CubaBrief: Look back at the Cuban Missile Crisis to place Russian invasion of Ukrainian in context. Castro regime’s continued working relationship with Moscow

Department of Defense Cuban Missile Crisis Briefing Materials. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

The world is marking the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the days in October 1962, when the Soviet Union introduced offensive nuclear missiles into Cuba, and the United States blockaded the island and after eleven tense days Moscow withdrew its missiles. This crisis brought the world perilously close to nuclear armageddon.

President Biden compared Russia’s nuclear threat against Ukraine to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis at a fundraiser on October 6, 2022.

Most analysts focus on the interplay in the 1962 crisis between the Soviet Union and the United States, and justifiably so, these two great powers had the stockpiles of nuclear weapons, but only touch superficially on Cuba, and its reactions during and after the crisis. This is a mistake, and one that has had dire consequences in the past, when great powers ignored the agency of small countries, such as Serbia, and the Serbian terrorist group, Black Hand, whose assassination of an Archduke unleashed a series of events that sparked World War One.

Fidel Castro personally came very close on October 27, 1963 to starting World War Three. On October 14, 2012 the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis the National Archives and the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum held a forum titled “50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis” during which scholar and former CIA analyst Brian Latell outlined Castro’s attempts to spark a conflict while Kennedy and Khrushchev were seeking to avoid war:

“As Khrushchev and Kennedy were struggling during those last few days to resolve the crisis without resorting to war, Fidel Castro was stimulating military conflict. Castro, on the morning of October 27th — “Black Saturday” that we keep hearing about, the worst, the most dangerous, the most tense day of the Missile Crisis — Fidel Castro ordered all of his artillery to begin firing on American reconnaissance aircraft at dawn, at sunrise that morning of “Black Saturday.” 

Fidel Castro said later on the record, “War began in those moments.” And the commander, one of the Soviet generals there with the expeditionary force, General Gribkov, said essentially the same thing. He said that, “We Soviet commanders, all the way from the generals down to the lieutenants in the Soviet force, we all agreed that conflict, military conflict, essentially began that morning.” October 27th, “Black Saturday,” Kennedy and Khrushchev are desperately trying to bring this crisis to a peaceful end, and Castro is stoking the fan of conflict.

Fidel Castro was so persuasive with his Soviet military counterparts that later that day, “Black Saturday,” the U-2 was shot down. We saw earlier in the video that the U-2 was shot down. It’s very interesting. Nikita Khrushchev believed, I think until his death, that Fidel Castro had personally ordered the shoot-down by a Soviet ground-to-air missile site, Khrushchev believed that Castro had actually somehow been responsible for it himself.”

On October 27, 1962, the same day that Fidel Castro ordered artillery to fire on American reconnaissance aircraft, Khrushchev received a letter from the Cuban dictator, that historians call the Armageddon letter, in which he called for a Soviet first strike on the United States, in the event of a US invasion of Cuba.

If an aggression of the second variant occurs, and the imperialists attack Cuba with the aim of occupying it, then the danger posed by such an aggressive measure will be so immense for all humanity that the Soviet Union will in circumstances be able to allow it, or to permit the creation of conditions in which the imperialists might initiate a nuclear strike against the USSR as well.

Thankfully, Kennedy and Khrushchev reached a peaceful outcome, but the Castro regime continued to protest and was unhappy with their Soviet allies. Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s essay “Tactics and strategy of the Latin American Revolution (October – November 1962)” was posthumously published by the official publication Verde Olivo on October 9, 1968, and even at this date was not only Guevara’s view but the official view: 

“Here is the electrifying example of a people prepared to suffer nuclear immolation so that its ashes may serve as a foundation for new societies. When an agreement was reached by which the atomic missiles were removed, without asking our people, we were not relieved or thankful for the truce; instead we denounced the move with our own voice.”

In the same essay, the dead Argentine served as a mouthpiece for the Castro regime declaring: “We do assert, however, that we must follow the road of liberation even though it may cost millions of nuclear war victims.”

Vladimir Putin, and many of his apologists, have sought to draw an equivalence with the Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse, but on closer inspection it does not pass the smell test.

Vladimir Putin met with Fidel Castro on numerous occasions. Photo : AP

On January 16, 2022, prior to the new phase of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Frank Calzon and I highlighted crucial differences between the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in Ukraine in a piece published in the Miami Herald titled ” Flashback to 1962, but Vladimir Putin is no Nikita Khrushchev, Joe Biden is no John F. Kennedy” in which we explained how the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis involved placing long range, offensive, nuclear weapons in Cuba while the United States, to appease Russia, cajoled and persuaded Ukraine to turn over their nuclear weapons to Moscow in exchange for security guarantees.

When negotiations between Ukraine and Russia broke down on removing nuclear weapons from Ukraine in September 1993, Washington engaged in a trilateral process with Ukraine and Russia. This resulted in the January 1994 Trilateral Statement. Ukraine agreed to transfer its nuclear warheads to Russia. Ukraine received security assurances from the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Abandoning Ukraine in the short term may appear to guarantee peace, but the words of Winston Churchill in another crisis in 1938 should give today’s policymakers pause; “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.”

Putin’s rationalization for invading, bombing, and occupying Ukraine is the concern, among other rationalizations that “If Ukraine was to join NATO it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia.”

This is interesting considering that Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have a Russian presence in their respective territories, and these regimes’ militaries have conducted joint military exercises with the Russian military in Venezuela. The United States has not declared these provocative actions a “direct threat.”

William LeoGrande, an expert on Cuba at American University in Washington, quoted by The Wall Street Journal in a September 30, 2022 article that broke the news that Havana was requesting assistance from the United States speculated that the “Cuban request suggests that Russia, which has been a supporter of Cuba in past disasters, is in no shape to do so because of the war in Ukraine.”

LeoGrande’s hypothesis is disproved by,Nora Gámez Torres in her October 17, 2022 Miami Herald article “Cuba ramps up imports of Russian oil, helping Putin to evade sanctions” revealed that “Cuba has received at least $322 million worth of oil from Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine” compared with only “$35 million worth of Russian petroleum in 2017 and $55.5 million in 2018.”

The Castro regime is working overtime spreading Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine, and backing Russia at the United Nations, even repeatedly drawing the public rebuke of the Ukranians.

On October 12, 2022 at the UN General Assembly by a vote of 143 Votes in Favour, 5 Against, and 35 Abstentions adopted a resolution condemning the Russian Federation’s annexation of four Eastern Ukraine regions. Cuba was one of the 35 countries that abstained, and its ally Nicaragua was one of the 5 that voted against.

One last observation reported by NPR deserves further examination. “Castro’s letter calling for a first strike against the U.S. concerned the Soviet premier and spurred him to try to resolve the standoff,” said Michelle Paranzino, an assistant professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College. According to the professor: “This was a major source of conflict between the Soviets and the Cubans, because the Cubans thought that they were going to have control over these weapons,” she says. “But the Soviets never intended that.”

Considering that Castro and Che wanted to launch the missiles and start WW3, and the ninety year olds still in power today in Cuba advocated that position should give one pause.

Miami Herald, October 17, 2022

Cuba ramps up imports of Russian oil, helping Putin to evade sanctions

By Nora Gámez Torres October 17, 2022 5:00 AM

​A vehicle’s headlights illuminate the street during a blackout triggered by Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, early morning Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Hurricane Ian knocked out electricity to the entire island when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm. Ismael Francisco AP

Amid economic and political turmoil, Cuba has received at least $322 million worth of oil from Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine as authorities struggle to offset diminished shipments from close ally Venezuela, according to estimates by oil industry experts.

The 4 million barrels of Urals crude oil received by Cuba “is the largest quantity since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” said Jorge Piñón, a senior research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Center who closely tracks oil shipments to the island.

The figure marks a significant increase compared to recent years when Cuba received $35 million worth of Russian petroleum in 2017 and $55.5 million in 2018, but nothing in the following years, according to United Nations data on world trade. And it turns the Caribbean island into another market for oil from Russia, helping the country evade international sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine while keeping its industry afloat.

[ Full article here ]

NPR, October 16, 2022

National Security

60 years after the Cuban missile crisis, Russia’s threats reignite Cold War fears

Scott Neuman

October 16, 20227:00 AM ET

A U-2 spy photo shows a medium-range ballistic missile base in San Cristobal, Cuba, with labels detailing various parts of the base in October 1962. Getty Images

When President Biden compared Russia’s nuclear threat against Ukraine to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, it highlighted just how much that Cold War showdown continues to shape our collective psyche.

Although Biden’s remarks earlier this month about the “prospect of Armageddon” have been labeled alarming by some and alarmist by others, they emphasize that the stakes in any such conflict between nuclear-armed rivals have not changed since the infamous “13 days” of the crisis.

“We came really close to nuclear catastrophe,” says Fredrik Logevall, a Harvard history professor and author of JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956.

The crisis began on the morning of Oct. 16, 1962. President John F. Kennedy was shown photos taken by a U-2 spy plane indicating Soviet ballistic sites under construction on the island of Cuba. Once operational, he was informed, they could be used to launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland virtually without warning.

The first of a series of meetings of top advisers and Cabinet officials was quickly convened, including the president’s brother and close confidant, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

The group ultimately settled on a naval quarantine, or blockade, of Cuba to force Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to remove the missiles. Ultimately, Khrushchev received an assurance that the U.S. would not invade Cuba and, in a deal that remained secret for a quarter century, the U.S. also promised to remove its missiles from Turkey.

In the 60 years since the Cuban missile crisis, new information has come out that sheds light on the events of October 1962. Here are three key things that you may have missed in history class:

A Soviet submarine officer may have prevented World War III

Saturday, Oct. 27, 1962, “was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War,” Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a senior Kennedy adviser, has written. “It was the most dangerous moment in human history.”

B-59 near Cuba with a U.S. Navy helicopter circling above, circa Oct. 27, 1962. U.S. Navy

On that day, a U-2 spy plane taking reconnaissance photos was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Cuba. It had been 18 months since the failed Bay of Pigs mission, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro was convinced that the U.S. would try to invade again. One day earlier, he had written a letter to Khrushchev urging him to launch a preemptive nuclear strike before U.S. troops could land on Cuban beaches.

Meanwhile, despite signs that the Soviets were honoring the U.S.-imposed blockade, there was “extraordinary tension on the seas between captains on their respective sides,” Logevall says.

In the North Atlantic, U.S. Navy destroyers were pursuing a Soviet submarine to force it to the surface as part of the blockade. To avoid an escalation of the conflict, the Navy used training depth charges designed to rattle the submarine rather than damage it.

What the U.S. did not know at the time was that Soviet subs were carrying nuclear-tipped torpedoes. The crew of the targeted B-59 sub had lost contact with Moscow and was unaware of the blockade.

The submarine’s captain mistook the Navy’s provocation as a sign that war had broken out. He wanted to retaliate with a torpedo strike but needed two other senior officers to concur. Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov refused. He managed to talk the captain down, and the torpedo was never fired.

“There’s no doubt that the issue with the submarine is an absolutely terrifying one,” says Max Hastings, a historian and author whose latest book, The Abyss: Nuclear Crisis Cuba 1962, is set for release this week. “They didn’t even know that those submarines were armed with nuclear torpedoes.”

In 2002, Thomas Blanton, director of the nonprofit National Security Archive, told The Boston Globe, ”The lesson from this is that a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world.”

Kennedy and Khrushchev forged a politically fraught secret deal

During the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy, stung by bad advice from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the lead-up to the April 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, was under pressure to authorize airstrikes against the Soviet missile sites and to launch a full-scale invasion of Cuba.

President John F. Kennedy makes his dramatic television broadcast to announce a blockade of Cuba on Oct. 22, 1962. Keystone/Getty Images

The president was eager not to show weakness in the face of what the U.S. viewed as Soviet aggression, but he wasn’t willing to risk nuclear war if there was any chance of avoiding it.

In messages exchanged between the two leaders, Kennedy agreed not to invade Cuba and Khrushchev said he would remove the missiles from Cuba. But in a famous letter to Kennedy, Khrushchev also demanded that American Jupiter missiles be removed from Turkey.

To Khrushchev, the Jupiters on his own doorstep were a provocation. He saw putting his own missiles in Cuba as rebalancing the status quo.

Well before the crisis, Kennedy had actually wanted to remove the missiles because “the Pentagon told him that they were obsolete and they didn’t really add anything to American security,” explains Hastings.

But the Turks, who saw the missiles as a guarantor of their own security, had balked.

President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev head to their first meeting on June 3, 1961, at the start of the East-West talks in Vienna, the year before the Cuban missile crisis. Interfoto/AFP via Getty Images

Now, the stakes were much higher. Kennedy worried that if he removed the missiles as part of an agreement to end the crisis, the U.S. would be seen as backing down. So, he agreed to do so on the condition that part of the deal remain a secret.

The move was politically risky for Kennedy, but it proved much more so for Khrushchev. The senior Soviet leadership “never forgave Khrushchev for the humiliation that he presided over that Russia suffered,” Hastings says. “They understood thoroughly that they got the American missiles out of Turkey, but all they could see was the fact that Russia had been publicly humiliated.”

Two years after the Cuban missile crisis, and a year after Kennedy’s assassination, Khrushchev was ousted.

RFK initially called for a more forceful response than early accounts suggest

Robert Kennedy in a news conference at the Bourget airport, Paris, in February 1962. Claude Mallinjod/INA via Getty Images

For decades, historians relied heavily on Robert Kennedy’s own account of the behind-closed-doors discussions during the missile crisis. In RFK’s book, Thirteen Days, published posthumously in 1969, he portrays himself as standing nearly alone against the hard-liners, consistently urging the president to pursue options that stepped back from the brink.

“It was a completely self-serving viewpoint,” says Michelle Paranzino, an assistant professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College.

When White House tapes from the era were carefully analyzed by scholars years later, it became clear that RFK “was actually among the most hawkish,” she says. “He was arguing for airstrikes on the missile sites.”

Robert Kennedy also maintained that “invasion was an alternative,” according to a 2007 article in American Diplomacy.

Even so, Hastings gives RFK credit for displaying “a good deal more sense than some of the people around the table,” especially the generals, such as Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay, who urged Kennedy to bomb the missile sites.

Paranzino says Khrushchev’s role in resolving the crisis cannot be overlooked, either. “The whole narrative that was perpetuated that it was JFK’s clear-eyed statesmanship … and it was Khrushchev who blinked first” is wrong, she says.

Castro’s letter calling for a first strike against the U.S. concerned the Soviet premier and spurred him to try to resolve the standoff, Paranzino says.

“This was a major source of conflict between the Soviets and the Cubans, because the Cubans thought that they were going to have control over these weapons,” she says. “But the Soviets never intended that.”

What have we learned from the Cuban missile crisis?

Misperceptions lead to miscalculation. Serhii Plokhy, author of Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, published last year, says Khrushchev’s biggest mistake was believing that Kennedy thought the same as he did.

The Soviet leader “really believed that if he swallowed the pill on the missiles next door in Turkey that Kennedy would actually do the same,” Plokhy, a Harvard history professor, said in a talk hosted by the National Archives last year.

Author Hastings describes Russian President Vladimir Putin as “another reckless gambler in the Kremlin who again is openly threatening the world with nuclear consequences.” That makes “how we got out of the missile crisis in one piece … terribly important.”

When so many people, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were urging the U.S. to “bomb the hell out of the missile sites,” he says, the president understood “that he was going to have to strike a bargain with Khrushchev.”

It’s important to remember, however, that the Soviet leadership had far more control over Khrushchev than they have over Putin today, he says.

“Ultimately, I think many of us believe this thing has to end in Ukraine with some kind of diplomacy,” Logevall says. “I don’t know what that involves, but that’s going to be necessary at some point.”

United Nations, October 12, 2022

Meetings Coverage

Eleventh Emergency Special Session,

13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)


12 October 2022

With 143 Votes in Favour, 5 Against, General Assembly Adopts Resolution Condemning Russian Federation’s Annexation of Four Eastern Ukraine Regions

Continuing its emergency special session, the General Assembly today condemned the Russian Federation’s attempted illegal annexation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, and demanded it immediately withdraw all its military forces from Ukraine territory.

By the terms of the text, titled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine:  defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations” — adopted by a recorded vote of 143 in favour to 5 against (Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria) with 35 abstentions — the Assembly demanded that the Russian Federation immediately reverse its decisions of 21 February and 29 September related to the status of the four abovementioned regions.

These acts are a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter, the Assembly declared.  It called on all States, international organizations and United Nations agencies not to recognize any alteration by the Russian Federation of the status of the four regions of Ukraine.

[The Assembly’s eleventh emergency special session resumed on 11 October after the Security Council on 30 September failed to adopt a resolution intended to condemn the Russian Federation referendums that preceded Moscow’s proclamation of its annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.  (See Press Release SC/15046 for details.)  The draft Council resolution also would have declared that the referendums taken from 23 to 27 September in parts of those regions are neither valid nor form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine, including any purported annexation by the Russian Federation.]

In the discussion today, many Member States deplored the Russian Federation’s aggression towards its neighbour and its attempted annexation of Ukrainian land as blatant disregard for the bedrock principles on which the Organization was founded.  The Czech Republic’s representative said the Russian Federation’s organizing of “fake voting amidst the war” is yet more proof of the intimidation and violations Ukrainian citizens are facing.

Some speakers were more neutral in their approach, while a handful sided with the Russian Federation.  Among them was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, whose delegate said that the people of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia voted to be a part of the Russian Federation.  He also added that illegals acts of aggression against former Yugoslavia, as well as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, by the United States and other Western countries, have yet to be addressed by the Security Council.

The representative of Papua New Guinea expressed dismay that the Russian Federation as a permanent member of the Security Council could threaten nuclear war with such ease.  Council members do not solely represent their own interests, but peace and security on a global scale.  “Take a hard look at your respective actions and ask whether you deserve a seat,” he said.

Several delegations, such as Brazil and India, expressed worries that their concerns and suggestions were not included in the draft text, with Brazil’s representative underscoring that his delegation’s calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities were left out.

India joined several other speakers in expressing deep worry that the people of the global South were feeling pain from a food, fuel and fertilizer shortage, and sky-high price increases, as a result of the war.

Some delegates stressed the need to promote dialogue and diplomacy so that peace can prevail.  They expressed concern that not enough was being done to bring parties to peace talks.

The representative of the United States said that the path to peace does not run through placations.  The only way to bring peace is to “show what we will not tolerate”, she said.

Canada’s delegate dismissed the Russian Federation’s claims of Russophobia.  “We do not seek Russia’s destruction; what we seek is for the Russian Federation to live up to its commitment” and to act as a steward of peace, he said.

The Russian Federation’s representative reiterated that the populations of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia voted that they did not want to return to Ukraine and that more than 100 international observers from Italy, Germany, Venezuela, Latvia and other countries, who observed the referendum, recognized its outcome as legitimate.  He called today’s text a politicized and openly provocative document that risks destroying any efforts towards a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Slovakia, Republic of Korea, Australia, Chile, Viet Nam, Colombia, Moldova, Federated States of Micronesia, Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Cyprus, Argentina, Portugal, Greece, Liberia, Belgium, Japan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, New Zealand, Slovenia, Uruguay, Syria, Montenegro, Ghana, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Palau, Timor-Leste, Germany, France, China, Venezuela, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Algeria, South Africa, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Thailand, Mauritius, Brazil, Cuba and Bolivia, as well as the Permanent Observers for the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta.

A representative of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance also spoke.

The representatives of Rwanda, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo made statements in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 October, to consider the tenth annual report of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.

From the archives

Miami Herald, January 16, 2022

Flashback to 1962, but Vladimir Putin is no Nikita Khrushchev, Joe Biden is no John F. Kennedy | Opinion


JANUARY 16, 2022 1:38 AM

Getty Images

Carl von Clausewitz, the XIX Century Prussian military strategist, wrote that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy is predicated on raw power and blackmail – and if needed murders and kidnappings both inside and outside Russia.

His massive military buildup on Ukraine’s border and his threat to deploy troops “and infrastructure” in Cuba and Venezuela are aimed to force the Biden Administration and America’s allies to submit to his will. Comparisons with the 1962 October Missile Crisis that brought humanity to the brink of nuclear war are deceiving. Putin is no Nikita Khrushchev and Joe Biden is no John Kennedy.

Two months after the Bay of Pigs debacle, in the June 1961 Vienna Summit, the Soviet dictator demanded the United States leave West Berlin, having concluded that the inexperienced recently elected American President could be intimidated. President Kennedy was unprepared, and the Soviet leader dominated the meeting and strengthened his view that his adversary was also immature. This assessment of the Vienna Summit resulted in Khrushchev erecting the Berlin Wall two months after the meeting.

President Kennedy learned from this disastrous meeting, its catastrophic consequences for East Berliners, and during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, he adroitly marshaled American friends around the world, imposed a naval blockade, and successfully pressed Khrushchev’s withdrawal of Soviet nuclear missiles, despite Fidel Castro’s public tantrums

Today, the context is different. The Russian dictator is not a Party apparatchik but a seasoned KGB officer, who, despite earlier international assurances about Ukraine’s territorial integrity, in exchange for Kiev’s giving up its nuclear arsenal, annexed Crimea and keeps military forces engaged in a secessionist war in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

The United States has an obligation with regard to Ukraine. When negotiations between Ukraine and Russia broke down on removing nuclear weapons from Ukraine in September 1993, Washington engaged in a trilateral process with Ukraine and Russia. This resulted in the January 1994 Trilateral Statement. Ukraine agreed to transfer its nuclear warheads to Russia. Ukraine received security assurances from the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

Abandoning Ukraine in the short term may appear to guarantee peace, but the words of Winston Churchill in another crisis in 1938 should give today’s policymakers pause; “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.”

Despite serious efforts in the Administration to help the President revisit and learn from foreign policy setbacks, Putin and other foes are not discouraged by what they see. Instead, they work on the assumption that Washington’s disarray, finger-pointing and accountability provide them with a unique opportunity to strike at American interests

Consider the following:

The Trump Administration backed tough sanctions on Russia and did all it could to kill the $11 billion Nord Stream 2, that would pump gas to Germany increasing Russian leverage over Europe, but the Biden Administration, believing there was hardly anything worth saving from the previous Administration’s policies, waived the harshest sanctions without obtaining any concession from Russia, and eventually replaced them with weaker measures as the situation in Ukraine worsened.

Washington’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan sent a message of weakness to America’s enemies that animated both Russia and China into a more aggressive posture in Ukraine, and Taiwan respectively.

In June 2021, the Biden administration lifted sanctions on three former Iranian officials and energy companies in an effort to get Iran to change course on its nuclear program in exchange for loosened sanctions. Iran did not respond as expected, and the White House reintroduced sanctions in October 2021 on two senior Iranian officials and two companies supplying weapons to groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Ethiopia.

Twice in 2021, Biden said that the United States would defend Taiwan if attacked by Mainland China, but the Administration walked back the statements citing a policy of “strategic ambiguity.”

China’s warplanes are flying over the Taiwan Straits into Taipei’s defense zone in multiple provocations. Not holding China responsible for millions of deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s growing presence in the developing world must be part of Putin’s appraisal. Be that as it may, what is to be done now?

1. The American people and the world need to be reminded that NATO is a defensive alliance, which presents no danger to Russia unless Moscow attacks one of its members.

2. The best way to promote peace and lower tensions on the Ukrainian-Russian border is for Nord Stream 2 to be shut down until Russian troops leave Crimea, reminding Moscow of their commitments to the territorial integrity of Ukraine and pursuing comprehensive and multilateral sanctions.

3. The Biden Administration should be prepared to provide military supplies and intelligence assistance to Ukraine if requested.

4. Congress should introduce emergency military appropriations, setting aside assistance to NATO members under Russian threat who request help.

5. America’s European allies, Japan, Australia, and others should be encouraged to join a broad diplomatic response to Putin’s aggressive designs that includes multilateral sanctions.

A weak America makes for a more dangerous and uncertain world because it encourages international aggression. Americans will support these and similar efforts that should not be a partisan issue.

Frank Calzón was among the founders of the Center for a Free Cuba, and John Suarez is its executive director