Russia said on Thursday that escalating tensions over Ukraine could lead to a repeat of the Cuban missile crisis, when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made the comment when asked by a reporter if the current situation could turn into something resembling the 1962 Cold War standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.
“You know, it really could come to that,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. “If things continue as they are, it is entirely possible by the logic of events to suddenly wake up and see yourself in something similar.”
The Cuban crisis was triggered by the stationing of Soviet nuclear missiles on the Caribbean island and prompted the United States to impose a naval blockade to prevent Moscow shipping in more.
Moscow’s stated fear in Ukraine, which seeks to join NATO, is that the alliance will deploy missiles there and target them against Russia. NATO says it is a defensive alliance and such concerns are unwarranted.
Ukraine says it fears an invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops gathered near its borders, while Moscow says its posture is purely defensive.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden discussed the crisis in a two-hour video call on Tuesday and Biden has said he plans to organize a meeting between Russia and NATO countries to discuss Moscow’s concerns and ways of “bringing down the temperature on the eastern front.”
The Cuban missile crisis was defused when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle and remove the nuclear weapons in return for a pledge by US President John F. Kennedy not to reinvade the Communist island.
Washington also secretly agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey, in a part of the deal that was not revealed until decades later.
Satellite images appear to show Russian forces massing near the border of Ukraine, raising fears of a war between the two neighbouring countries.
Footage shared on social media purports to show a Buk anti-aircraft missile system and army tanks in the Voronezh region, while naval war games are being undertaken in the tense Black Sea.
Space firm Maxar Technologies has also released images of supposed columns of Russian forces stationed in the Smolensk district.
Both Voronezh and Smolensk are less than 200 miles away from the Ukrainian border.
Intelligence reports have revealed that at least 90,000 Russian soldiers, along with heavy artillery and tanks, are now in place on the Russian side.
This could rise to as many as 175,000 personnel by early next year, reports claim.
The build-up comes as Vladimir Putin hit out at a journalist for a “provocative question” when asked if he intended to invade Ukraine, but in his answer the Kremlin president did not rule out doing so.