War games brought world to brink of nuclear holocaust - documents

Soviet submarines carrying nuclear missiles were deployed under the Arctic ice. File photo / thinkstock
Soviet submarines carrying nuclear missiles were deployed under the Arctic ice. File photo / thinkstock

Britain and America nearly provoked the Soviet Union into launching a full-scale nuclear attack against the West at the height of the Cold War, according to newly released classified documents.

They reveal that the world secretly came to the brink of a nuclear holocaust in 1983, in what some anti-nuclear campaigners say was a far more serious incident than the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

The British Cabinet papers show a Nato war games exercise in November 1983 was so realistic the Soviets mistakenly believed a Western nuclear attack was imminent.

In response, the Soviets deployed submarines carrying nuclear missiles under the Arctic ice and more than a dozen aircraft with nuclear weapons.

The secret documents were obtained after a Freedom of Information request by anti-nuclear campaign group the Nuclear Information Service. Director Peter Burt said: ÎWe were one button-push from an irreversible nuclear war.

This, in my view, was far more serious than the Cuban missile crisis.â The Nato military exercise, Operation Able Archer, involved 40,000 troops moving across Western Europe.

The Soviet response only became clear to British spies when they were briefed by KGB double agent Oleg Gordievsky in London.

- Mail On Sunday

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