On January 10, 1959, the Soviet Union formally recognized the socialist government of Fidel Castro, which had taken over Cuba on January 1, 1959, thus beginning decades of economic and military cooperation with Cuba, and at the same time gaining a valuable ally in the proximity of the United States, the Soviet Union’s major rival in the Cold War.
As early as in February of 1960, the Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan arrived in Cuba, closing a number of trading agreements and offering Cuba a loan of $100 million. In compliance with these agreements the Soviet Union started to export oil, heavy machinery and raw materials, in exchange purchasing Cuban sugar and citruses. The Cubans themselves used to joke that the only thing the Soviets didn’t provide was vehicles to combat snow. The Soviet Union purchased cane sugar for fixed prices, not market, a fact which literally revived Castro’s regime that had been choked by the total economic blockade on the part of the United States. The sole provider of all goods to Cuba, in return, the Soviet Union had for decades acquired an outpost of socialism within a 200-kilometer distance from the United States.
In the course of the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which had almost put the world on the brink of nuclear war, the Soviet contingent of over 20,000 people, and medium-range missiles with nuclear warheads were deployed on Cuban territory, making the United States very uncomfortable with a threat that big right by their front door, but it helped maintain the parity between the two superpowers.
Originally, the missiles, along with tanks and aircraft, were planned to be deployed very quickly and discreetly in line with Castro’s continuous requests, as he feared a plausible attack on the part of the United States. Although the military authorities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were asked to keep the operation as secret as possible, American spy planes were still able to detect disturbing activity on Cuban territory.
The American government seriously considered the possibility of a massive attack on Cuba to destroy the launch area. However, when new photos of the Soviet missiles revealed many of them in the ready position, the American authorities realized a strike would inevitably lead to war. Finally, negotiations with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko led to a quarantine solution accepted by the Soviet Union. It allowed the United States to search all the ships within a 500-mile radius. After long and painful talks, Nikita Khrushchev agreed on removing the missiles in return for the withdrawal of American troops from Turkey.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba entered a grave economic period, and continues to suffer the aftereffects to this very day.