A cogent and informed assessment of how close the West came to nuclear war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and how, contrary to general belief, the danger persists. Pry, for ten years (198595) an intelligence officer at the CIA responsible for analyzing Soviet and later Russian nuclear forces, and now an advisor to the House National Security Committee, contends that, through its failure to understand the deep suspicions of the Soviet political and military leadership of the 1980s and to correctly interpret the information of Soviet defectors like Oleg Gordievsky, formerly KGB London station chief, the West came very close to a nuclear exchange during the NATO exercises in November 1983. He argues that these dangers may have been exacerbated since the fall of the Soviet Union. The hostility and suspicion, amounting to paranoia, of the Russian General Staff continues. Despite the weakening of its army, at great sacrifice it is maintaining nuclear readiness. There is also inadequate political control over the decision to launch nuclear weapons. Indeed, Pry contends that on a number of occasions since the fall of the Soviet Union, nuclear war has been close—notably at the time of the launch of a Norwegian meteorological missile in 1993. This missile, a multistage rocket similar to the Pershing II, was interpreted by the Russians as the possible beginning of a major nuclear exchange—perhaps intended to set off a disturbance of the electromagnetic field, which would seriously incapacitate the Russian retaliatory force. Pry may himself be guilty sometimes of exaggerations—there is a tendency to interpret each of the events as ``the most dangerous nuclear crisis that the West ever faced'' or ``the single most dangerous moment of the nuclear missile age.'' But his insight into the minds of the Russian General Staff and his concerns about Western misunderstanding of it are important and salutary.
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