On the Brink of Doomsday

On the drizzly autumn Friday of November 11th, 1983, US President Ronald Reagan found no time for his customary Oval Office nap. Besides delivering a speech that morning to the American Legion in honor of Veterans Day, Reagan then filled the rest of his schedule taking part in a NATO nuclear war exercise under the designation Able Archer. The president found the subject matter fascinating but frightening; despite his firebrand speeches, he also hoped the Soviets understood they had nothing to fear from America. His hope was in vain.

In Moscow, General Secretary Yuri Andropov saw Reagan’s role in Able Archer, underscored by America’s recent invasion of Grenada and a worldwide security alert of US forces, as the cover for a nuclear first strike. Escorted that morning by his elite KGB troops along with chief of the General Staff Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov to the Politburo’s subterranean command bunker, with sadness and dread Andropov transmitted his directive, a desperate attempt to minimize the looming devastation his country faced.

Read the whole article at Mark Hackard’s Espionage History Archive.

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