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Now it can be told: America and the Soviets very nearly had a nuclear war 30 years ago!

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Ordinarily, I like to know what’s going on in the world. But I’m glad I didn’t know about THIS:

During 10 days in November 1983, the United States and the Soviet Union nearly started a nuclear war. Newly declassified documents from the CIA, NSA, KGB, and senior officials in both countries reveal just how close we came to mutually assured destruction — over a military exercise.

That exercise, Able Archer 83, simulated the transition by NATO from a conventional war to a nuclear war, culminating in the simulated release of warheads against the Soviet Union. NATO changed its readiness condition during Able Archer to DEFCON 1, the highest level. The Soviets interpreted the simulation as a ruse to conceal a first strike and readied their nukes. At this period in history, and especially during the exercise, a single false alarm or miscalculation could have brought Armageddon.

According to a diplomatic memo obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by National Security Archives researcher Nate Jones, Soviet General Secretary Yuri Adroprov warned U.S. ambassador Averell Harriman six months before the crisis that both countries “may be moving toward a red line” in which a miscalculation could spark a nuclear war. Harriman later wrote that he believed Andropov was concerned “over the state of U.S.-Soviet relations and his desire to see them at least ‘normalized,’ if not improved.”

(Snip)

the scrambling for any scrap of intelligence — whether good or bad — reflected a feverish belief among some quarters that war was just around the corner. “[T]he Reagan administration marked the height of the Cold War,” notes one declassified history published by the National Security Agency. “The president referred to the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire, and was determined to spend it into the ground. The Politburo reciprocated, and the rhetoric on both sides, especially during the first Reagan administration, drove the hysteria. Some called it the Second Cold War. The period 1982-1984 marked the most dangerous Soviet-American confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Worse, there were “a lot of crazy people” in the Kremlin and Soviet military command, according to Vitalii Tsygichko, an analyst for the Soviet General Staff who was interviewed by the Pentagon. “I know many military people who look like normal people, but it was difficult to explain to them that waging nuclear war was not feasible. We had a lot of arguments in this respect. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there are a lot of stupid people both in NATO and our country.”

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