On This Day — Able Archer 1983 : The Brink of Apocalypse (November 7-11, 1983)

“Information about the peculiar and remarkably skewed frame of mind of the Soviet leaders during those times that has emerged since the collapse of the Soviet Union makes me think there is a good chance—with all of the other events in 1983—that they really felt a NATO attack was at least possible and that they took a number of measures to enhance their military readiness short of mobilization. After going through the experience at the time, then through the post-mortems, and now through the documents, I don’t think the Soviets were crying wolf. They may not have believed a NATO attack was imminent in November 1983, but they did seem to believe that the situation was very dangerous. And US intelligence [SNIE 11–9-84 and SNIE 11–10–84] had failed to grasp the true extent of their anxiety.”

Robert Gates — CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence during Able Archer 83

Able Archer 83 is the codename for a command post exercise carried out in November 1983 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Coordinated from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Casteau, Belgium, it involved NATO forces throughout Western Europe. This exercise began on November 7, 1983. and ended on November 11, 1983. Today, many historians believe that the world almost came to a nuclear war on that week. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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As with Able Archer exercises from previous years, the purpose of the exercise was to simulate a period of conflict escalation, culminating in the US military attaining simulated DEFCON 1 coordinated nuclear attack.

The 1983 exercise introduced several new elements not seen in previous years, including a new, unique format of coded communication, radio silences, and the participation of heads of government.

This increase in realism, combined with deteriorating relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the anticipated arrival of Pershing II nuclear missiles in Europe, led some members of the Soviet Politburo and military to believe that Able Archer 83 was a ruse of war, obscuring preparations for a genuine nuclear first strike.

In response, the Soviets readied their nuclear forces and placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert. The apparent threat of nuclear war ended with the conclusion of the exercise on November 11.

Historians such as Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive, and Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College, have since argued that Able Archer 83 was one of the times when the world has come closest to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Other incidents that also brought the world close to such a war include the Soviet nuclear false alarm incident that occurred a month earlier. [Wikipedia]

Able Archer 1983 : The Brink of Apocalypse

REFERENCES

Able Archer 83 — Wikipedia

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On This Day — Able Archer 1983 : The Brink of Apocalypse (November 7-11, 1983)

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