War Scare

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Why do some American intelligence officials maintain fallout shelters and private contingency plans to evacuate their families in the event of a Russian nuclear strike—even in today's post-Cold War era of U.S.-Russian partnership? The frightening answer lies within the pages of War Scare, a terrifying assessment of the prospect for nuclear holocaust in our day. Written by Peter Vincent Pry, a former CIA military analyst, War Scare provides a history of our country's little-known brushes with nuclear war and warns that, contrary to popular opinion and the assurances of our political leaders, the possibility of a Russian attack still exists. Nuclear deterrence has been the foundation of Western security for the last 50 years, but since the end of the Cold War, Russian military doctrine has become more destabilizing, and much more dangerous, than is commonly believed.

By making use of a wealth of declassified and unclassified material, Dr. Pry illustrates how Russia's brutal past continues to shape the consciousness and decision making of its leaders, many of whom are unreconstructed ideologues from the old Soviet regime. Gripped by a perpetual perception of imminent threat—a war scare—the Russian General Staff, which controls the technical capability of launching a nuclear strike, has shown itself to be unstable at best. The author explores recent history and near-disasters such as the Bosnian crisis, the Norway missile incident, and U.S. air strikes on Iraq from the perspective of the Russian General Staff, believing that only by understanding their viewpoint can we minimize the risk of unintentionally provoking a deadly attack. Wary of NATO expansion and reeling from the Russian economy's descent into chaos, the General Staff may interpret Western military exercises and operations in the Middle East and elsewhere as concealing surprise aggression against Russia. This is a grave situation, indeed, as even after the START I, II, and III agreements, Russia will retain enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world—not to mention significantly expanded chemical and biological warfare capability. War Scare convincingly shows that we ignore these facts at our peril.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The arrival of the year 2000 will find humankind's basket of worries distressingly full, with issues like Y2K, global warning, and biological terrorism lurking around the corner. Yet how many Americans worry about the Russian nuclear arsenal and the threat of surprise nuclear war? Not enough, warns Pry, a former CIA intelligence officer. Drawing on his experience with the Agency and a close review of public sources, Pry argues that we have been closer to nuclear war with Russia than top U.S. officials dare to admit. Pry's accounts of five war scares since 1983 and his review of the profound internal crisis in Russia are not for the faint of heart. Even if we disagree with him on just how close to nuclear Armageddon we actually are, his book reminds us that Russia's nuclear force poses a genuine threat to U.S. national security far into the 21st century. It also reminds us that the Clinton administration's nuclear-risk-reduction proposals are much more than another foreign giveaway. It is unfortunate that War Scare, so long in the works, does not provide an updated assessment of relations between Russia and the West in the aftermath of NATO's expansion and the Kosovo conflict, when East-West relations have nose-dived. Otherwise, it is a valuable book.--John Raymond Walser, U.S. Dept of State, Washington, DC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275966430
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Lexile: 1440L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

PETER VINCENT PRY, formerly with the CIA, is currently a professional military advisor to the U.S. House of Representatives on national security issues.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I The Missiles of November: ABLE ARCHER-83, November 2-11, 1983
1 December 12, 1979 3
2 Operation VRYAN, May 1981 9
3 The Pershing II Crisis, May 1981-November 1983 16
4 The Polish Crisis, September-December 1981 23
5 The KAL 007 Crisis, September 1983 27
6 ABLE ARCHER, November 2-11, 1983 33
7 The Death of Andropov, February 1984 45
Pt. II August Coup: The Fall of the Soviet Empire, August 19-21, 1991
8 Gorbachev at 20,000 Feet, August 4, 1991 53
9 Kryuchkov's Coup, August 18, 1991 57
10 The Warsaw Pact Crisis, 1989-1990 64
11 Twilight, August 18, 1991 69
12 Operation THUNDER and the Fall of the Old Guard 77
13 The Cover-Up 83
Pt. III The Armenian Crisis, May 1992
14 The New Russia 89
15 The U.S. Threat 99
16 The Great Debate, May 27-30, 1992 102
17 The Russo-Ukrainian Nuclear Crisis, October 1991-May 1992 109
18 War in the Caucasus: Genesis 114
Pt. IV The October Coup, September 21-October 4, 1993
19 Democracy of the Generals 131
20 Rutskoy 137
21 The Warning: Alexandria, Virginia, June 11, 1993 145
22 Who's Got the Button? 149
23 Ukraine and the Hot September 158
24 Live, on Larry King 170
Pt. V Northern Lights: The Norwegian Missile Crisis, January 25, 1995
25 Dangerous Men 185
26 Aurora Borealis 195
27 Dark History 203
28 Black Brant XII 214
29 Dangerous Minutes 228
Pt. VI The Future?
30 The West 241
31 Black Prophecies: Civilian Threat Perceptions 249
32 START: A More Dangerous Balance 255
33 Winning a Nuclear War 262
34 Flashpoints 273
Selected Sources 295
Index 323
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 1999

    War Scare makes some excellent points, but be sceptical!

    I would like to say that this was an excellent book; I certainly thought so for most of it. Unfortunately, I can't. Dr. Pry's misstating of the facts in the last section, 'The Future?' betrayed all the credibility he had built up with me in the preceding 228 pages. Dr. Pry starts this section off with a discussion of the various START treaties. I certainly disagreed with his analysis of those but at least it represented a defensible point of view. However, the next chapter, 'Wining a Nuclear War' grossly misstates facts and does so with the obvious intent of misleading readers toward the writers point of view. Nobody in Government, that has had access to the seismic data (which is also available to the public through the CTBT organization) believes that the 1997 Novaya Zemlya event was a nuclear test. All the seismic data shows that this event had none of the signatures of a nuclear explosion and took place well out to sea. The rest of the chapter is filled with other misstatements of fact, all clearly biased. For example, why does Dr. Pry say that the new Russian ICBM, the SS-27, is twice as lethal as the SS-18? It might be true that an SS-27 is twice as lethal as a single SS-18 warhead¿I don't know myself¿but there are 10 warheads on an SS-18 so even using Dr. Pry's arithmetic, I would say that an SS-18 is five times as lethal as a SS-27. All this unfortunately takes away from the excellent body of the book¿it certainly makes me worry that other facts Dr. Pry marshals for his argument might be wrong. However, Russia, and the Soviet Union before them, is clearly worried about its national survival. Dr. Pry makes a strong case that the threat of an inadvertent nuclear war is greater today than ever before. People should read the first five parts of this excellently written book for that alone. But read it with as much scepticism as you can muster.

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