U.S. Advantage

If Soviet Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) were stationed on Cuba most of the heartlands of America would be vulnerable to missile attack.

The United States had a decided advantage over the Soviet Union in the period leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Americans had a greater nuclear power with more than 300 land based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and a fleet of Polaris submarines. The Soviet Union had only 4 to 6 land based ICBMs and around 100 short range primitive V1 type cruise missiles that could only be launched from surfaced submarines.

Few in Washington, DC seriously believed that the Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba could seriously change the strategic balance of power. The United States had around 10 times as many nuclear weapons as the Soviets. In 1961, the US started deploying 15 Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) in Turkey. These directly threatened cities in the western parts of the Soviet Union.

Soviet premier Khrushchev publicly expressed his anger at this missile deployment. He regarded the missiles as a personal affront. Therefore the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba; the first time they moved missiles out of the USSR, can be seen as Khrushchev's direct response to the US missiles in Turkey.

Having medium range ballistic missiles on Cuban land meant that the Soviet Union had the capacity to threaten Washington DC with a flight time of less than twenty minutes. This development also gave the American radar warning systems little warning of an attack from Cuba, as they were all orientated towards the USSR