The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: Two Colossi, A Trembling World
Throughout 1957, the repercussions stemming from the coincidence of the Suez crisis and the Hungarian uprising continued to make western statesmen nervous. Thus the launch of the first man-made satellite by the Russians on 4 October 1957 was an added concern, although American propaganda desperately played down its significance. Sputnik, as the satellite was christened, was dismissed as ‘a nice technical. trick’, while the space-race which ensued was flippantly described as ‘an outer-space basketball game’. President Eisenhower himself recorded that Sputnik had not raised his apprehensions by ‘one iota’. Given the strategic implications of Sputnik this is astounding. As Martin Walker has observed in his history of the Cold War, the US ‘was now in pawn to superior Soviet technology’. Disregard of Sputnik did not therefore reflect genuine indifference, but rather the elaborate efforts of American propaganda to save face. Sputnik transformed the international system, just as the Soviet manufacture of the hydrogen bomb had back in August 1953. Consequently the history of the Cold War during the 1950s and early 1960s was stained by a succession of crises which threatened to spiral out of control into nuclear confrontration – Lebanon, Quemoy and Matsu, Berlin, and even the Suez crisis had its nuclear dimensions.
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