ABSTRACT

With hindsight, the Cuban missile crisis can be seen as representing a turning point both for East-West relations and for the realist definition of the discipline of International Relations. The crisis was perceived by both superpowers as the climax of the Cold War. Before the crisis, the spirit of Cold War policies had reversed the famous Clausewitzian formula: that the conduct of politics in peacetime is the continuation of war by other means. Containment had turned from a means of foreign policy into an end. Strategic thought often stopped short at the different military scenarios possible in the age of nuclear war. When superpower competition was resolutely conflictual, and where war was not possible, the international crisis became an endemic feature of world politics, and crisis brinkmanship a possible bargaining strategy.' The nuclear risk during the Cuban missile crisis reminded the two superpowers of the original Clausewitzian formula which urged statesmen to consider the long-term political aims to which military means are subordinated. In the nuclear age, war is a pathological state of affairs; the permanent risk of escalating crises is the common enemy. Statesmen were given another chance to find out the political imperatives of their strategic doctrines.2