Washington DC – It was recently revealed in declassified documents that US and NATO war games nearly sparked a nuclear war with the Soviet Union in 1988.
At the height of the cold war, the US military took part in a massive exercise in Europe called Able Archer that the Soviet Union interpreted as a possible warning sign of an attack. Luckily, the Soviet military decided to hold off on engaging with the western forces that were amassed in an unprecedented display just beyond their borders.
According to the recently declassified analysis by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which was published under secrecy on February 15, 1990, “In 1983 we may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger.”
The report indicated that the Able Archer exercise was “unparalleled in scale,” and that a variety of different factors at the time “strongly suggests to us that Soviet military leaders may have been seriously concerned that the U.S. would use Able Archer 83 as a cover for launching a real attack” and that “some Soviet forces were preparing to pre-empt or counterattack a NATO strike launched under cover of Able Archer.”
“This situation could have been extremely dangerous if during the exercise — perhaps through a series of ill-timed coincidences or because of faulty intelligence — the Soviets had misperceived U.S. actions as preparations for a real attack,” the report continued.
According to the New York Times, while Able Archer was in progress, Soviet military transports were carrying nuclear weapons nearby, a fact that was either unknown or ignored by US and NATO military officials.
According to the recently declassified documents, the Russians apparently became convinced that this NATO nuclear training exercise was a cover for an actual nuclear strike against the Warsaw Pact nations.
This was the closest to a nuclear war the two superpowers had gotten since the Cuban missile crisis two decades earlier.
The whole situation was known by some, but was never declassified and officially admitted by the government until recently. over 11 years ago, the National Security Archive at George Washington University asked that documents relating to the operation be declassified, and it took until now for that to finally happen.
Thomas S. Blanton, director of the archive, said that “This new report is the first all-source assessment, as of 1990, and should clinch the debate: This is hugely important. This war scare was real. Turns out, 1983 is a classic, like the Cuban missile crisis, where neither superpower intended to go nuclear, but the risk of inadvertence, miscalculation, misperception were just really high. Cuba led J.F.K. to the test ban. Nineteen eighty-three led Reagan to Reykjavik and almost to abolition.”
The world has gotten dangerously close to an all-out nuclear war on various different occasions, likely many more than we know, and sadly, the threat is still with us today. Any potential military action between two nuclear powers could quickly turn into a nuclear war, which would obviously have devastating consequences.
John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website www.JohnVibes.com.