T Nation

Russian Doomsday Device


#1

..a fascinating article on the russian "Dead Hand" system that's in operation to this day: http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/17-10/mf_deadhand?currentPage=all


#2

Interesting article. I wonder if something like this is actually true.


#3

The Russkies always were unbalanced… :slight_smile:

On a real note, I don’t think Wired would be printing something that is National Enquirer worthy. It was an interesting read. And it did remind me quite a bit of Dr. Strangelove.


#4

I learned to love the bomb.


#5

Like they’re the only ones to have such a device? Read up on our own DEW Line defense. Then read between the lines.

BG


#6

Er, even in the slightly odd logic of mutual assured destruction, there is very little point in a secret doomsday device.

Of course, the British independent deterrent has no need of clever seismic detectors - the submarines permanently at sea are told to listen in for BBC radio 4 every morning. If it’s not there…the sealed orders are opened.


#7

A quote from Instapundit today:

But, in proper Strangelovian irony, they kept it secret, but thatâ??s because the U.S. wasnâ??t the target they were trying to deter: â??By guaranteeing that Moscow could hit back, Perimeter was actually designed to keep an overeager Soviet military or civilian leader from launching prematurely during a crisis. The point, Zheleznyakov says, was â??to cool down all these hotheads and extremists. No matter what was going to happen, there still would be revenge. Those who attack us will be punished.â??â??


#8

One of the little joys of academia is getting to see “the rest of the story”. Case in point is that the Poles and Czechs have very happily revealed all of their secret Warsaw Pact documents to the West and you know what? The Soviets really did plan a first strike as soon as they thought they could get away with it. Yes indeed. The Soviets kept virtually every tank they ever made in service (so there were thousands of them from WW II ready to go) and the plan was to come running at full throttle through the Fulda Gap (in central Germany) and get to the French border as soon as possible. From there, they would threaten to invade France (not part of NATO and having its own nuclear arsenal, the “force frappe”). The plan was that France would capitulate, Germany would be occupied and the US would not be able to effectively do anything about it. The threat of a US first nuclear strike against conventional weapons was all that did keep them at bay.

Another more interesting story is the fate of Soviet Studies. Almost universally now that we can get our hands on documents from Russia it is clear that the whole field was a garish exercise in dissimilitude, intellectual dishonesty and simple incompetence. Soviet claims about economic performance were taken at face value and it was accepted as fact that political freedom was much higher there than here. Oh sure, it was admitted that a few “hundred” people might be prisoners, but reports like Solzhenitsyn’s were flatly dismissed. Why the academic community at large hasn’t repudiated this mess is anyone’s guess, but it is no credit to us that this happened and puts a very bad light on most academic endeavors as part of public policy making.

– jj


#9

excellent post jj. Interesting too.


#10

One of the little joys of academia is getting to see “the rest of the story”. Case in point is that the Poles and Czechs have very happily revealed all of their secret Warsaw Pact documents to the West and you know what? The Soviets really did plan a first strike as soon as they thought they could get away with it. Yes indeed. The Soviets kept virtually every tank they ever made in service (so there were thousands of them from WW II ready to go) and the plan was to come running at full throttle through the Fulda Gap (in central Germany) and get to the French border as soon as possible. From there, they would threaten to invade France (not part of NATO and having its own nuclear arsenal, the “force frappe”). The plan was that France would capitulate, Germany would be occupied and the US would not be able to effectively do anything about it. The threat of a US first nuclear strike against conventional weapons was all that did keep them at bay.

Another more interesting story is the fate of Soviet Studies. Almost universally now that we can get our hands on documents from Russia it is clear that the whole field was a garish exercise in dissimilitude, intellectual dishonesty and simple incompetence. Soviet claims about economic performance were taken at face value and it was accepted as fact that political freedom was much higher there than here. Oh sure, it was admitted that a few “hundred” people might be prisoners, but reports like Solzhenitsyn’s were flatly dismissed. Why the academic community at large hasn’t repudiated this mess is anyone’s guess, but it is no credit to us that this happened and puts a very bad light on most academic endeavors as part of public policy making.

– jj


#11

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
excellent post jj. Interesting too.[/quote]

x2. The reason academics haven’t repudiated any of their support for the Soviets is because they are a product of Soviet social engineering beginning in the 1930s. Perhaps some of them know this. But it would be too painful for them to come out and admit that they were tools - better to just stay the course.


#12

I expect that the soft sciences are even worse than experiment-falsifiable sciences when it comes to repudiating untrue positions propagated by the great minds in the field.

It is necessary for them to all die first before that will happen.


#13

(Btw, that last post wasn’t intended to be mean-sounding or a threat: it was intended literally. So long as they are alive, academics will fear for their careers to repudiate the former worldview, not matter how wrong.)


#14

[quote]jj-dude wrote:
One of the little joys of academia is getting to see “the rest of the story”. Case in point is that the Poles and Czechs have very happily revealed all of their secret Warsaw Pact documents to the West and you know what? The Soviets really did plan a first strike as soon as they thought they could get away with it. Yes indeed. The Soviets kept virtually every tank they ever made in service (so there were thousands of them from WW II ready to go) and the plan was to come running at full throttle through the Fulda Gap (in central Germany) and get to the French border as soon as possible. From there, they would threaten to invade France (not part of NATO and having its own nuclear arsenal, the “force frappe”). The plan was that France would capitulate, Germany would be occupied and the US would not be able to effectively do anything about it. The threat of a US first nuclear strike against conventional weapons was all that did keep them at bay.

– jj
[/quote]

…a plan is just that, a plan. I can’t remember the details, but wasn’t there some fuss about war plans a while back the US had drawn up, and the comment of the Pentagon was that they made plans to fit any scenario, just in case?


#15

[quote]doc_man_101 wrote:
Er, even in the slightly odd logic of mutual assured destruction, there is very little point in a secret doomsday device.

Of course, the British independent deterrent has no need of clever seismic detectors - the submarines permanently at sea are told to listen in for BBC radio 4 every morning. If it’s not there…the sealed orders are opened.[/quote]

Not a chance it works like that. I was a Minuteman ICBM Crew Commander. Nuclear command and control is much more complicated and secure than that.


#16

[quote]HG Thrower wrote:
doc_man_101 wrote:
Er, even in the slightly odd logic of mutual assured destruction, there is very little point in a secret doomsday device.

Of course, the British independent deterrent has no need of clever seismic detectors - the submarines permanently at sea are told to listen in for BBC radio 4 every morning. If it’s not there…the sealed orders are opened.

Not a chance it works like that. I was a Minuteman ICBM Crew Commander. Nuclear command and control is much more complicated and secure than that.[/quote]

:slight_smile: I’m not suggesting this is the normal chain of command. But as a last resort … it’s been pretty widely reported and never been denied.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/keyfacts/stories/today_programme.shtml

[scroll down to “Hennessy’s nuclear launch claim”]. The Wikipedia article says more … but who’d trust Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_the_United_Kingdom


#17

[quote]doc_man_101 wrote:
HG Thrower wrote:
doc_man_101 wrote:
Er, even in the slightly odd logic of mutual assured destruction, there is very little point in a secret doomsday device.

Of course, the British independent deterrent has no need of clever seismic detectors - the submarines permanently at sea are told to listen in for BBC radio 4 every morning. If it’s not there…the sealed orders are opened.

Not a chance it works like that. I was a Minuteman ICBM Crew Commander. Nuclear command and control is much more complicated and secure than that.

:slight_smile: I’m not suggesting this is the normal chain of command. But as a last resort … it’s been pretty widely reported and never been denied.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/keyfacts/stories/today_programme.shtml

[scroll down to “Hennessy’s nuclear launch claim”]. The Wikipedia article says more … but who’d trust Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_the_United_Kingdom
[/quote]

Nope. Not a chance. All it would take is for a third party to eliminate the transmitter or jam/spoof a few frequencies to start WWIII. There is no way any nuclear weapon is allowed to launch without clear, unambiguous, verified orders, including timing, targets, etc. Also, say that the BBC station was actually nuked, but by NK or Iran? They would still launch on Russia? Like I said, no way. The nuke game is VERY complicated. The reason there is no official comment is that nuke command and control procedures are highly classified, for good reason. I’m sure the Brits do things somewhat differently than we do here, but the same concepts apply.


#18

[quote]doc_man_101 wrote:
HG Thrower wrote:
doc_man_101 wrote:
Er, even in the slightly odd logic of mutual assured destruction, there is very little point in a secret doomsday device.

Of course, the British independent deterrent has no need of clever seismic detectors - the submarines permanently at sea are told to listen in for BBC radio 4 every morning. If it’s not there…the sealed orders are opened.

Not a chance it works like that. I was a Minuteman ICBM Crew Commander. Nuclear command and control is much more complicated and secure than that.

:slight_smile: I’m not suggesting this is the normal chain of command. But as a last resort … it’s been pretty widely reported and never been denied.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/keyfacts/stories/today_programme.shtml

[scroll down to “Hennessy’s nuclear launch claim”]. The Wikipedia article says more … but who’d trust Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_the_United_Kingdom
[/quote]

Also, one more thing (not to beat a dead horse here), chances are zero that subs travel with complete launch codes. If that were the case, any sub commander could get enough crew members to support him and launch on his own at any time. Launch codes are always split, with only the command authority holding the final half (thus the nuclear “football” that travels with the President). Having complete codes would take the national chain of command out of control of the situation, which would not be an acceptable situation.


#19

While I can’t know that the information I read was accurate, back in the day I read that American nuclear submarines could in fact launch after some period of time (quite lengthy) had passed since any received communication from the National Command Authority.

Thus guaranteeing response even if the continental United States and entire leadership, all ICBM silos, and all nuclear-capable aircraft were destroyed in a first-strike.


#20

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
While I can’t know that the information I read was accurate, back in the day I read that American nuclear submarines could in fact launch after some period of time (quite lengthy) had passed since any received communication from the National Command Authority.

Thus guaranteeing response even if the continental United States and entire leadership, all ICBM silos, and all nuclear-capable aircraft were destroyed in a first-strike.[/quote]

I wouldn’t think that is accurate (maybe in the very formative years of nuke ops). To even neccessitate such a system, it would have had to be before early warning systems, so pre-sattelite, pre-polar radar, everything. In the cold war days, aircraft were on runway alert and could get out within minutes. ICBMs can launch in a matter of minutes. Any indication of an attack would give plenty of time for orders to be communicated. So, if such a procedure existed, it was VERY early in the nuclear era to be sure.

You can guarantee that nothing like that happens now. If you have the entire launch code, then for all intents and purposes you ARE the National Command Authority. The entire system is physically designed to prevent anyone but POTUS or his successor to order any attack. I would assume the British system is set up the same way.