I don't entirely agree with George "the Coming War With Japan" Friedman here. That the Jupiter missiles in Turkey were obsolete had more to do with how hard they sucked than with how important they were to the Air Force. To the Air Force they were sooper important. That said:
- The Kennedy administration needed the heroic tale and therefore had to give something of extraordinary value to Khrushchev: the myth that the Soviet Union could stand toe to toe with the United States on nuclear capabilities. (The Soviets would become peers to the U.S. later on, but they were not in the 1960s.) The Soviets wanted this acknowledgment for three reasons. First, the American public would force caution on U.S. politicians. Second, other powers, especially those in Europe, would question the reliability of the U.S. security umbrella. Third, the Soviet public, enthralled by Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, would believe they were witnessing another Soviet triumph. Yes, the Soviets conceded, but they could write that off as simple prudence. Every self-congratulatory memoir written by in the U.S. about the crisis reinforced the notion that the Soviet Union was a nuclear peer. Obviously, no one in his right might would risk nuclear annihilation over such trivia, but then no one actually did.
This right here is North Korea in a nutshell and the reason nobody before Trump has negotiated with North Korea: they've all been avoiding the pitfall of taking North Korea seriously.
- Khrushchev didn’t fully understand the game. But Putin does. He must take the world to an imaginary nuclear brink that will force a negotiation, if in nothing but appearance. The world will breathe a sigh of relief when it ends. And every deputy at the U.S. National Security Council will dine out for the rest of their life on how close the U.S. came to the abyss and how brilliantly the U.S. worked to avoid war with a fearsome superpower. And with that, the thing Putin has always decried, the geopolitical disaster of 1991, can be reversed. But considering that Khrushchev was ousted for such harebrained schemes, the downside could be political oblivion.