The world came on the brink of a nuclear armageddon in 1983, but the incompetence of Western intelligence agencies saved the world, a recently declassified US government report has confirmed. It was the closest the world came to a full-blown nuclear war between two of the world’s most powerful countries since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Yes, it’s about the operation Able Archer 83.
Was Able Archer just a cover for an actual nuclear strike?
The Cold War sabre-rattling was at its peak. On November 2, 1983, NATO countries began a nuclear training exercise called Able Archer 83 in Europe. The report titled The Soviet War Scare says it took Western countries nearly seven years to realize how close that war game had brought them to a nuclear armageddon. As NATO’s nuclear war games began, the Soviet Union was convinced that Able Archer 83 was just a cover for an actual nuclear strike on Warsaw Pact countries.
In response, the Soviet military started moving nuclear weapons to launch sites in Europe. They had armed intercontinental nuclear missiles. The report says NATO countries had “inadvertently placed” their relations with the Soviet Union on a “hair trigger.” Every element within the Soviet military was fully prepared for nuclear war. Tensions between the two groups were at their peak. Just a few months earlier, a Soviet fighter jet had shot down a Korean Airlines passenger aircraft, killing 269 passengers.
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How the end of the civilization was averted
The Able Archer 83 was a large-scale nuclear exercise being conducted in Eastern Europe. Moscow was convinced that the US was preparing to launch a nuclear first strike. Soviet forces were prepared to pre-empt or counterattack a NATO strike. Any escalation would have seen hundreds of millions of people dead. Europe would have become uninhabitable by nuclear radiation.
So, what averted the potential nuclear armageddon? The Western intelligence agencies didn’t know that the Soviets were seriously scared and had put fingers on the nuclear missile triggers. One last tell-tale act by Washington would have triggered the armageddon. Since the Western intelligence agencies were “ill-informed,” NATO didn’t raise its “real” alert status in response to the Soviet Union’s heightened nuclear readiness. Doing so would have confirmed Moscow’s paranoia.
Due to lack of intelligence, Washington never changed its “DEFCON” status, giving Russia no reason to actually launch a nuclear strike.