Able Archer 83 – End of the World
1983, lets go back. It was the time of Sally Ride, Flashdance, and Michael Jackson’s Beat It. It was also the scene of a number of sensational international incidents that progressively cranked up the tensions between the East and the West to breaking point. In March Ronald Regan called the Soviets Union “the focus of evil in a modern world’ publicly then proposed Star Wars nuclear missile defense program. In September the Soviets downed Korean Airlines Flight 007.On October 25th more than 200 American Marines were killed in Beirut when their barracks was attacked. Less than a week later the US invaded Grenada, fighting Soviet proxy state Cuba over airstrips, medical students and nutmeg.
Then came Exercise Able Archer 83 on November 2, 1983. The exercise involved a few things that really creeped the Soviets out. It was designed to simulate a period of escalation leading to a nuclear exchange. When the exercise started the huge increase in NATO radio traffic, using a new code system that the Soviets ELINT people were unfamiliar with lit a lot of fires inside the Kremlin. This phase of the exercise mimicked what the Soviets knew of the actual upgrade from DEFCON 4 to DEFCON 3. When the NATO forces moved to a simulated DEFCON 2 on November 9th, the Soviets placed their own forces on actual alert, thinking this could be the real deal.
Luckily western observers noticed this and canceled the more provocative elements of the final exercise which was to include top leadership (Ronald Regan, etc) to disappear from public eye and go into a bunker. That last step may have led to a Soviet first strike and we would all be in a much more radioactive millennium.