Richard Smoke, the author of Nuclear Arms Control: Understanding the Arms Race, sees the Soviets as a people who tried every option possible to get every advantage that they could. Khrushchev believed that putting nuclear missiles in Cuba was the most expedient way to close the missile gap with the United States...
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In Smoke's opinion, they were willing to risk WW III in order to obtain first strike capability. As he says, the plan almost worked, but a U.S. U2 spy plane discovered the secret bases on Cuba just before they were finished (44). He states that Kennedy's first choice of action was to let the Air Force use conventional weapons to destroy the bases...