Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he hopes US President Joe Biden has the wisdom to deal with a global confrontation similar to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, referencing the war on Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered the biggest hostilities between Moscow and the West since the Cuban crisis, when the Soviet Union and United States came close to a nuclear war.
At the time, US President John F Kennedy discovered that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had deployed nuclear missiles on Cuba after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion – a US-backed coup attempt by Cuban exiles to overthrow the communist leadership.
In October 1962, a Soviet submarine captain wanted to launch a nuclear weapon after the US Navy dropped depth charges around the submarine. Later that day, Kennedy secretly agreed to remove all US missiles from Turkey in exchange for Khrushchev removing the same from Cuba.
The crisis was defused, though it became a symbol of the perils of superpower rivalry in the Cold War.
In an interview for a Russian state television documentary on the missile crisis, Lavrov said there were “similarities” to the Cuban crisis, mainly because Russia was now threatened by Western weapons in Ukraine.
“I hope that in today’s situation, President Joe Biden will have more opportunities to understand who gives orders and how,” Lavrov said.
“This situation is very disturbing. The difference is that in the distant 1962, Khrushchev and Kennedy found the strength to show responsibility and wisdom, and now we do not see such readiness on the part of Washington and its satellites.”
‘Ready to listen’
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council declined to comment on Lavrov’s statements but pointed to past comments about keeping lines of communication open with Moscow.
Lavrov said the Russian leadership, including President Vladimir Putin, is still prepared for discussions on Ukraine.
“The readiness of Russia, including its president, to negotiate [on Ukraine], it remains unchanged,” he said. “We will always be ready to listen to what proposals our Western partners have to de-escalate tensions.”
Putin cites the West’s dismissal of Russian concerns about the security of post-Soviet Europe, and in particular the enlargement of the NATO military alliance eastwards, as one of the main causes of the conflict.
The US and its European allies say Russian concerns are overblown and cannot justify the invasion of a former Soviet neighbour whose borders Moscow recognised after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.