Based on the Article: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/050826.html
Fascinating article. Being 7 at the time, I was totally unaware anything went down at all, and had only heard Able Archer mentioned in passing.
There is another “near miss” that I heard about, and wondered if anyone here can give me the dope on that…
I read that after the Cold War officially “ended,” Yeltsin was once alerted that there was a nuke heading toward russia. It was actually some sort of utility rocket, either launching a satellite, or doing some high-atmosphere research, launched from (if memory serves) somewhere in scandanavia.
The Parties involved had warned the Russians that this rocket would be launched, and that it was benign, but somehow the message hadn’t properly propogated, and Yeltsin was given what ammounts to the Russian version of what the US refers to as “The Football.”
Apparently, someone (maybe even Yeltsin) was watching a radar image of this missle track closer and closer towards russia, and Yeltzin, a known alcoholic, basically had the future of humanity resting in his fingers. Before he finally went ahead and ordered a retaliatory strike, the missle changed direction in a way showing that it was destined for orbit, not for landstrike, and the situation was over.
I heard about this once, maybe 10 years ago, on a History Channel (or maybe Discovery or TLC) program, and was fascinated by the tale, but never saw any further mention of it anywhere.
The story sounds a tad fantastical, and I’m wondering what the reality within really is. Does anyone have any info on this?