Following a Freedom of Information request from the Nuclear Information Service, documents have been released showing evidence that, in 1963, Britain and America came close to provoking the Soviet Union into launching a nuclear attack.
A war games exercise, Operation Able Art, in November 1983 was so realistic it made the Russians believe that a nuclear strike on its territory was a real possibility. The exercise involved 40,000 US and Nato troops moving across western Europe.
When the Tory government realised the seriousness of the Russians’ reaction to the exercise, prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, ordered that the Americans be lobbied to make sure that such a mistake could never happen again. One analyst believes that the exercise was a greater threat than the Cuban missile crisis.
Anti-nuclear proliferation campaigners have credited the move with changing how the UK and the US thought about their relationship with the Soviet Union and beginning a thaw in relations between east and west.
For more information, see nuclearinfo.org/