The 60th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis: Unpacking Lessons from Peaceful Resolution

The Quincy Institute and the American Committee of U.S.-Russia Accord (ACURA) hosted a salon discussion on how the lessons learned from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis apply today to the U.S. role in the Russia-Ukraine War. 

Ambassador Jack Matlock, who was a young U.S. foreign service officer stationed in Moscow during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and then ambassador there 20 years later under the Reagan Administration, joined historians Tom Blanton and Svetlana Savranskaya from the National Security Archive in a discussion moderated by the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel, who is also a member of the QI board.

The starting point for the conversation was, as vanden Heuvel pointed out, that the kind of “diplomacy” that diverted the U.S. and Russia from a nuclear crisis “has become a dirty word in this town”. Matlock, who has been quite vocal about the diplomatic mistakes made by the U.S. after the fall of the Soviet Union — including NATO expansion — said he was worried that events today in Ukraine have gone well beyond control. Both sides have raised the specter of nuclear war again, but this time with no talking. “It’s hard to see how we get out of this,” he said.

You can find photographs, audio highlights, and a full recording of the event below.


Pictures of the audience at Tabard Inn, as well as panelists Tom Blanton, Svetlana Savranskaya, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Jack Matlock (seated left to right).

Audio Highlights

On the Need for Strategic Empathy in Diplomatic Engagement:

Khruschev and Kennedy: “It’s Time to Back Off, Folks”:

On Nuclear Escalation, Brinkmanship, and the Essentiality of Diplomacy:

On Separating Russia from Vladimir Putin for the Sake of Diplomacy:

On The Prospect of Vladimir Putin Using Nuclear Weapons:

Full Recording

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