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25 Years On - The Man Who Saved The World?

Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:17 pm

It's 25 years to the day since one Stanislav Petrov, an officer in the Soviet Military, prevented a likely full scale nuclear exchange between the superpowers.
He did so by using common sense, not robotically following procedure, not an easy call in the USSR.

Though how serious the potential was for such a catastrophe, has been questioned by some, considering the deep chill in relations back then, with the Soviet leadership mostly old, paranoid men, with Andropov himself very ill and effectively hospitalised for much of his brief leadership, the likelihood was that Petrov indeed did in reality, what countless movie/comic heroes/superheroes, from James Bond to Marvel comics, do in fantasy.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect to all this, was that at the time, no one in West had a real handle on just how various events in the autumn of 1983, including this one, was to accidentally starting a full scale nuclear exchange.
At least in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis was obvious to all.

The main background here;

Last year, a documentary on UK television, covered this whole period, including Petrov's incident.
Well in 8 parts, here it is;

(One chilling part, was how Soviet agents in the West searched for signs of the expected NATO attack, including lights on at night in places like the Ministry Of Defence building in London. Of course they were, how else could the office cleaners do their job!)

[Edited 2008-09-26 11:21:08]
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RE: 25 Years On - The Man Who Saved The World?

Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:29 pm

Scary stuff. There's been a number of close calls and in the early 80s there was probably the biggest cluster.

At the end of 1979, NORAD showed a huge Russian nuclear strike, leading to "absolute panic". They didn't use the "hotline" and it was only radar stations that showed there was no attack. They eventually realised it was a computer simulation.

In the early 80s (81?) Operation RYAN started and signified the change in Soviet thinking (or maybe you could say a reversion) that occured in the early 80s. The Soviets thought that Regan would launch a first strike, RYAN was a huge intelligence-gathering mission designed to understand the mechanism by which Regan would launch a first-strike.

In 1982 the US announced they were going to deploy PERSHING IIs in West Germany. These can be considered a first-strike weapon as they are mobile and difficult to locate/destroy prior to launch. In 1983 Regan announced Star Wars. Had it been deployed it would have (theoretically) protected the US from a strike, meaning the US could strike first without retaliation.

You had the PSYOPS flights, where US aircraft would fly straight towards Russia at high speeds, only to back off at the last minute. On September 1 1983 you had KAL007, which probably was caused in at least some way the paranoid created by the PSYOPS flights.

September 26 was the Petrov incident and we can consider ourselves very lucky the false alarm didn't occur during Able Archer.

Able Archer started on November 2 1983 and lasted for ten days. It simulated a conflict escalation and a coordinated nuclear attack. How gittery this made the Soviets is open for discussion, but there were other intelligence signs (lots of UK-US encrypted communication re. Grenada, use of active personnel, the fact RYAN hadn't picked up on it) that could have made the Soviets very paranoid indeed. Had the false warning occured on November 8, 9 or 10 and Petrov's superiors were informed of the warnings, who knows what the outcome would have been. Of course the doctrine of MAD meant that the Soviets had to launch on warning.

I wonder realistically how many times one person has prevented a nuclear war. During the Cuban Missile Crisis there are stories that a Soviet naval officer called Arkhipov prevented a Soviet sub at the blockade from launching a nuclear-tipped torpedo, which could have easily escalted into a full-blown war.
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RE: 25 Years On - The Man Who Saved The World?

Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:50 pm

This is the scene involving Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov's incident (November 5, 1983)

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RE: 25 Years On - The Man Who Saved The World?

Fri Sep 26, 2008 11:50 pm

Indeed B777236ER, RYAN is the centrepiece of the doc on You-Tube, as mentioned by the then Intel officer, now US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, the KGB for all it's massive network, had no real analytical capability.
RYAN being an example. It took no account of the likely thinking of NATO, behind the apparent 'facts'.

Pershing 2 appeared to the USSR as a first strike weapon, really of course it was an answer to the wide prior deployment if SS-20's.
(I remember at the time CND also citing the other part of NATO's answer to SS-20, the Ground Launched Cruise Missiles, as a 'first strike' weapon. Ignoring the fact this system took a long time to reach it's targets).

Though it was clear at the time that Cold War tensions were at a height, few if anyone in the West, really had a handle on just how spooked the decaying Soviet leadership was.
In the same period, the sudden upgrade, worldwide, of major US defence/government installations security, was seen by the USSR as yet another preparation for war, it was of course, caused by the loss of 240 US Marines in a suicide bombing in Beirut.

The serious anger in the UK, of the US invasion of the Commonwealth island of Grenada, without even informing Maggie Thatcher, caused the diplomatic lines across the pond to glow red, as she angrily made her displeasure known, was interpreted by the USSR as communications preparing for war with the Soviet Union.

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