Every one of these crises could have resulted in a global conflagration. Earlier crises (such as the Berlin Blockade of 1948 or the Korean attack of 1950) could have led to war, but they took place before the superpowers developed huge stockpiles of nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles. Each crisis was eventually resolved in favor of peace, but in every case both sides relied on gambles, and survived as much by luck as by strategy.
At some point, luck runs out. We can only hope, over 30 years after the last Cold War crisis, that Vladimir Putin and his subordinates in the Kremlin are done gambling with international peace.
Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College and an adjunct at the Harvard Extension School.
This first appeared earlier and is being republished due to reader interest.