World leaders are given one of the most diffcult tasks in the world, to make decisions on the behalf of an entire nation. In studying international relations we can see how one decision can have miraculous or disastrous consequences. In the case of the Cold War when tensions were high and the world was at a stand off, the choices made by the leaders of the superpower nations were of utmost importance. During the Cuban Missile Crisis John. F. Kennedy (JFK), President of the United States, was made aware that Russia had been shipping Nuclear Weapons to Cuba so that they were close enough to target the US. The Russians had no intention necessarily of using them, it was more a defense mechanism through fear, but the Cuban leader Fidel Castro was somewhat radical in his actions and there were fears he may use the weapons.
Kennedy's options were either to launch a series of air strikes on Cuba and destroy the mobile sites from which the weapons would be launced or to blockade Cuba and prevent the Russian ships delivering the parts required to launch the weapons of mass destruction. The US Government was split on the matter and they divided, many choosing the more agressive air strike tactic arguing that the weapons had to be destroyed whilst others stated that an act of aggression would only lead to an aggressive response and that the blockade was the only sensible decision to make. Luckily Kennedy chose the blockade (quarantine zone) and the US government later found out that had they sent in air strikes the Cubans had orders to respond by firing the weapons. Had they been fired the US atomic weapons would have responded and millions perhaps billions of lives would have been lost as the USA and USSR had truly begun an atomic war. From this we can see how important a single decision can be in international relations.
It is not just world leaders however that are always left with the hard decisions. Again during the Cuban Missile Crisis a Russian submarine without radio communications to Moscow saw the convoy of US ships heading towards the Russian port in Cuba. Unaware of the blockade plan as Moscow had not been able to inform them they assumed the US were attacking and the Captain prepared to launch the submarine's nuclear missiles at San Fransisco; whilst this may seem drastic we must understand that the Cold War was a time of great paranoia and in the Cuban Missile Crisis in particular the fate of the world hung in the balance over a few incredibly tense days in which President Kennedy once said 'I do not know if America shall see the sun rise tomorrow'. Four members of the submarine crew had keys required to unlock the nuclear missile launch programme and two others followed the Captain, prepared to launch them. It was just one sole Russian engineer who refused and prevented an atomic war. So you can see how important a single decision can be in the global theatre of international relations, in this case it literally could have meant the end of the world.