Russians Reportedly Almost
Launched Nuclear Retaliation
In 1995
From Discovery News Briefs
In 1995, the world was only minutes away from a retaliatory missile launch by Moscow, a launch that would have been made in error, according to a television documentary.
For the first time ever, President Boris Yeltsin activated his process for a retaliatory attack against the West when Russian early-warning stations picked up what they thought was an approaching American Trident ballistic missile, The London Times reports.
Ballistic missiles are generally used to deliver different kinds of warheads, ranging from convention or nuclear bombs to biological weapons.
A Moscow news agency at the time announced that Russia had shot down an incoming missile launched from northern Europe. It turned out to be a Norwegian weather research rocket. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been forewarned by the Norwegian authorities six weeks earlier, but the information was not passed on to the appropriate military commanders.
But in a reconstruction of the incident, including interviews with key Russian military officials, Britain's Channel 4 Equinox program has discovered how close the world was to a ballistic missile launch by Moscow, the Times reports.
After the approaching missile was spotted, Moscow began a ten-minute countdown in the belief that an American Trident submarine in the Norwegian Sea or Barents Sea had launched a missile.
At six minutes to impact, the Russians switched on a special communications circuit which connected military headquarters with silo-based missiles, and missile-carrying trains and submarines. At five minutes to impact, Yeltsin would have had to make a decision about transmitting "unblocking codes" to make a launch possible.
Colonel Robert Bykov, a former commander of a mobile missile regiment, part of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, reveals in the program that orders were given to Russian ballistic missile submarines to go on battle stations.
Bruce Blair, a former American nuclear forces commander, says: "The military actually issued orders to the Strategic Rocket Forces to prepare to receive the next command, which would have been the launch order."
The launch of the Norwegian Black Brent XXII rocket ended "successfully" when it crashed into the Arctic ocean more than 600 miles from Russian territory. It was part of a joint Norwegian-American project investigating the Northern Lights.
Moscow abandoned the countdown when it realized the missile's trajectory was not on its territory.

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