When has humanity come close to nuclear war?

2023 Jan 21

Humanity has come close to nuclear war several times throughout history, most notably during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was a period of tension and competition between these two superpowers that lasted from the end of World War II until the early 1990s. Both sides had nuclear weapons and there were several instances where the situation came close to escalating into a nuclear war.

One of the most well-known examples is the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Soviet Union had secretly placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, which is only 90 miles from the United States. President John F. Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba to prevent further missiles from arriving and demanded that the Soviet Union remove the missiles that were already there. After a tense standoff, the Soviet Union eventually agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for a US promise not to invade Cuba and to remove US missiles from Turkey.

Another close call was the Able Archer 83, a NATO military exercise in 1983 that simulated a nuclear attack. The Soviet Union believed that the exercise was a cover for a real attack and put its military on high alert, bringing the world closer to nuclear war.

Other examples include the 1983 Soviet false alarm incident, and the 1995 Norwegian rocket incident. These events were caused by technical errors and misunderstandings, but they demonstrate how easy it was for the situation to escalate into a nuclear war.

It’s important to note that the risk of nuclear war has decreased significantly since the end of the Cold War, but the threat of nuclear war still exists as long as nuclear weapons exist. Today, the risk of nuclear war is mainly associated with countries like North Korea and Iran, and the issue of nuclear disarmament is still a major concern for international security.