Able Archer 83 And Armageddon

3 Jun

men of 1983: Reagan and AndropovEven scarier than the documents that still might be classified is the information revealed in documents the National Security Archive does allow the world to read.

According to a declassified National Security Agency history, American Cryptology During the Cold War, the “period 1982-1984 marked the most dangerous Soviet-American confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” The secret history recounts that “Cold War hysteria reached its peak” in the autumn of 1983 with a NATO nuclear-release exercise named Able Archer 83, which — according to a CIA Special National Intelligence Estimate – caused “Soviet air units in Germany and Poland [to assume] high alert status with readying of nuclear strike forces.”

Despite the ramifications of this possible nuclear miscalculation, the history of the Able Archer 83 war scare has remained largely unavailable to the public. This dearth of primary sources has even led critics — with some justification — to describe the study of the war scare as “an echo chamber of inadequate research and misguided analysis” and “circle reference dependency,” with an overreliance upon “the same scanty evidence.”

In an attempt to fill this “echo chamber,” the National Security Archive has begunposting, in three parts, the largest collection of documents about the incident available on the web. These documents come from Freedom of Information Act releases by the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State, research findings from American archives, as well as formerly classified Soviet Politburo and KGB files, interviews with ex-Soviet generals, and records from other former communist states.

The North Korean reaction to this spring’s ROK-US exercises might still be fresh in our memories, and perhaps all that blather and bluster has made us all cynical. Still, what worries me more than even Armageddon by FUBAR is the fact, that the average person in 1983 didn’t even know the exact dates Able Archer 83 went down.

What other gems await us in 25 years? Nate Jones doesn’t hold out much hope, seeing that invisible ink is still classified from WW1. Active resistance to the president’s direct order doesn’t help the declassification process. We live in interesting times – we just don’t realize how scary they might be.

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