A recently declassified document has revealed that in 1983, the United States and Russia were almost plunged into nuclear war and here's the real kicker: It would have been completely by accident.
The New York Times has, for the first time, shed light on these documents which reveal that in '83 NATO was planning a massive nuclear-based military exercise.
Unfortunately for the world, the USSR didn't get that memo and so when it saw that most of the western world's military were moving into high-alert it assumed that the training exercise was actually a cover for a genuine attack.
It is thought that the exercise could have, at some stages, brought the two countries closer to war than even the famous Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
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Codenamed Able Archer, the NYT reveals in its exposé of the training exercise that many NATO commanders were seemingly oblivious to the knife edge that they were creating.
Then US President Ronald Reagan rather eloquently described the situation as 'Really scary' after reading the briefing documents that summarised how perilously close the situation had become.
The document was finally declassified earlier this month, some 11-years after the request had been made by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
This heavily redacted document sheds light on the Able Archer fiasco.
Speaking to the NYT about the significance of the event archive director Thomas S. Blanton said: “Turns out, 1983 is a classic, like the Cuban missile crisis, where neither superpower intended to go nuclear, but the risk of inadvertence, miscalculation, misperception were just really high. Cuba led J.F.K. to the test ban. Nineteen eighty-three led Reagan to Reykjavik and almost to abolition.”
What might be the most terrifying piece of news is that before and during the exercise, the Soviets weren't just using human judgement but were inputting some 40,000 scenarios into a supercomputer in an effort to try and assess how likely a nuclear strike actually was.
Ironically it was the then leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev who summed up the severity of the situation later in 1986:
“Never, perhaps, in the postwar decades has the situation in the world been as explosive and, hence, more difficult and unfavorable as in the first half of the 1980’s.”