During the Cuban Missile Crisis both sides risked further escalation into a WW3. However, under MAD, Wikipedia says:

By the time of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, both the United States and the Soviet Union had developed the capability of launching a nuclear-tipped missile from a submerged submarine, which completed the "third leg" of the nuclear triad weapons strategy necessary to fully implement the MAD doctrine. Having a three-branched nuclear capability eliminated the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a first-strike attack; this, in turn, ensured the credible threat of a devastating retaliatory strike against the aggressor, increasing a nation's nuclear deterrence.

So all that risk of escalation that resulted in the Cuban Missile Crisis appears to have served no real purpose, strategically? Then why did they do it?

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    There is an assumption missing from this question; I don't understand what you're asking. What point are you saying was missing? Who missed the point? What does the triad have to do with the presence of missiles in Cuba? Are you saying that USSR was foolish to deploy missiles, or are you saying that USA was foolish to react to the deployment? what's wrong with Wiki? Can you connect the dots & clarify what you want to know? Most importantly how can anyone offer an authoritative answer? Won't all answers be opinions? – Mark C. Wallace Aug 26 '20 at 19:39
  • @MarkC.Wallace What does the triad have to do with the presence of missiles in Cuba? Are you saying that USSR was foolish to deploy missiles, or are you saying that USA was foolish to react to the deployment? Both. MAD was already in place, so the presence (or absence) of missiles didn't make a difference. Certainly not enough to risk an actual war. – user26470 Aug 26 '20 at 20:27
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    Saying something has a point or not is opinion rather than fact, and answering with opinions gets you downvoted around here. In my opinion, the confrontation gave the US respect for what the Soviets could do, gave the Soviets respect for Kennedy, and gave both sides an edge of fear in escalating the cold war too much. The actual specifics of the confrontation are a sideline, and thus kinda pointless. But that's my opinion. – DWKraus Aug 26 '20 at 20:56
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    @DWKraus Today's opinions are not history. If someone wanted to ask whether De Gaulle thought it was pointless , that would be a history question. – C Monsour Aug 26 '20 at 23:12
  • Triad is a US doctrine, as is MAD. What doctrines did the Soviet Union actually use? – Samuel Russell Aug 26 '20 at 23:28

The Wikipedia article may have painted an overly simplified impression. In the age of the nuclear arms race, the scale of a capability was a vital aspect of consideration. As unthinkable as it may be to us, destroying one city vs destroying one hundred cities is not a trivial difference in military strategic planning.

What the passage you cited failed to mention is that, at the time, the US had a massive advantage in first strike capabilities. Despite the panic over a supposed "missile gap", the US in fact had many times more operational ICBMs than Russia: some 170 vs perhaps 20. Moreover, the US had missiles deployed in Turkey - right under Russia's underbelly. True, they could not eliminate a submarine based second strike, in the unthinkable event that a thermonuclear war breaks out despite MAD, the US would've had a major advantage.

Deploying the missiles to Cuba was, therefore, a way for the Soviets to even the scores a bit, so to speak - the Soviet answer to American missiles in Turkey, if you will. Due to Cuba's proximity to Florida, the missiles put most of the Continental US within the range of Soviet nuclear missiles (as opposed to the unreliable and numerically limited ICBMs).

Furthermore, Soviet leadership reasoned that this gave them a bargaining chip to demand concessions in exchange for leaving. And in the event, the Kennedy administration agreed to retire the US missiles in Turkey.

  • Furthermore, those Soviet submarine missiles had fairly short range, requiring the subs to come into (mainly) the North Atlantic, where the were regularly detected and tracked by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOSUS and US attack subs, putting them at high risk in event of war. Cuba could not be sunk. – Jon Custer Aug 26 '20 at 22:22
  • This answer confuses USSR and Russia, ignores the fact that even 20 R16s launched from USSR could destroy all major metropolitan areas in the US. Sufficient deterrent. BTW, I think your edit of my question was contrary the author's explicit intent (see comment) – user26470 Aug 26 '20 at 23:36
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    @MaxB P(1) The only time I used "Russia" is obviously in the geographic sense, not sure why you're nitpicking. Re:R16s, again, you're ignoring that the real consideration is first strike - not deterrent. The second strike is the deterrent. The point is the CMC is about Soviet first strike capability, not deterrent (2) I tried to salvage the question by assigning something objective to be "the point", as I felt your question arose out of misapplying deterrent to CMC, and this resolves it. I don't see how your comment contradicts it, but if you are displeased by the edit, please revert it. – Semaphore Aug 27 '20 at 3:30