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Able Archer 83: The Secret History

October 21, 2016
Nate Jones (R) presenting his research on Able Archer 83 at the Wilson Center, October 20, 2016. Tom Blanton, (L), offered expert commentary.

Nate Jones (R) presenting his research on Able Archer 83 at the Wilson Center, October 20, 2016. Tom Blanton, (L), offered expert commentary.

Archive FOIA Project Director and author of the new book, Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War, Nate Jones, recently presented the four key takeaways from his research to-date on the 1983 War Scare before a packed house at the Wilson Center.

Jones, with commentary by Archive Director Tom Blanton and an introduction from the Cold War International History Project’s Christian Ostermann, analyzed the documentary evidence (which Jones has been fighting for over a decade to free through hundreds of Freedom of Information Act and Mandatory Declassification Review requests) on one of the most dangerous periods of the Cold War.

The evidence presented at the Wilson Center and in the book, according to Blanton, “effectively resolves a heated controversy that divided the CIA in the 1980s and has led to sharp exchanges between scholars ever since.”

The video of the presentation and the Q&A is available here. The Wilson Center will also be releasing its own recording, and we will update this posting when it becomes available.

Other events Jones will be holding include a November 2 Reddit Ask Me Anything at 3:00 ET, a November 15 book talk at Walls of Books – Washington, DC at 7:00, and an International Spy Museum Podcast which will be released November 15.

Early praise for Jones’s book includes:

“Twenty-one years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a NATO exercise, Able Archer 83, came terrifyingly close to precipitating an accidental nuclear war.  Nate Jones’s brilliantly researched and gripping history of government miscalculations and misjudgments on both sides of the iron curtain during this war game poses the twenty-first-century’s most serious existential question: How many nuclear bullets can humanity dodge? Read it and reckon! I don’t think you will like the answer.”

–MARTIN J. SHERWIN, University Professor of History at George Mason University and author of A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies

“Able Archer 83 is an invaluable resource on one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War.  The book contains an unmatched collection of previously secret documents about the War Scare of 1983 and the Able Archer exercise at the center of it.  If you want to learn from history, this is the place to start.”

–DAVID E. HOFFMAN, author of The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy

“Read this book and you will make the world a safer place. Read these former secrets-many of them classified above Top Secret-and you will understand how the Cold War dangers that flared in 1983-and could have produced a nuclear war through miscalculation and misperception-are still with us today.”

–TOM BLANTON, director, National Security Archive (from the foreword)

“Able Archer 83 brings us back to a moment when we all came close to becoming cinders or radioactive corpses.  It’s an important contribution to our understanding of how the Cold War played out, and how erroneous assumptions routinely become institutionalized policy, which then becomes almost irresistible.”

–GLENN L. CARLE, a former CIA officer and author of The Interrogator


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