We (the royal we, that is) left off at the end of one of the first confontations that stirred the pot that was Cuban Missile Crisis soup (which does NOT come with the free breadsticks, so don't even ask), the US Naval blockade of Cuba. The Russians had lost the battle, but still definitely felt they could win the war. So strap in kids, here's the exciting conclusion of...
Cuban Missile Crisis
Part IV, "A New Hope..." (NERD!)
The State Department floated an idea. If the Russians pulled the missiles out of Cuba, the US would remove a series of missile bases it had established in Turkey (which is about as close to Russia as Cuba is to the US, at least as far as missile launch and response time is concerned).
By late afternoon of the 25th, U2 flights and a series of CIA operatives in Cuba confirmed that work on the missile sites had not slowed down at all. Kennedy (who, if you'll remember, always had an itchy trigger finger as far as the Cubans were concerned) wanted to invade to remove the missiles, but (and this will become a theme, thank God) cooler heads prevailed, and diplomacy was allowed to continue.
The Crisis was full of it. ABC News (!) was carrying on discussions with Aleksandr Formin (Washington D.C. KGB Section Chief, c. 1960-1964) about the removal of missiles from Cuba in return for a guarantee that the US would never invade the island. A message was passed by the Brazilian (!) Embassy in Cuba to Castro, telling him to pressure the Russians to remove the missiles to protect his borders from the threat of US invasion.
(* A note on Russian foreign relations...The Russians didn't have "alliances." They tended to be wary of (Castro) and sometimes openly confrontational with (Mao in China) other Communist leaders. They were looking out for their own interests, and expected other Communist states (outside of Europe) to do the same. Until the missiles were on Cuban soil, there was little formal relationship between Havana and Moscow, and as soon as the missiles were removed (I gave away the ending...oh no!) there would again be little formal relationship. To prove the point, Nixon went to Russia before Castro even thought about doing so, and only went in '73 after Nixon's SECOND visit in May of '72. I'd say they were friendly enough with each other, but definitely "chilly." Now, back to the action! [thank you Encyclopedia Americana for the Nixon info])
6:00 that night...
Khrushchev wrote and had delivered a letter written in his own hand that Robert Kennedy would later describe as "long and emotional" that basically said "if you keep up your end of the bargain, I'll keep up mine."
Things get "el testy-o" in Cuba
Castro is BALLSY, you've gotta give him that. Case in point...
Castro was convinced the US was going to invade (can you blame him? Look at the history!), so he was pressuring the Russians to not remove the missiles, but USE them! He also oredered his Anti-aircraft gunners to shoot down any US planes over Cuban soil (an open act of "hostility," or war).
Khrushchev, in the mean time, was working his magic. He wanted the missiles out of Turkey, and said so in a radio address on Radio Moscow. Robert McNamara, in the mean time, had a stroke of brilliance when he realized no one told the Russians where the blockade line was (dumbasses). he had U Thant (UN Sec. General) relay a message to prevent any stickiness.
Later in the day, Castro made good on his word and shot down a U2 spy plane flying over Cuba. A sortie of US planes was also fired upon but not destroyed. Kennedy had said he would attack Cuba if this happened, but decided to wait to see if diplomacy could still carry the day (cooler heads!).
Kennedy and Khrushchev, playing the world's most important game of "telephone," continued negotiating about the missiles in Turkey. For the sake of brevity, I'll sum it up. Kennedy wanted the missiles out of Cuba, and was willing to take the missiles out of Turkey, but didn't want the world to think the Russians made him do it. Khrushchev wanted the missiles out of Turkey, and was willing to take the ones out of Cuba. Turkey, for it's part, wanted the missiles to stay, but who cares what Turkey wants? Turkey doesn't want to get cooked on Thanksgiving, but we still eat it in late November (plus sandwich time for the next week or two). Kennedy wasn't going to let the Russians save any face on the Turkey Situation. The Russians were mulling it over, and to prod them along, Kennedy had a message sent through official diplomatic channels saying "time is short, poop or get off the pot." He was telling the Russians "either take the deal or we'll invade Cuba."
It worked. Khrushchev ordered the dimantling of the missiles and their immediate return to the Soviet Union. Kennedy immediately gave a speech praising the Russians for taking an important step in the peace process. People all across America were putting finishing touches on bomb shelters that, while awesome, would never be used during the Cold War.
"A schooner is a sailboat, stupidhead!" (What the big picture is...)
This was the event that saved the (up to that time, disastrous) Kennedy presidency, and would get his name mentioned in the same breath as Lincoln (the ULTIMATE American compliment).
Khrushchev kept power for two years, and was eventually ousted by Leonid Brezhnev, many believe due to the "loss of face" that occured during the Crisis. Brezhnev would hold the post of General Secretary longer than anybody but Stalin (1964-1982).
Castro is still as nutty as squirrel turds, chattering like a monkey in Havana to this day. Americans are still prohibited from travelling to Cuba and have to go to Canada to get cigars.
The Soviet Union would collapse in 1990-91.