Taylor Downing, Da Capo Press, 4/24/18
Recently, a declassified report lifted the veil on the events of a week in November 1983, the year KAL007 was shot down and America watched “The Day After”, when we had in fact, a very close brush with World Death. The Able Archer story is a timely and important reminder of the variety of things that can happen to drive a situation to the brink of nuclear disaster when there is posturing and provocation and no trust.
Excerpts from the Christian Science Monitor book review:
“Able Archer 83 was sparked by a routine NATO military exercise. But, as writer Taylor Downing documents in “1983: Reagan, Andropov and a World on the Brink”, a carefully-researched and absorbing book, it occurred when mistrust and suspicion between the superpowers was sky-high. Indeed, relations were so tense that Soviet political and military leadership believed the exercise was a ruse to enable NATO to launch a pre-emptive strike… The Soviets concluded that this was not an exercise but the real thing and put their own military on the highest readiness level. So fully armed fighter planes sat continuously idling on runways waiting for a signal to take off. Meanwhile, in Washington, nothing seemed amiss. Only much later did the United States realize that Soviet leaders had been petrified with fear. A top-secret US report concluded, “We may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger.” (source: CSM)
More on Able Archer: Slate’s cover story from April 2017:
The Week the World Almost Ended- In 1983, the U.S. simulated a nuclear war with Russia- and narrowly avoided starting a real one. We might not be so lucky next time..