Warheads and Soviet Chaos

The attempted overthrow of Mikhail Gorbachev by a coalition of Soviet hardliners in August has heightened unease in the West about the control of Soviet nuclear weapons.

Issue: Fall 1991

The attempted overthrow of Mikhail Gorbachev by a coalition of Soviet hardliners in August has heightened unease in the West about the control of Soviet nuclear weapons.  This unease has centered on two issues: 1. the possibility that the coup leaders could have ordered the launching of nuclear missiles, and 2. the prospect that growing ethnic turmoil could result in the seizure and use of nuclear weapons in outlying republics.

Anxiety about these matters is understandable.  The United States has an obvious stake in ensuring that Soviet nuclear weapons are not launched by unauthorized personnel.  Since the beginning of last year,  the [cm;1]cia[cm;0] has even been offering detailed advice on nuclear weapons security to [cm;1]kgb[cm;0] officials.  No doubt, those exchanges will increase now that the political climate in the Soviet Union has taken a decisive turn for the better.

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