Russian Roulette — An Introduction

Welcome to this first article for an upcoming new section, Trail Blazer, magazine-length features on a variety of topics. Joe Bruns introduces his piece here. Read the entire article and add your comments at Russian Roulette. Are you ready to be a Trail Mix Contributor? Write to — Craig”

cloudBy Joe Bruns — Twice during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet union came dangerously close to nuclear war. The first time was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The second time, lesser known, was thirty-years ago, in late 1983. Some analysts think it was a more dangerous period than 1962.

But as American families in November, 1983 prepared to watch a new holiday comedy, A Christmas Story, about the dangers of a Red Rider BB Gun, much more dangerous weapons were being loaded and nuclear launch keys encoded.  A series of events culminating in a NATO nuclear war exercise Able Archer 83  led to a crisis sufficiently grave for President Ronald Reagan to be ‘stunned,’ and for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to warn her friend to tone down his rhetoric and to work to ease tensions.

The Major Actors were:

  • Richard Nixon and Soviet General Brezhnev, Cold War antagonists who bridged their differences to sign the ABM Treaty;
  • President Jimmy Carter, who moved after the Iranian Revolution and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to pronounce The Carter Doctrine;
  • Ronald Reagan, who wanted America to stand tall again on her principles, and spooked the Soviets;
  • Yuri Andropov, the ailing Soviet General Secretary. Ambassador to Hungary during the 1956 uprising, he had no use for dissidents;
  • Averell Harriman, Served as diplomatic advisor to four Presidents, including Reagan. Brought back a warning in 1982 from Andropov that the Soviet Union was alarmed with the state of relations between the two countries.
  • Stanislas Petrov, a Lt Col in the Soviet Air Defense command, in 1983 made the judgement call that a Soviet spy satellite system had malfunctioned in issuing a warning that Americans had launched ICBMs at the USSR;
  • Oleg Gordievsky, a Soviet KGB agent who was secretly aiding British Intelligence. Gordievsky warned the British how close the West had come to nuclear war.
  • Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady Prime Minister of Great Britian, was shocked to learn from British intelligence about the crisis of November, 1983, and counseled her friend and counterpart, President Reagan that tensions had to be eased;
  • Mikhail Gorbachev, the last General Secretary of the Soviet Union. Worked with Reagan and the West during the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Read the full version of this report
at Russian Roulette

The Timeline:

  • 1972 Salt (I) talks between Nixon and Brezhnev lead to ABM Treaty and offensive warhead interim agreement.
  • June 1979 Salt II leads to limitations on strategic weapons (Not Ratified by U.S. Senate)
  • November 4, 1979 Iranian Students storm the US Embassy in Tehran taking American diplomats hostage and effectively ending Jimmy Carter’s Presidency.
  • December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan for the purpose of putting down Mujahideen uprising and installing a puppet regime.
  • January 1980, President Carter announces The Carter Doctrine, designating the Persian Gulf as an American vital interests.
  • January 1981, Ronald Reagan takes office, the American hostages are released. Reagan pledges a new era of American supremacy.
  • May, 1981, Soviet intelligence initiates Operation Ryan to look intensively for indicators of an American first nuclear strike on the USSR1982- Reagan begins build up of American military forces and increased global military exercises. Renovation of the Voice of America and increase emphasis on public diplomacy confronting the Soviets on human rights and military interventions. Roll-back of Communism replaces containment.
  • May 21, 1983, National Andrei Sakharov Day in the United States, celebrating the dissident physicist and jabbing the USSR on human rights.
  • April 4, 1983, American naval fighter-bombers simulate a bombing run over Soviet island in the Pacific.
  • September 1, 1983, Soviets shoot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, killing all 269 on board.
  • September 26, 1983, a Soviet spy satellite indicates that the United States has launched up to five ICBMs against the USSR.
  • November 4, 1983, NATO War Exercise Able Archer 83 commences with a scenario involving a Soviet land invasion on multiple fronts against Western allies. Soviets perceive this as potential cover for an actual first-strike attack.
  • November 11, Able Archer winds down after testing Command and Control response to simulated attack and culminating in multiple nuclear attacks against Soviet targets. The Soviet Union places its strategic forces on highest level of alert, prepared to launch.

Joe Bruns

Joe Bruns

Joe Bruns is a Trail Mix Contributor.
Read his entire narrative and comment on this topic at Russian Roulette.

77 thoughts on “Russian Roulette — An Introduction

  1. well, done, joe. very impressive piece of work.
    thanks for the memories of past nightmares…. I think

    re-posted on trail blazer, our new emag, which no doubt will become the “national politigraphic” of our time or maybe “reader’s digestive”?
    and many thanks to our gracious host ever tinkering and always taking us to “Where no man has gone before”

  2. altho I like the name trail blazer, keep pondering what kind of tie goes with it… heels or tennies?
    the suggested national politigraphic and reader’s digestive are not to be considered serious contenders. just throwing them out to lure outrageous and more clever titles from our wittier trail mixers.

  3. It’s good revisit events when more of the circumstances are known.

    Looks like Margaret was the smarter of the two
    What do history books say of this event

  4. Navy blazer, khakis, boat shoes, no socks, white blue or striped shirt, tie optional. :cool:

    So with the rollout redux going better, what’s the buzz?

    Joe, -- “Today this sounds like a Cold War movie plot or a paperback best-seller.” It’s classic Tom Clancey.

  5. BTW, if you haven’t clicked on the links above to read Joe’s complete article, you should do that and leave a comment.

  6. Things are going better with
    now the goops are back on the idea that the government is controlling your access to health care.

    The asshat posing as a senator from Texas --not that one the other one Cornyn called Obama a liar. Has he met any other goopers — Republicans have lying as part of their party platform. Who can forget Mr Lyle — my statements weren’t meant to be factual

    Cornyn and Bob Corker are posers — pretending to be reasonable voices when they are asshole bombthrowers who are racist, fighters in the war against women and of course think anyone who is not white, Christian and heterosexual should live elsewhere

  7. Katherine, a matter of personal privilege. It was MY asshole who was the first critter to publicly call the President a liar. He is, of course, the Honourable Joe ‘You Lie’ Wilson, (R-SC).

  8. No problem Flatus

    Republicans always practice the big lie technique

    the real problems come when they start believing their own crappy lies

    And I see The Koch-heads plan for Detroit is going through — the only people left and trying to survive are about to get screwed again

    You had to live in Detroit to be a city employee rendering your home worthless
    and now they are going to cut your pension

    Congratulations The Koch Brothers win again
    but everyone else loses

  9. Today is giving Tuesday…
    practice random acts of kindness and they don’t have to be limited to today

  10. CJ
    Congrats on the second grandchild. Now you’ve 2 to spoil.
    What a busy retirement.


  11. KGC
    I’ve always been a giver of random acts of kindness.
    BTW, I must be looking old as more and more I find myself being the recipient of them. That takes some getting used to.


  12. Jack, a lady came over this morning with a tree in the trunk of her car. It had been in her back yard until she had it cut down. It was cut in fireplace sized pieces and included kindling. She insisted on carrying it down to the wood rack. But then, she’s only in her early 60s. She checks up on me often. She was one of my guests at Thanksgiving dinner.

  13. I must be looking old as more and more I find myself being the recipient of them.

    Whiskey Jack

    I know that feeling.

  14. On February 27, 2012 stock in the Psychic Friends Network opened at $2/share.

    Today it closed at 5 1/2 Cents.

    The psychics must have sold out early.

  15. Very few people know and understand the significance of the Soviets shooting down Korean Flight 007. There are many “suggestions” about why. What ever story you read, a Boeing 747 is hard to confuse with a B-1 or B-2 or B-52.

    What it meant was a major US move, the sainted Reagan was always ready to declare simplistic in the face of complex. Hopefully all his blunders and idiocy will some day be revealed.

  16. Craig,

    Great idea. Thanks as always for your time,
    effort and devotion to the ‘trail’


    Great read, I enjoyed it a lot. Lots of detail, well put together. Well done. Thank you.

  17. If most of our subjects and attitudes weren’t so permanently grouchy, we could go with Happy Trails.

    For bloviators: Trail Winds.
    Vermont residents by moonlight: Ski Trails.
    Arguing high flyers: Contrails.
    Music lovers of Ferde Grofe: On The Trail

    Somebody stop me before I injure myself.

  18. Excellent article on the Russian Roulette encounter by various powers. It would seem that there may be a growing version of history repeating itself in the Ukraine. Will it turn east or west? Will Putin strong arm the country with his chosen but failed head of Ukrainian government? Will the police and citizen confrontation continue? Will Merkle & Germany pull forcibly for the European Union? What part if any will the UK and US play in the conflict?

    Orange Revolution Redux

  19. Jamie,

    For the more devious among us we could call it the ‘Appalachian Trail’

    Oh God, did I really say that? :|

  20. In a rare moment of clear thinking, Columbia city voters, in a single issue referendum, rejected a strong mayor form of government for SC’s largest city.

    I was not eligible to vote as I live in an unincorporated area.

  21. Flatus,
    beware of kind ladies with kindling

    and remember that a single man of your age is a rare and beautiful thing

    love trail winds but contrails really says it.

  22. from bbc

    A truck carrying medical radioactive material has been stolen in Mexico, the UN’s nuclear watchdog says.

    Mexico told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the truck was carrying a “dangerous radioactive source” used for cancer treatments when it was stolen on Monday.

    wouldn’t be surprised if neo-cons accuse iran.

  23. Given mexico’s stringent and pungent security apparatus it’s almost mind boggling that someone there could steal something.

  24. Speaking of liars
    Karl Rove --from Bush’s Brain to Bush being Rove’s Brain — was on my tv lying his fat ass off about what are the goals of obamacare

    Let’s speculate on why is wife divorced him

  25. PatD, it’s nice being a gentleman; one who has openly declared his intention to avoid ‘entangling’ relationships.

    Renee, on the front page of today’s Journal, below the fold, is an article by Rachel Dodes: “Arm-in Arm, Millenials March Into the Future of Knitting”

    I’m sure you will be shocked. :shock:

  26. I had a pretty decent fair this past weekend. Now I’m scrambling to get all the stuff done that I put off until after the fair.

    CJoe… really good article… I only read what’s posted here. Will read the rest later.

    Flatus… I don’t get the journal. I knit a little bit. I do know that younger people are really into it and are reinventing the old patterns. Good for them!

    At the moment, I’ve stopped watching any cable news. I’m sick of Obamacare this… Obamacare that. IMO, it will probably take a couple of years to shake things out. But hey… Americans don’t do patience very well.

  27. blue bronc,

    Could not have been a B-2 as that aircraft wasn’t delivered to the USAF until 1993. The B-1 was around then but the Russians were very familiar with the radar echo produced by the B-52 going back to their days of service in Viet Nam. The B-52 comes the closest in size and speed, but again the Russian have plenty of data on B-52. I still believe the Russians knew it was an commercial airlines and shot it down anyways.

  28. I’m kinda with sturge
    A truck got stolen in Mexico, WOW! that ‘s news.
    No doubt Obama’s fault.


  29. OMG liars and hypocrites -- in an interview this morning about releasing the 911 tapes from Newtown AssleyBanshee said CNN would review the tapes and only release what is appropriate…not ever mentioning that CNN was a party to the lawsuit to get the tapes released…so sensitive. And CNN will censor what we get to hear.

    There is no reason to play the tapes. Except if you aspire to have the same reputation as Rita Cosby

    Chris Cumo has turned out to be quite the maroon. He thinks he is quite the font of knowledge when it turns out he is a bottomless pit of of ignorance

  30. RebelliousRenee,

    “Americans don’t do patience very well: Very true specially if the believe the truth was know, and it was distorted for political gain.

    The premiums aren’t the problem so much as the deductibles. Until you meet that yearly deductible the insurance company pay zero.

    There is also another factor which doesn’t receive much coverage. If you take the Bronze plan your monthly premiums are very reasonable, but your annual deductibles are very high. If on the other hand you take the Platinum plan your monthly premiums are very high, but your annual deductibles are very low. I guess the real question is for those who need to find health insurance coverage, how is your health now and what is your family’s health history.

    The math is simple and it comes from a pro ACA group.

  31. No wonder people who are Republicans appear stupid

    their media betrays them by painting such a false picture of what is going on

    Today morning load announced there were no problems with the roll out of the part D medicare drug program.. It just means he was probably on drugs during this time period and has no accurate memories or just more Republican nonsense

  32. Dick Cheney to daughter Mary I love Liz better

    Get back in the family closet
    why did you marry that trouble maker

  33. CNN still trying to pretend they had nothing to do with the release of the tapes

  34. Bought gas on the way home from work.

    Paid $2.94 a gallon.

    Surely this is all Obama’s fault. ;-)

  35. The AP is just now reporting Mexican officials have found the truck which was hauling extremely dangerous radioactive material. One small problem, it was found EMPTY!

  36. Book of the week: A SINGLE STAR which is a tale of a trainload of sensitive fissionable type material being shipped by train thru SC on the sly…….pretty good book.

    He kind of also throws in what it might be like if SC seceded from the union a second time.

  37. Everything has been found

    Either the world’s dumbest or unluckiest thieves or both

  38. Howie Kurtz (Faux news media critic (sic) and Gooper trophy husband (sic) wet himself announcing that Martin Bashir has been fired

  39. What ? no dirty bombs crossing the border?
    But, but but………….

    I want my disaster porn! and I want it now!


  40. KGC

    Thanks for the CNN updates
    Just remember it could be worse. It could be me watching CNN. (shudder)


  41. It was 65 yesterday, it will be 25 tomorrow and that is going to be the high for the week.

    I’m gonna buy me a bottle of rum and start sing Jimmy buffet songs. Just pretend the weather doesn’t exist.


  42. Just wait Jack…something horrible is just around the corner

    I wonder what Ted Turner really thinks when he watches CNN. It really has become a station of bottom feeders. Tonight Pursed Lips Morgan is asking all his guests including parents of children killed at Sandy Hook school — “Don’t you think Obama has let you down. He promised you and nothing Aren’t you mad at him?”

  43. It was 20 here this morning…and we live in a house that is not really insulated. But we do have three dogs and some good movies to watch. The cold spell is supposed to last a few days… we may have to spend the entire time in bed

  44. Ya know if people just better drugs they could handle all this crap. What we see is what happens when caffeine and other uppers are the drug of choice.
    The wife and I were discussing our retirement here in a few years. So far they aren’t proposing drug test to get social security. Maybe we will get a grow room working. It has been 30 yrs for both of us but we both swear we grew the best. Maybe we can see who rely had the best green thumb.

  45. I want my disaster porn! and I want it now!

    not to worry. be here before you know it…. ‘specially if the oldtimer’s bug has already bitten.

    from bbc

    The number of people living with dementia worldwide is set to treble by 2050, according to a new analysis.

    Alzheimer’s Disease International says 44 million people live with the disease, but that figure will increase to 135 million by 2050.
    “It’s a global epidemic and it is only getting worse -- if we look into the future the numbers of elderly people will rise dramatically.”

    Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Dementia is fast becoming the biggest health and social care challenge of this generation.

  46. The Social Security Administration stopped sending out paper statements a couple of years ago.

    Now if you want to see your projected benefits you have to go on their website.

    The first time I went on the site it said that they did not have me in their system.

    A government web site that didn’t work first time every time!!

    Where was the outrage? :twisted:

  47. I do not understand why the goopers think someone should be fired

    they didn’t seem to have a problem with any of the people involved in the Iraq war…and a few them should actually be going to jail


    We may have to get some more dogs…it is frickin’ freezing here.

  48. Movingon,

    Well, he got the “America’s resident dunce” and a “world-class idiot” part right -- maybe he should have stayed away from suggestion someone crap in her mouth, but the rest was spot on. Maybe he should have just called her a whore -- that kind of language didn’t seem to kill Rush’s career.

    At least in WV the bronze, silver, gold platinum levels refer to %age of service covered (from 60-90%), with a couple of different deductible levels to choose from at each “metal” level. The metal level, combined with the deductible chosen, affects max out of pocket. It does not differ at all from what the sole provider in the exchange offers now in the market outside the exchange.

    And could we please get the story about the truck being found right?

    “A truck carrying “extremely dangerous” radioactive material was found Wednesday close to the place where it was stolen in Mexico, authorities said. The cargo was found about half a mile from the container.”

    “At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded,” the IAEA said in a statement. “However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged.”
    The thieves likely opened the container not knowing what it was carrying and burned themselves, Juan Eibenschutz, general director of Mexico’s National Commission of Nuclear Security and Safeguards, told NBC News. The thieves are likely either dead or dying following the incident, Eibenschutz added.

    “Not quite the doomsday scenario the RW press has been trying to make this.”

  49. whskyjack,

    Jack, one of my favorite J Buffet songs. If we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane. Have the album in a box somewhere. Thanks.

  50. Movingon:
    Looks like Martin Bashir might have crapped all over his career.

    I heard the complete remark about Ms Palin being a candidate for a slave-owner’s punishment live. In its context I was not shocked; it reflected Bashir’s passion and dedication.

    I wouldn’t have asked for his resignation--it reflects poorly on NBC.

  51. CNN is the only news (really sic) outlet that repeatedly ran the 911 tapes from Newtown

    And the only ones to pretend they had nothing to do with the tapes being released and all the fake empathy for the people of Newtown ugh
    CNN worse than the Enquirer

  52. NBC news last night had one reporter who had listened to the tapes report on them. She did so with incredible sensitivity and complete believability. Once again, I was humbled by the bravery of the staff members who set the brave example for their children.

  53. Wolfe Blitzer proves once again he only cares about asking gotcha questions and no regard for facts

  54. patd,


    I’m curious whether this is a result of age, lifestyle, or pollution (combination?) rather than just better reporting or observation. Purely anecdotal, but I don’t remember all that many elderly suffering from dementia and virtually none with early onset.

    In my own family, the grandmother and aunts were sharp as tacks until death in late 80s other than the usual short term lapses normal to aging. The two oldest aunts were still driving at 89 though they took the precaution sticking to surface streets and familiar routes.

  55. One shouldn’t speak with a mouth full of crap; even Demosthenes restricted himself to pebbles.

  56. I also heard Martin Bashir’s comments re: S. Palin in context. Like you, Flatus, I believe asking for his resignation reflects poorly on NBC. We live in a strange world….

  57. Jamie,

    This we are now a nation of chubbies — it could be because having a fat ass apparently also gives you a pea brain

  58. California’s Republican legislators put up a fake california insurance exchange site

    and yet no national news coverage

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