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The Able Archer 83 Onsite Collection Now Available to Researchers

September 12, 2014

sourcebookpageBy Elena Burger

The National Security Archive is pleased to announce the release of Nate Jones’s full (to date) collection of Able Archer 83 documents. In addition to the documents posted online in the Archive’s Able Archer Sourcebook, the physical collection, which is now available to researchers, contains new primary and secondary sources related to the NATO war game-turned nuclear war scare that played out across Europe in November of 1983, reverberations from which were felt long after the conclusion of the military exercise.

Some of the most interesting documents in the collection concern not only the lead-up to the military exercise, but its ramifications. Consider the December 30, 1983, CIA memo – drafted less than a month after Able Archer was completed –, titled “Soviet Thinking on the Possibility of Armed Confrontation with the United States.” In it, the CIA’s Office of Soviet Analysis comments on Moscow’s perceived feelings regarding US foreign policy. An excerpt states that US intelligence believed, “The [the Soviets] have charged that the United States is pursuing a nuclear first strike capability and preparing to unleash nuclear war as a means to crushing communism.”

"Soviet Thinking on the Possibility of Armed Confrontation with the United States," Box 1.

“Soviet Thinking on the Possibility of Armed Confrontation with the United States,” Box 1.

Another source highlights the fear felt by Soviet officials at the time comes from a declassified State Department memo regarding Andrie Gromyko’s January 13, 1984, speech in Stockholm, Sweden. In the January 18, 1984, memo, Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John H. Kelly writes to Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger on the strained US-Soviet relationship –while being careful not “to slam the door shut on renewed START and MBFR (Mutual Balanced Force Reduction)” negotiations.

January 18, 1984, memo from Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John H. Kelly to Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Box 1.

January 18, 1984, memo from Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John H. Kelly to Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Box 1.

 An October 30, 1985, memo reveals more about the key source of the 1983 War Scare –Oleg Gordievsky.  The memo –written by National Security advisor Robert McFarlane for President Reagan– outlines KGB defector Oleg Gorievsky’s suggestions for dealing with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev:

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October 30, 1985, memo by National Security advisor Robert McFarlane for President Reagan, Box 1.

Come and see the entire collection at the National Security Archive.

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Ed. Note:  Elena Burger was the primary force behind the organization and cataloging of the Able Archer Onsite Collection.  Many thanks from the Archive.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 12, 2014 5:02 pm

    Fantastic! Thanks!!

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