The Return of Dr. Strangelove?

strangelove2.jpgThe Stanley Kubrick classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb centers around a Soviet doomsday device. If Russia is attacked by nuclear weapons, the device will set off countless nuclear bombs automatically, thereby rendering the Earth uninhabitable. It was dark humor when Peter Sellers brought it to life on the silver screen…but what if it’s real?

That’s just what a new book from the U.K. is arguing. Doomsday Men by P. D. Smith provides evidence that a Russian doomsday system called “Perimetr” went operational in the mid-1980s, and still is. As Ron Rosenbaum points out in Slate, this is particularly upsetting news since Vladimir Putin recently announced that Russian nuclear bombers would recommence “strategic flights”–potentially armed with nukes. The prospect of war between the U.S. and Russia might seem remote, but the return to nuclear posturing is not a good sign for humanity. Rosenbaum once interviewed some of the Minuteman commanders who control our own nuclear arsenal and his article makes a great read:

“This doomsday apparatus, which became operational in 1984, during the height of the Reagan-era nuclear tensions, is an amazing feat of creative engineering.” According to Blair, 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.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.