?
Fidel Castro has been the worst ruler in Cuba’s history. The country is one of the few on the planet that is worse today than half a century ago. That situation is the consequence of the bungling, ignorance and stubbornness of a narcissistic strongman.
- What were the immediate and long term consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis?
The permanence of Cuba’s dictatorship. After Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, barely one year after the Missile Crisis, Lyndon Johnson, although certain that the Cuban hand was behind Oswald, did not dare to take reprisals against Castro because he feared that that might end up triggering WWIII.
- At the time of the crisis, what were your opinions of Castro and his leadership of Cuba?
By then, I had the worst opinion of Castro and the dictatorship. In October 1962, at the start of the Crisis, Kennedy called on the young Cubans who had found exile in the United States — I had come to the U.S. in September 1961 — to enlist in the U.S. Army for the purpose of liberating Cuba. Several thousands of us signed up and remained enlisted until April 1963, when the so-called Cuban Military Units were disbanded after the Kennedy-Khrushchev pact.
- Thinking back upon the crisis now, has your opinion changed? How has it changed?
Given the circumstances, and after it was learned that tactical atomic weapons had been deployed on the island whose use was left to the judgment of officers with the rank of lieutenant colonels, I think that what happened was the best for the human species. If the U.S. had ordered an invasion of Cuba, the conflict would have evolved into a large-scale nuclear war as soon as the first tactical nuclear bombs were dropped. In effect at the time was a military doctrine dating back to Eisenhower, which said that, once war had begun, the U.S. should attack with all its available arsenal.
- Good or bad, was Fidel Castro a great leader during the Cuban Missile Crisis?
He was a hugely irresponsible man who asked Khrushchev to carry out a preventive atomic attack on the United States, knowing that that would mean the destruction of the planet. Only the cruelest and most irresponsible leader could have thought of doing something like that.
- What do you believe were Castro’s motives for joining the conflict? Do you agree with his decision to do so? Why?
Fidel Castro was guided throughout his life by two great passions that were intimately related: his obsession to be a world leader and his anti-Americanism. Everything that he has done throughout his life has been determined by those two forces.
- How did communism affect the role Cuba played in the Cuban Missile Crisis?
Ideology was very important, but even more so was the Cuban strongman’s psychological nature.
- What has the world learned from this crisis?
I think that the great powers learned to be more prudent. After that Crisis, “red phones” were installed in the White House and the Kremlin, and it became more evident that mutual destruction was no victory for anyone.
Por Carlos A Montaner answering young americans’ questions.
How do you think the Cold war would have turned out if the Cuban Missile Crisis never happened?
It was probably a need to be event if not in Cuba in any other place with similar consequences so that Cold War would be the same anyway with slight different nuances but showing that the possibility for a WWIII was very real. Today, if the communists are not stopped, another October Crisis will happen again.