Frontpage above the fold of The New York Times, Oct. 23, 1962.
Talk about flexing your missiles . . .
On Wednesday, two Communist Party members who are deputies in the Russian Duma called on the Kremlin to deploy missiles to Cuba, a request they say is in retaliation to U.S. plans to deploy a rocket system to southeastern to Turkey as part of the battle to counter ISIS in nearby Syria.
There's no word on the class of missiles that they want placed on the Caribbean island or whether the Kremlin will comply, but the deputies aren't shy about comparisons between their request and the 1962 Soviet decision to place nuclear-tipped intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba.
According to the Russian news service RIA Novosti, deputies Valery Rashkin and Sergei Obukhov sent the written request to Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
"It is worth noting that according to available data the (American) weapons system uses missiles with a range of up to five hundred kilometers, a potential threat to Russian allies in the CSTO, primarily Armenia," they said in the memo.
Furthermore, "we are talking about the deployment of Russian launchers similar to or of even greater range in Cuba," the deputies continued.
On Tuesday, the Department of Defense announced that it will deploy a single truck-mounted M-142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) in Turkey to stop cross-border attacks by ISIS in Syria. Another HIMARS system is on its way to northern Iraq to assist in the battle to retake Mosul from the radical Islamist group.
The CSTO or Collective Security Treaty Organization is a six-member mutual defense pact comprised of Russia and several post-Soviet states, including Armenia. Other members include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Armenia is a country landlocked in the South Caucasus that shares a 165-mile border with Turkey and has cordial relations with Russia – so cordial that some observers believe Russia is taking advantage of the situation to expand its military presence right next to Turkey, a NATO ally.
Concerned parties point out recent developments: in March, a snap drill in cooperation with the Armenian military that involved 8,500 Russian troops, 900 ground weapons, 200 warplanes and about 50 warships; in December, the two nations signed a cooperative air defense agreement; even a recent basing arrangement agreement between the two governments for more than 5,000 Russian troops.
In addition, the deputies are calling for the reopening of the Lourdes signals-intelligence station located outside Havana, which the U.S.S.R. built in 1962. The Cuban government closed the station in 2002, although there is speculation that the Cubans and the Russians have recently discussed reactivation of the base.
Rashkin and Obukhov also wrote: "At a time when Russia is once again positioning itself in the international arena as a great power, our country should be more active to restore the destroyed military and economic ties with our allies, primarily with the fraternal Cuban Republic."
The request by the two deputies echoes the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis – the 13-day standoff between United States and the Soviet Union in 1962 that brought both nations to the brink of a nuclear war.
Eventually, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles based in Cuba because of a secret agreement forged between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy that led to removal of American Jupiter IRBMs from Turkey.
The following year, both superpowers agreed to install a direct "hot line" communication link between Washington and Moscow to manage any future confrontations, and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. signed treaties limiting atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.
Are the Russians serious about basing missiles in Cuba today? The chances of that happening are remote at best.
What is probably happening is part of an on-going effort by Putin's allies to remind the world that Russia is still a nation to be reckoned with – and feared.
What would the United States do if Russian missiles were once again only 90 miles away from American shores? So far, the White House has not commented.