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Averting Nuclear Armageddon—But Just Barely: What We Have and Haven’t Learned After the Cuban Missile Crisis

Fifty years ago (October 16–28, 1962) during the Cold War, the world came the closest it ever has to an exchange of nuclear weapons between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Two national experts are coming to IUP to discuss what the U.S. has—and has not—learned from a near miss with nuclear annihilation as we approach the 50 anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Their presentation, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Monday, October 15, 2012, in the Ohio Room of the Hadley Union Building, is part of IUP’s Six O’Clock Series.

“This is an event of extraordinary importance,” said Political Science professor Dighton “Mac” Fiddner, who coordinated the event. “But it’s important more for what didn’t happen—no nuclear weapons were fired—than what did happen, which was that Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba.”

An American U-2 reconnaissance plane had photographed a Soviet SS-4 medium-range ballistic missile being assembled for installation on Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores, on October 14. President John F. Kennedy was briefed about the situation on October 16. For nearly the next two weeks, the President and his team wrestled with a diplomatic crisis of epic proportions, as did their counterparts in the Soviet Union. President Kennedy enacted a naval blockade around Cuba and made it clear the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security. Disaster was avoided when the U.S. agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s offer to remove the missiles from Cuba in exchange for the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.

Guest Speakers:

  • Peter Kornbluh, Senior Analyst, Director of Cuba and Chile Documentation Projects, the National Security Archive, George Washington University

    Dr. Kornbluh is the author/editor/coeditor of the Archive’s “The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.” He played a large role in the campaign to declassify government documents about the crisis through the Freedom of Information Act. Dr. Kornbluh attended all of the post-Soviet Union conferences between American, Soviet, and Cuban participants of the crisis and has personally interviewed Fidel Castro on his role in the crisis.
  • Phil Williams, Director, Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies, and Wesley Posvar Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh

    Dr. Williams has written on crisis management and is a recognized expert on organized crime and drug trafficking in national security. He most recently has noted cyberspace national security policy and strategy’s similarity to the situation that existed at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Sponsored by the IUP Political Science Department, the Six O’Clock Series, the History Department, the Latin American Studies Program, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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