tv NATO Exercise Able Archer 83 CSPAN February 12, 2017 4:55pm-6:01pm EST
museum mean to you personally? rep. moore: the african-american museum means so much to me. as i wear this jewelry, as i -- i am so proud of the future. >> thank you very much. rep. moore: thank you. announcer: next on american history tv, nate jones, director of the national security archives freedom of information act project talks about his new book, "able archer 83." the secret history of the nato exercise that almost triggered nuclear warns. mr. jones explores ronald reagan's thoughts on nuclear energy and jones also discusses
the process of declassifying the government materials that were the basis of his book. this hour-long event is hosted by the national archives in washington, dc. washingtonid that in the first place people look in a newly published book is the index to see if they are mentioned. at the library of congress and other research institutions we look at acknowledgment pages and the bibliography, also. looking for ourselves. if you look at the acknowledgment at the able archer book, you will see different offices. a large portion of the documents upon which the author based his story came from the ronald reagan and george bush library
-- presidential libraries and other archive holdings. i am very proud of all of our staff, some of whom are in the audience today. and it is gratifying to see others appreciate the work we do whether it is helping people navigate through our holdings or as nate noted, breaking a declassification log jam to release a critical document. we help researchers uncover the stories of our past and those stories, like today's story of able archer remind us that history is not just what happened 100 or more years ago, as more and more records are processed and declassified we learn more about the past, even events that happened in our own lifetime. now it is time to have our featured speaker cup to the stage. nate is the director of the freedom of national information archive at for the george washington university. he oversees thousands of
requests and appeals each year and is a two-term member of the advisees -- advisory committee that will be meeting here tomorrow. he is also the editor of the log unredirected, about classified documents in policy. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome nate jones. [applause] mr. jones: thank you very much. it is really great to be here at the national archives where i have spent a lot of time researching, but also working on freedom of information and declassification policy. i was here for the first time on this stage about eight years ago talking about declassification. there is a funny story i would like to tell.
nara and the national declassification center were just ramping up and one of the first projects was the the declassification of the pentagon papers which had publicly already been leaked and were widely available to the public. i was young, it was eight years ago. at the time, the archivist had made the joke that there were just 11 words remaining classified. and i was a bit taken aback and i came on the stage and publicly -- on the stage and pompously said, i could solve that mad-lib, i will just go to my public library and compare the missing words. that got some laughs. the nara people were not happy. it may havely worked because through foia, the -- and archivist at the next library, these documents were released very quickly. they sent any mail to superiors.
we found there is in fact another edition, and we should probably release them before someone at the national security archives goes around and parades them around like a politician on so that was my first experience, and they declassify the papers officially and went on and on and on, and declassified hundreds of millions of more pages and keep doing it. we will talk more about classification later on. there -- theirst indexing on demand should be a model for all industries. declassification and foia is great tremendous progress over , the past eight years getting the secrets out. so with that thank you let's , talk about able archer 83. what was able archer 83?
according to the nsa, not the national security archive where i work, the real nsa. this is one of the best declassified reads i've read. they call the years 1982-1984 quote "the most dangerous confrontation since the cable missile crisis." able archer 83 was the crux of this. it was a nato nuclear release exercise that caused unprecedented military actions in the soviet union and and may have put our nuclear relations with the soviet union on a hair trigger with them according to a u.s. analysis. in other words, one of the two most dangerous moments of the cold war is largely unknown to the public. in my book, i argued that able archer 83 brought the world
unacceptably closer to nuclear war, but it had a key affect on our foreign policy and its danger helped reagan decide and lead us to the end of the cold war. speaking of president reagan, here is one of his famous notecards. you may know that he always had notecards in the meetings prepared by his staff. he used them and use them well. this is a great document from the reagan presidential library. going back to able archer 83, others have downplayed the danger or said it is simply not even worth studying. one cia analyst wrote at the time, there is no real danger and wrote afterwards that the cia's analysis of the war since
-- scare was the agency had so many military books it could judge confidently when it might be building up to a real military confrontation or just banging pots and pans. the response to able archer 83 , the cia concluded, was just hot rattling -- pot rattling. but another agent, who will be here tomorrow night, disagreed. robert gates, who was deputy director for intelligence. he wrote "after going through the experience at the time, then through the postmortem and now , through the documents, i do not think the soviets were crying wolf. they may not have thought the nato attack was imminent but they did seem to believe the situation was very dangerous." rattling pots and pans, crying wolf, the advisor to the soviet union in 1984, do you think the soviet leader really care us or
-- really fear us or is all of the huffing and puffing part of their propaganda? that is what ronald reagan identified as the key question i think he answered it for himself. i will talk about that later on. i studied this and as we talked about today, i think this is what we need to keep in mind. were the soviets really scared or were they bluffing? so, to answer this question, what is a historian to do? when i first started researching this, there was quite a bit of criticism about able archer 83. some describe the research as an echo chamber of inadequate research and misguided analysis. overreliance upon sketchy evidence. now, i think they were talking about some of my early work at the time and also they had a
good point. if you were to read a history, one of the best histories of the cold war, if you go to able archer, you will see a note that says it marked the second most dangerous point of the time of the cuban missile crisis, but if you followed the footnotes it would go to one or two memoirs, perhaps the gates quote i just read, and leave it at that. no primary source evidence. what is a historian to do? get to the archives get to the , presidential libraries. get to the cold war international history project. get documents from our nato adversaries and allies. use the freedom of information act use the mandatory , declassification review. turn the ice cap. rate the logjam. share the filings. this is what my book tries to do. it is a narrative and analysis of able archer 83 but also includes the very best primary sources for people to read said
-- so they can make their own decisions and conclusions about the danger. so, let us set the scene. data from thethe atomic scientists put together kindly by wikipedia about the doomsday clock which is an , estimation of how dangerous the world is coming to nuclear war, or now, environmental catastrophe. there, in 1983 and 1984, it was dangerous. some have called this the second cold war. others have called it the era of renewed confrontation. it was described as the most explosive, difficult, and unfavorable since the second world war. i will not spend too long running back through how he got there, but i will say was
geopolitical geopolitical, ideological on the one hand but also nuclear on the other and that is key. geopolitically, there was the soviet invasion in 1979. that eventually ended the taunt. president carter's focus on soviet human rights abuses. the united states and china. and then this was manifested in boycotting the olympics in both 1980 in moscow and 1984 in los angeles. as theimportant ideological and geological reasons was the nuclear reason. and this started with the soviet decision to deploy new missiles on their western border which could reach europe and it escalated the arms race. later on they admitted inasmuch in meetings saying this was a mistake. a colleague of mine published a great book about this.
the soviets began the euro missile race. 1978 nato responded, in deciding to deploy missiles into europe which were deployed in , late november 1983, days after able archer 83 had ended. this was extremely unbalancing to the relative geopolitical and nuclear stability. the reason was that now these soviets believed that the pershing could reach moscow within 15 minutes. they probably couldn't, but the u.s. was not telling the soviets that. the missiles could reach russia or deployed soviet troops within 15 minutes. it could reach moscow in under an hour and could not be detected by radar. so potentially, the
euro-missiles on both sides changed the balance are soviets -- so that now the soviets were genuinely fearful of the possibility that they could be had by a decapitating nuclear attack. that is, all the work they had done to build up nuclear parity tuesday just behind the united states and the arms race would be of literate and when the intermediate range missiles were deployed to europe. this fear of the decapitating strike was the primary focus of able archer 83. it also drove a change on both sides to the consideration of possible application of strategy known as launch on warning. today in the united states the american nuclear posture review, which is unclassified and available on the web, our
current posture is launch on attack. this is scary to talk about, but but those are the facts. right now our posture is that if an ally launches a nuclear weapon at us, when they are in the air we will launch hours to -- hours to retaliate. the response time of both minutes, besides considered using and may have used launch on warning. that is, to use good intelligence to figure out when your opponent is going to launch an attack at you and then preempt your opponent so that you can maybe possibly survive in possibly even when the war. -- win the war. there are many interviews cited from the the soviet american scientists after the cold war morosely were joking with each other that, if you say you did not study that you're lying and the other side agreed. so a lot of warning is another key driver of able archer 83.
talking a lot about u.s. nuclear drills today but there is one famous one i want to briefly -- whichalled stop odd the soviet union practiced in 1983 and according to a member of the general staff, this was the first time since world war ii the soviet actually practiced a drill of obtaining information stating the adversary was going so attack, and then the soviet practiced this preemptive strike which included a preemptive nuclear strike so this was on the minds of the attackers. i would like to discuss something else. sometimes it is used as an acronym. nuclear missile attack in russian. this was -- this document is one
of the rarer ones that get your heart beating. it is a kgb document that actually discusses the creation of the operation and it is quote "to strengthen our intelligence work in order to prevent a sudden outbreak of war by the enemy." what the operation was was a shift from military satellites and other intelligence towards human intelligence with the aim of preempting, or discovering and preempting a nuclear war. it began in 1979 and was announced in 1981 when the head of the kgb announced it. he said it was because the west was actively preparing for nuclear war. the primary accounts of
the operation, until recently, were primarily from a high-ranking soviet kgb official, at one point the number one official that the defected in place and gave a lot of good intelligence to the united states and britain. the primary source for a long time about able archer as well. now, thanks to the work of the cold war international history project, there is a very good web the posting of a slew of hundreds of pages of documents of the intelligence about the operations. so utterly no, we know a bit more. so what do we know about this? it involved over 300 new positions at created in the kgb and even more in all of the satellite countries. these positions monitored indicators that their spies
abroad reported. essentially, there was a binder full of 292 indicators that i will talk about in one second. that spies abroad in addition to , their other duties, had to report back on. some of these were probably smart like monitoring nuclear sites, monitoring political and military figures. others were probably far-fetched, like monitoring blood banks, monitoring priests. the thinking was that if you had enough data, big data as early as 1981, you can input this data and determine what would happen. the soviets also, according to the credible reports, had a invented -- had invented a rudimentary computer system with -- to track this data. and what this meant was there was more work for the agents. but they did not complain. they reported. one of the interesting things
they reported actually applies to where we are today. one of the things agents were tasked to monitor was the state of the constitution declaration and other founding documents at the u.s. national archives, the thinking being that if the imperial elect was going to launch a nuclear strike they , would hide their documents first. archivists have told me that is not unprecedented and it did happen during world war ii. going through the documents also, it is pretty fascinating. there two things you can tell. you can tell where they had good sources and agents within the u.s. government because there is much more reporting. these are spotty documents. the second thing is that from a pretty early they did a pretty point, good job ferreting out and reporting on continuity of government operations. essentially, the plane the president would fly on during nuclear war. they monitor that. ominously, it includes several
indicators that would have been included during able archer 83. this nuclear release exercise that we will talk about. this includes troop mobilization, changes in communication, nuclear weapons, launchunication used to nuclear weapons and new methods , of transmitting weapons. of course, ryan was searching for something that did not exist. the plants with the decapitating strike were not in the making. possible reasons for this were bureaucratic expansions. this would not be the first time in intelligence agency created a n enemy or the threat of an enemy with more work or itself. maybe socialist dogma. maybe some really did believe that socialism was going to lose to capitalism and they should go out with a last gasp. or maybe perhaps it was a scheme to inject r&d into espionage
because soviets were not having , great success making computers otherwise. but i think the best explanation was actually coined by gordy ascii -- this man, who actually reported it. he called it a vicious circle where socialist intelligence operatives were required to report a large amount of information about a western surprise strike even if they , themselves were skeptical of it. after the moscow center received these inflated and incorrect but requested reports, they became duly alarmed by what had been reported and demanded more. the day after -- does anybody remember this? shifting from secret fear of nuclear war to very public fear of nuclear war. the 1980's, i am sure many here
remember clearly, and remember able archer perhaps. it was not just private fear. it was very public fear. this is an american item i chose to symbolize from 1983. this was a very realistic movie about nuclear war that aired on national television. ronald reagan actually watched this days before able archer 83. he said it was an advanced screening. in his diary, he wrote that it was a very well done movie and left him feeling very depressed. i have spoken with reagan watchers and they say it is probably the only or one of the few -- i could not find any more -- instances of him writing depression, great fear. he also watched a movie that is a little bit more uplifting than this. matthew roderick's "wargames," and he greatly enjoyed that one as well. talking about movies, there is
called one from 1983 "threat" from the u.k. that was also actually based on parliamentary inquiry, british about what would actually happen , after a nuclear war. essentially, five generations lost. that one was even weaker than this. this fear of nuclear war was widespread in the united states. and in the soviet union, as we will talk about. it was also manifested in a protest movement that worked well and largely received the -- achieved its objectives the , nuclear freeze movement which also had an effect on president reagan. here is the president speaking to the evangelical association in orlando.
so, the president's rhetoric also contributed to the nuclear danger. addressed this british parliament and said he would put the soviet union in the ash heap of history. he gave this one on speech in orlando in march of 1983 , although it was not cleared by the state department or anyone outside of the white house. it was focused on domestic policy. it had a huge impact on foreign policy. he called the soviets the evil empire and said they were the focus of evil in the modern world. which if you look at the writing , on the other side, it had a great effect on the soviet union geopolitically and strategically. , as the not get that
sum claimed it was firing up the base. i think the best description of this that my colleague and director has written about is called "the paradox of ronald reagan." one of the best to describe it was this ambassador to five u.s. presidents. as he masterfully explained, the paradox of ronald reagan, the president saw nothing contradictory or publicly or even sincerely about attacking the evil empire it rather uncomplimentary terms into the next moment writing a personal personal letter in is on hand to the general secretary of the soviet communist party, privately expressing his desire for a nonnuclear world, better soviet american relations as well. ronald reagan's vision of a nuclear apocalypse and his deeply rooted but almost human connection that nuclear weapons
abolished would prove more powerful than visceral anti-communism. but this was not until after the 1983 war scare had showed his strength. two other brief examples of this paradox of ronald reagan. the first was his military buildup. he wanted to get a soviet leader in the room but they kept dying on him. that may be true but on the other hand his actions , militarily said the opposite. these soviets were very startled by his rhetoric. in the second, i want to mention the use of psychological operations or psy-ops, which also had a great impact on able archer 83. psychological operations -- i
won't go into too much detail, but since reagan assumed the presidency, he started secretly confronting the soviets as well. these included conducting bombing raids on soviet territories -- excuse me, conducting simulated bombing raids on soviet territories. there is a great declassified to document from the soviet union on that. sneaking battleships into soviet waters. flying bombers and sneaking off at the last second to find out where their radars were strong and where they were weak. i think david hoffman's billion-dollar book says that another part of it was the reliance on the human intelligence that soviet raters -- radars were weak everywhere. they could not detect or protect from american insurgents including nuclear strikes. , while the president was hoping nuclearabolition of
weapons, he was also wanting to work with the soviets, and also sometimes very privately begging the soviets to change the world. but he was also building the military, publicly calling them the evil empire and secretly having secret military actions against the soviet union. the fear was not just in america, it was in the soviet union, too. one very interesting declassified memo from the reagan presidential library from the u.s. soviet advisor to the national security advisor was written in december, 1983, is describing the six months previous. it said that for the past six months there was a fear of war that seem to affect the elite as well as the man on the street. this is in the soviet union, according to a well-respected source. a growing paranoia among soviet wereials, and they
literally obsessed by the fear of war. the danger of the fear of war and the fear of preemption can actually be seen in a conversation between then -general secretary yuri andropov in one of the few meetings with a u.s. envoy who had previously negotiated with stalin. he was a democrat, but was unofficially sent by they reagan administration. he said he was a private citizen but the documents show he , traveled with a state department translator and was pre-briefed and debriefed by the state department. but during his conversation in in august 1983, harriman said andropov said there was a risk of nuclear war through miscalculation, four times.
and that they were "moving toward a dangerous redline of nuclear war." amid this, the destruction of the evil empire, the danger of launch on warning, the quiet danger of operation ryan and the fear in the elite and the man on the street. amid this, the soviets shot down an airliner that had currently strayed into soviet airspace. this ended any hope of improved relations. it also ratcheted up the fear of war even further. here is what ronald reagan wrote about the shootdown. in his memoirs. "if a some people speculate the soviet pilots simply mistook the airliner for a military plane, what kind of imagination did it take to think the soviet military man, with his finger close to a nuclear pushbutton
, making an even more tragic mistake?" as some of you guys know, mistakes like this happened multiple times throughout the cold war. we can talk about it during questions, but i will not go into it now because mistakes by pushing the button is a bit different than war through miscalculations. so -- a month after this, able archer 83 began. so, again, able archer 83 was a five-day nato exercise conducted at the end of autumn forge 83. now, some of you guys -- a little hard to see but have any of you guys watched the recent tv show deutsche land 83? it a good show. it is not able archer 83 it is a , -- about able archer 83 it is
, a german show. they contacted me and i help them get their facts straight. a very cool easter egg is that each of these episodes of the se really come from an operation. you can see a display determination of others. a cool easter egg i would like to share with you. to understand able archer 83 at it is very key to understand what exactly it was. each year, there was an annual able archer exercise and an annual autumn forge exercise. it was how nato prepared for war against the soviet union. autumn forge was large. as you can see it had about a , dozen exercises under it preparing troops and lots of places. about 20,000 troops including some 16,000 american troops that flew over. this was practicing conventional war and went on for months. able archer 83 with the last
-- was the last, final exercise of this essentially practicing , the shift from conventional war to nuclear war and how to i it. -- how to fight it. this is important to understand, because preview bentz this previous events in history have cited soviet generals saying i , have never heard of able archer 83 showing there is no , danger. it in the same interview, the same general said, i'm orange, -- autumn forge. that was always the most dangerous. select him at the end of autumn thein -- so that came at end of autumn forge 83. i want to show you how nuclear war looked in 1983. here is the back story. a sudden change of leadership in the kremlin. a new, unstable leadership takes over. then, the fledgling leadership begins fighting proxy wars in the u.s., providing political
earl -- political and military support to rebels in iran, syria, yemen. years later, this conflict spreads from the middle east to europe. due to the failing economy, the soviet union was unable to continue providing support to its satellites. but while the eastern european economic situation worsened, the military preparedness improved. frequent field exercises were conducted, equipment was stockpiled. factories produce material around the clock. then, in this back story, august 1983, requesting economic and towardslavia shifted requesting economic and military assistance from several nato countries. fearing other eastern european asian states -- european states would join the west the warsaw , pact invaded yugoslavia. soviet forces invaded finland october 31. next day, norway. the next day, they attacked germany.
by november 4, soviet and warsaw forces invaded west germany. they had bombed its entire eastern border. but because nato forces provided strong resistance soviets begin , launching chemical attacks. nato responded in kind. that is the back story. now, this is the part that american and european nuclear officers on the ground in europe began practicing. when conventional and chemical war turned nuclear. unable to repel the soviets vance, nato attempted to send a message to the warsaw pact the destruction of one city , to avoid total nuclear war. in many scenarios this city was , usually key. the soviets usually responded. they would usually respond with boston. on the morning of november 8,
permission for initial limited use of nuclear weapons for preselected target. the western capital granted nato permission to destroy the eastern european city with a nuclear attack. the use of nuclear weapons do not stop the aggression. the next day, the leader of nato requested fall on -- follow-on use of nuclear weapons. washington and other capitals filled this request. by november 11, nuclear war broke out. that was abler trading three. -- able archer 83. here's president reagan. --course, great one iron the iron the -- irony was that while nato was practicing a long, slow, drawnout transition from conventional to nuclear war, the
soviets were fearing able from the blue -- as such, misreading indicators. in able archer 83, it did have did indeed have many special wrinkles that other able archer exercises did not that could have been misreported by indicators to the west. here, let's take a minute talk about -- to talk about gordievsky. president reagan met with him and wrote about him twice in his journal both times inquiring , about his well-being. after providing information to the british, in london, he was all likelihood betrayed by aldrich ames and was eventually recalled to moscow, probably to be debriefed and executed. he wrote a good book about this. he was ultimately able to escape across the finish border in the trunk of a car, and eventually made it, that with reagan and
did a large tour around the u.s. he was also the first person that sounded the alarm during able archer 83. here are some wrinkles of able archer 83. this could have been picked up during ryan. testing of new communication methods for nuclear release. i spoke with nato officers on the field that said they had just been trained on new encryption techniques to launch these new missiles during able archer. that could have and what have been ported by -- reported by ryan. nuclear release procedures, including practicing. the fact that some u.s. aircraft practiced nuclear cannon procedures, including taxiing out of hangers carrying realistic dummy warheads. the 170-flight radio silent airlift of 60,000 soldiers of -- 16,000 soldiers to autumn forge 83 of which able archer , was the final component. this would have been reported. during able archer 83, the
shifting of command from permanent headquarters to a field headquarter simulating the destruction. this was something agents were tasked to look for. including one document by the u.s. air force, "sensitive political issue of slips of the tongue." the stories were mistakenly referred to as nuclear strikes over open radius. -- open radio, which on the u.s. ase climbed the ladder reporting of danger, even without knowing of prion -- ryan. these wrinkles of both the kgb -- caused both the kgb and eru to send telegrams to residences. reporting an alert on u.s. bases. the flash telegrams implied that one of several possible explanations for the alert was a countdown to nuclear first break
-- first strike had actually begun. so, for years, you only had this one account. that may have been the echo chamber of evidence people speak of. just last year, here people at the national archives finally broke through the logjam and declassified another key retrospective account. this is probably the most comprehensive of all sources. it has seven codewords on the top. most of the stuff leaked by snowden only had three. it was in all source review and that is where the information came from. there has also been some big the patient by british intelligence describing what they saw -- declassification from british intelligence describing what they saw. but what we now know in the declassification is that this is what the soviet reaction was in addition to the memo.
ed in scaleunparallel and included transporting nuclear weapons by helicopter. suspension of all flight operations from november 4 to 10, probably to have available as many aircraft as possible for combat. initiated unprecedented technical collection against able archer 83, including city six -- 36 overflights significantly more than previous , exercises." soviet air units in each germany and poland went on alert in what was declared to be a threat of possible aggression against the ussr. nuclear weapons were transported from storage sites via helicopter. as the cia director wrote in 1984, the behavior of the armed forces is perhaps the most disturbing. from the operational employment -- deployment of submarines to
the delayed troop rotation. there is a theme of not being strategically vulnerable even if , it means taking some risks. the military behavior involves high military cost, adding a dimension of genuineness that the soviet expressions of concern that are not accurately reflected in intelligence issuances. beyond that, a series of interviews with soviet generals and members of the staff saying that soviet nuclear forces did go on alert during able archer 83. there were reports that the situation was monitored from a bunker outside of moscow. and, right after you read some of those, there is a good page and i have that remained blacked out, redacted. possibly even more. this is funny and maybe we will get it in questions, but i want to wrap up. this is an example of declassification, not usually
-- not as good as what is usually provided by the national archive. during my research, i did a freedom of information act request about able archer. they said we have 83 document s, and we will give you one of them. the one they gave me was this one, a printout of the wikipedia article that was processed and declassified. the worst punch in the gut was i spent a lot of time actually being the guy who edited the wikipedia article. but that was early, and i got so upset and angry by this that i was more determined to file the foia's, and work my way up to ice cap, which we can talk about later which ultimately got this , document released. the key document. so it was a blessing in disguise. all right, so, wrapping up and then we can talk about other things in discussion. the danger of able archer 83,
according to all the information we have now, and it ended when a young air force officer in charge of able archer 83 minimized the risk by doing nothing in the face of evidence that part of the soviet armed forces were moving towards unusual levels of alert. the officer is on the left. his action to do nothing is described not glowingly as fortuitous, if ill-informed. these officers out of instinct -- acted correctly out of instinct not informed guidance , because the years leading up to able archer they received no , guidance of the possible significance of the change of the soviet military. i want to quickly walk through what the u.s. intelligence community learned in that toate, which has now come on the scholarly committee, communities, and the public. the first to report able archer 83
was the british. there were dia report at the time, but they missed it. there was increased soviet surveillance. but they did not get the other stuff. the key report is the british report entitled "soviet union concern about a surprise nato attack." this combined reporting with after-the-fact satellite intelligence and human intelligence. according to sources i have spoke with, it was written by a man named harry burke. unfortunately, this key first report of the danger remains classified. british coursea and lost. but this information did make it to the u.s. by may of 1984, the cia uses intelligence from a report of recent soviet illegal activity, best political activities but , they concluded there was no danger of nuclear war through a miscalculation. the opposite of what the british concluded.
there is even -- after the british report, margaret thatcher even instructed her and intelligence ministers to and intelligence ministers to urgently consider how to approach the americans and ameliorate the risk of war. this emissary was essentially brushed off by the state department. but this report downplaying the dangers was written. but in june, a month later, director casey wrote the memo saying there was indeed danger. the next day, the cia wrote a -- the dia wrote a memo to him saying do not tell the president that, retracted. -- retract it. maybe this nuclear danger would have been if it was not for the general again. after his service in europe, he joined the dia eventually , becoming the director of the
defense intelligence agency. when he retired in 1989, he wrote one final swansong, a memo that the dia still is not declassifying describing what , happened to him during able archer 83, the danger, the anger and concern that this danger was hidden and not analyzed properly. he sent it to the central intelligence agency where it was buried and received almost no response. he also sent it to the president's foreign intelligence advisory board, which was a board that independently advised the president. they took up the issue. nina stewart, pictured there, interviewed over 100 participants during able archer 83. as you saw in the classification markings, had essentially all access and wrote, what i think
is close to the definitive , review of the danger. to existence was leaked historians, and eventually other historians, even myself followed , the footnote and filed mdr's for this document. it took about 12 years because the bush presidential library, under nara, great people there, but they don't have the authority to declassify. they have to get authority from 12 agencies. one of the agencies, the cia, they didn't do any action. it was stuck there. thank goodness there is one last body at the national archive, called ice cap. through executive order it still stands. thattates -- it states when an agency cannot declassify something, taking too long, a panel of experts from other agencies here can review the document and release what no
longer would harm national security. they did. and the public now knows. thank goodness. finally, three points in my conclusion. i think the first is the power of leadership. president reagan ultimately understood that a world on a hair trigger is unacceptable and continued to wind down the cold war. upon learning the danger of able archer 83, reagan has pride in inexpressed surprise describing the event as really scary. he also learned, in his memoir, he answered the question that he asked in that note card we showed earlier. he wrote in his diary just after able archer 83 and changed it in his memoir a bit later, that "three years have taught me
something surprisingly about the russians. many people at the top of soviet hierarchy were generally afraid .f america and americans perhaps this should not have surprised me, but it did. i think many of us in my administration took it for granted that russians, like ourselves considered it , unthinkable that the united states would launch a first strike against them. but the more experience i had with soviet leaders and other heads of state who knew them the , more i began to realize that many soviet officials feared us not only as adversaries, but has potential aggressors who might hurl nuclear weapons at them in a first strike." the president then, in tandem with gorbachev, eliminated an entire class of intermediate range missiles.
next, the two negotiated arms -- a strategic arms reduction treaty which reduced the number and icbms to 6000 and 1000 respectively. the mutual trust generated was key to helping the two leaders attained the peaceful end to the cold war. the 1983 war scare served as a reminder of the worst days of the cold war to the best cooperation since world war ii. the second lesson is the lesson that the cold war was a dangerous era that we were lucky to have survived. it was not a long piece. the study of the previously secret history of the 1983 war scare forces the reevaluation of one of the cold claims the score claims of cold war historiography.
the one that the cold war was slowly bound down after the cuban missile crisis. includinguring times, during able archer 83 it , escalated. the fact that it unacceptably higher risk of nuclear war in able archer 83, 21 years after the cuban missile crisis undermines the nuclear deterrent. as both sides continue to increase nuclear weapons, their own vulnerability increased. the site -- despite the protests and application of so-called nuclear learning antics planning on nuclear game theories, both superpowers became more unsafe as the cold war progressed. while the united states and soviet union maintained nuclear parity, each lacked nuclear security. the explanation to this nuclear paradox is simple -- theories do not change the course of human events, people do. finally, i believe able archer
83 has lessons for today. the best way to ensure the danger of nuclear war continues to decrease is not hide it. reagan depended upon classified information unavailable to the public to understand the nuclear arms race in the 1980's. to justify the initial concealment of how lethal able archer old -- able archer 83 was much less now 30 , years after the fact. finally, after long freedom of information act battles, and documents declassified by people in this room, most but not all of the u.s. documents are declassified and other countries' are trickling out to the public. the continued studies of the 1983 war scare will help avert current and future nuclear
standoff, reduce the probably of that probability of nuclear war through miscalculation, and help battle against dangerous ideas. the soviet fs-20's and american griffins have been retired. the cold war has ended the , soviet union no longer exists. 30 years later, a fuller picture of the dangers of able archer 83 emerged. the lesson is sobering way clear. throughout the cold war, one misstep could trigger a great war. we cannot return. thank you. [applause] nate: i'd be happy to answer any questions you may have. please ask at the microphone. >> thank you very much for the presentation. as you described, as maybe
expanding on the air force officer who did nothing, there was a russian officer that saw satellite data that showed five of the missiles coming his way that were clouds that reflected the sun. i'm curious from that incident and well -- as well as others that historically have happened, what procedures -- obviously, getting rid of the nuclear weapons is a good step, but the red phone aspect occurred for the higher ups that hold the keys. what procedures might have changed from that incident of able archer 83? nate: first, a mention on the general who essentially there was working soviet satellites that sent the information that a nuclear were had was coming his -- warhead was coming his way. he too did nothing. he told his superiors it was a false alarm. according to the recording --
reporting by david hoffman, he says trust me, it's nothing. my gut says they would not launch one missile and i know the satellite does not work. there is another -- in a great document, a soviet document, it was said we could be annihilated by an american drone. the soviets to were scared -- t oo were scared of someone in the u.s. military doing it. there is a story many people know that there was a call that 4000 icbm's were on the way. he was calm for one minute and got another call saying don't worry, somebody put in a training tape. these happen over and over again. the only real solution i'm aware -- the best solution is reducing , nuclear weapons.
taking nuclear weapons of hairtrigger posturing, which they still are. the nuclear telephones that we now have actually solved during the reagan administration and was greatly expanded after. that is one safe measure. but, the greatest absent of have ing fewer nuclear weapons is having them off hairtrigger alert. thanks. >> thank you for this quite interesting presentation. i'm not from america, i am from the caribbean. we had the cuban missile crisis, obviously. i was very small. i do remember sitting with my parents, listening, although they claimed i had made it up. i was a very smart kid. i remember them sitting on the porch and listening to the
soviet ships coming closer and closer. the ships were stopping. i'm trying to figure what is this -- what can -- how to make sense of this and the only thing i could do is think of some kind hellish activity. i grew up in the netherlands and was part of the demonstration. a few questions because what you do here is quite important, especially with more and more countries are coming online that are becoming more and more powerful, right? china, india. the nuclear weapons, the nuclear problems -- potential problems between india and pakistan, right? what level of control do these people have over anything? what level of assistance do they have to be able to do this? do you know anything about that?
what to do about this issue. and also, i think what helped tremendously with stopping a nuclear war from happening between the soviet union and the united states was that during the very beginning, the first words of oppenheimer, i have become death. the dissident -- i forgot his name -- he saw this explode. this is nonsense. "do this. -- we cannot this cannot be -- we cannot do this. this cannot be done. but, think about it if it was a competition between the united states and china where we have a few hundred million is no problem to us. but we have hundreds of millions more. the issue is that if both intellectual classes, every classes do not have the same weight.
it is a scholarly dilemma. a security dilemma is a horrific, dangerous thing when you have nuclear weapons. how do you see all the things playing out? and i totally agree with you that we need a new movement. a proper movement across the world to really put an end to the nuclear weapons and now we have a new guy saying he maybe doing it. how do you see this thing playing out in the future? the last question, you talk about the issue of getting documents. we have known over the last few years in different presidencies, there have been attempts to hide more documents. how did you see that playing out? nate: so, i would say the big, most difficult answer is the truest risk of nuclear war is not true to leaders pushing the button.
it is war through miscalculation , nonproliferation, or from events spiraling out-of-control, that couldsaw how have happened during able archer or during the cuban missile crisis. the straightforward use of nuclear weapons as they are intended is not the greatest risk. how to combat that? well, i think my small way is writing nuclear history and trying to get some secrets out so the public knows this danger more fully. on historical documents incident memoirs or the approaching her -- echoing chamber. and i love working with nuclear history project at the wilson center. and my work at the national security archive. so as a historian that is my way , of fighting, showing the danger, getting the stories out and getting people who have second thoughts in these
governments and said so secretly, to make that public. the last question about having access to documents going forward? it is going to be a challenge, but historians, it is always a challenge. they are fighters. we know how to fight the department of justice to get documents out. we know how to write good mdr requests. people who work in the archives are driven by getting documents out as well. so i am optimistic that our declassified history will keep flowing. >> we are out of time. thank you. nate: sure thing. [applause] opening lastficial september, the african american national museum of history and culture has welcomed over 60,000 visitors.
american history on c-span3 takes you inside me sam for a live, asked whose of after hours -- exclusive after-hours tour. telling the african-american to the firstavery african-american president. throughout the program, our guests will be talking to you and hearing your input the of phone calls and tweets. -- via phone calls and tweets. is sunday, february 19, beginning six quote p.m. eastern on american history tv on the spam three. -- c-span3. monday night on the communicators, the new chair of the house subcommittee on technology. marsha blackburn on her priorities for the subcommittee and how she expects priorities will change this year with a republican congress.
reporter for -- leadsd to make sure -- >> to address communities that do not have broadband. go in andot able to expand educational opportunity for their students. they are not able to utilize they are not able to recruit the factories that can bring jobs to those underserved areas. let's watch "you communicators" monday night on c-span two. >> the national law enforcement museum is currently under construction. it is said to open in 2018 in washington dc. until then, the museum artifacts are stored at a facility in forceful, maryland. we visitedh