Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How to start a nuclear war with a spoon and a piece of string.

Are you old enough to miss that background thrill to life that came with living through the Cold War and everyday risk of nuclear annihilation? (I still remember the unique feeling of being a student walking across the grounds of the Kremlin during the Soviet era and realizing that all the nuclear warheads aimed at me at that moment were American.)

Maybe the thrill is back! It turns out that when all those American and Russian nuclear missiles were "detargeted" a few years ago, to prevent an accidental or automated strike on the other side, they weren't really detargeted.

Moreover, it seems the Soviets really did design a Dr. Strangelove-like semi-doomsday machine and the Russians have activated it.
...if Perimetr senses a nuclear explosion in Russian territory and then receives no communication from Moscow, it will assume the incapacity of human leadership in Moscow or elsewhere, and will then grant a single human being deep within the Kosvinsky mountains the authority and capability to launch the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal.

Kosvinsky came online recently ... which could be one explanation for U.S. interest in a new nuclear bunker buster...
While on our side ... you know that comforting explanation you've always heard about how to launch a missile from one of our silos requires two men on opposite sides of the control room to turn separate keys simultaneously? Well...
missile crewmen I talked to told me ... You just "rig up a thing where you tie a string to one end of a spoon and tie the other end to the other guy's key. Then you can sit in your chair and twist your key with one hand while you yank on the spoon with the other hand to twist the other key over."
Hey, you sink healthy young men in a hole for months on end without girls, beer or an Internet connection, and they're bound to figure out something to do.

Spoon, string, doomsday machine ...