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Author Topic: The single most dangerous incident of the early 1980s  (Read 2655 times)
Mad_Russian
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« on: 7 June 2012, 22:51:46 »
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The false nuclear attack warning involving Stanislav Petrov, however, is cited by CIA analyst Peter Pry as "the single most dangerous incident of the early 1980s."


On September 26, 1983 Stanislav Petrov was the duty officer at the command center for the Oko nuclear early warning system when the system reported a small launch from the United States. Petrov judged that the report was a false alarm. This decision may have prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its Western allies. Investigation later confirmed that the satellite warning system had malfunctioned.

There are questions over the part Petrov's decision played in preventing nuclear war, because, according to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation, nuclear retaliation is based on multiple sources that confirm an actual attack. The incident, however, exposed a flaw in the Soviet early warning system. Petrov asserts that he was neither rewarded nor punished for his actions.

Had Petrov reported incoming American missiles, his superiors might have launched an assault against the United States, precipitating a corresponding nuclear response from the United States. Petrov declared the system's indications a false alarm. Later, it was apparent that he was right: no missiles were approaching and the computer detection system was malfunctioning. It was subsequently determined that the false alarms had been created by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the satellites' Molniya orbits, an error later corrected by cross-referencing a geostationary satellite.

Petrov later indicated the influences in this decision included: that he was informed a U.S. strike would be all-out, so five missiles seemed an illogical start; that the launch detection system was new and, in his view, not yet wholly trustworthy; and that ground radars failed to pick up corroborative evidence, even after minutes of delay.

Petrov underwent intense questioning by his superiors about his actions. Initially, he was praised for his decision. Gen. Yury Votintsev, then commander of the Soviet Air Defense's Missile Defense Units, who was the first to hear Petrov's report of the incident (and the first to reveal it to the public in the 1990s), states that Petrov's "correct actions" were "duly noted". Petrov himself states he was initially praised by Votintsev and was promised a reward, but recalls that he was also reprimanded for improper filing of paperwork with the pretext he had not described the incident in the military diary.

He received no reward. According to Petrov, this was because the incident and other bugs that were found in the missile detection system embarrassed his superiors and the influential scientists who were responsible for the system, so that if he had been officially rewarded, they would have had to be punished. He was reassigned to a less sensitive post, took early retirement (although he emphasizes that he was not "forced out" of the army, as the case is presented by some Western sources), and suffered a nervous breakdown.

The incident involving Petrov became known publicly in the 1990s following the publication of Gen. Votintsev's memoirs. Widespread media reports since then have increased public awareness of Petrov's actions.


PRIMARY SOURCES:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislav_Petrov


Good Hunting.

MR
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