Sixty years ago, true statecraft avoided a nuclear war. We need that again over Ukraine

Jonathan Steele

NB: While I appreciate Steele’s evocation of moderation and restraint, there’s just one big problem with this article. One man alone saved the world from nuclear war in 1962, and his name was Vasili Arkhipov, one of three senior officers in the Soviet nuclear-weapon equipped submarine, the B-59, off the Cuban coast, which was under attack from depth charges by the American destroyer USS Beale. Arkhipov refused to agree to the firing of a nuclear torpedo at the destroyer. The decision required unanimity, and he refused. He thereby probably saved all of us. Not Kennedy, not Khruschev. Just one man, Vasili Arkhipov, the hero we have all forgotten. DS

Anyone who hoped that Vladimir Putin would declare victory in Ukraine and withdraw his failing troops must now admit that no such outcome is realistic. In a revealing quote during a meeting last week with about a hundred academics from 40 countries, Putin rejected it. Fyodor Lukyanov, a highly respected thinktank editor who was the meeting’s moderator, had the courage to ask the Russian president if he would retreat like the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev did in the 1962 Cuban crisis. “Certainly not,” Putin replied. To general laughter, according to the Kremlin transcript, he went on: “I cannot imagine myself in the role of Khrushchev. No way.”

The amusement was presumably prompted not just by the physical and attitudinal contrast between Putin, the cold disciplinarian and fitness freak, and Khrushchev, the pot-bellied and jolly reformer who ruled Russia erratically after Stalin’s death. Everyone remembered how Khrushchev was dumped out of power by his colleagues two years after the Cuban adventure…

Vasili Arkhipov (1926-1998), the man who prevented nuclear war