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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Rainy day. Worked on books and needed a break and started watching a special on Military Channel about the 1983 near-catastrophe with USSR. Didn’t know it was going to take all afternoon, but it is an absorbing documentary. They say this is not in any book yet.

It was largely Soviet paranoia based on psychological projection and nobody in the
West realized how close we came to nuclear war until after it was over. Old
hard-line Soviets thought that since they believed in a universal revolution to
rid the world of capitalism-- “Workers of the world unite!”— the West must
think the same about them. They didn’t understand free speech and when Reagan called them an evil empire, they saw that as a good possibility that NATO was going to launch a pre-emptive strike. I have heard Reagan-bashers say that his harsh rhetoric caused this near-war but the military folks don’t pull political spin. Just the facts.

During Ford/ Carter/ Nixon, Soviets built up a huge 10,000 missle mobile line of SS-20
missles aimed at European cities. NATO had nothing like this. So Reagan
announced that USA was going to deploy a number of Pershing mid-range units and
this sparked widespread protests among the peaceniks of Europe, fomented by communist
infiltrators working in cooperation with the KGB. The Russians had been stunned by the fact
that Pershings could hit Moscow in 8 minutes, and this left them completely vulnerable
instead of advantaged. KGB was run by a guy whose name looks like Khruschev, (Kryuchkov??) call him K, who is now in his 80’s. He was (and still is!) convinced that NATO was going to strike and told his agents to gather observations to support this. That led to a self-feeding
intel where agents were scared to not to report imminent attack.

When Beirut barracks was bombed and all US forces were put on alert, Russians
interpreted this as a cover-up for imminent attack. When Grenada was invaded, Thatcher got mad at Reagan and chewed him out for invading a Brit commonwealth country over her
encrypted hotline. Russians couldn’t read this and surmised that she as communicating war plans. They got trigger happy and paranoid and shot down a Korean airliner which got lost over their waters even after it had turned around. But, proud communists, they refused to admit blame and grew cock-sure that the West was testing their defenses and prompting an excuse to attack.

What most Western experts didn’t realize was that the Soviets, though distrustful and
paranoid, didn’t want war. They were old guys who had lived through the horrors of the World Wars and the loss of half the adult male population of Russia. What they feared most was a replay of the disaster of 1941 when surprise attack by Germany nearly destroyed the country.

In November 1983, NATO scheduled war games. Andropov was new Soviet President, who immediately fell gravely ill with kidney failure which Russians publicly dismissed as “a cold”. Just like K, he believed war was coming. On the second day of the war games, the
Russian central satellite warning system gave alarms of a missle launch by USA,
then another, then 3 more. The Russian Colonel Petrov in charge was just cool-headed enough to be suspicious of computer error, and he manually overrode the computer.
In the interview, he told how he reasoned that if USA was really launching missles, they would launch not 5 but 500. Sure enough, there was a line of thunderstorms in mid-America whose cloud tops had reflected setting sunlight into a Soviet satellite and the signal went away in minutes. Nonetheless, Petrov was dismissed from the military the next day—after he had done the right thing!

In USSR there were 3 men who could launch missles, not one President like in America. And all three sat with fingers on the trigger while Russians listened to the war games.
The war game was entirely communications-related and no troops or missles were activated. Messages were prefixed by “Exercise, exercise, exercise” but still the Soviets thought the games were just going to be a cover-up of a real launch. Finally it was the Russian spies and double agents who called a stand-down by reporting ‘nothing is happening’, especially a super-mole named Topaz (Rainier Rupp) who was a German NATO official. There were about 10 Russians who were US moles and all but one was assassinated/hung by the Russians thereafter. That one guy, Olegiesky, gave a report to NATO, Reagan and McFarlane that illustrated the paranoia of the old Soviets and was spirited to safety by the Brits. This caused Reagan to go from rhetoric to engagement with the new Soviet boss, Gorby. Andropov had gotten progressively
worse with his ‘head cold’ “and dropped-off” a month after the incident.

Neither side wanted war but distrust and Russian paranoia caused a near disaster. The
paranoia was despite a number of socialist-sympathizing governments in NATO. So it was likely to happen no matter who was US Prez. The fact that both sides were so reluctant to push the button is in contrast to Iran today where their theology makes them want to push the button. And the Russian spies and KGB guys interviewed warned strenuously about this.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Retirement Info

I want to pass this along in case someone reading may have retirement questions. If you were on e of the many Conoco (or Phillips) employees laid off before you were 50, you stand to have a separation retirement if you were retirement vested (worked 5 or 10 years). That is generally true of any company where an employee is retirement vested by whatever rules govern that. Find out about your situation! A friend of mine who worked for the company 25 years was 49 when he was laid off and didn't know he had a pension coming. That is because the outplacement folks at the time were often clueless and untrained to speak about pensions. Often they told the laid off folks that they didn't think there was anything pensionwise. If you are a former Conoco or Phillips employee, go to and check things out. There are contact phone numbers for companies and various subsidiaries under the menu guide. You have to register for upcoming retirement with them. And in behalf of a number of folks around here who have wondered about which of the 2 new companies will be handling their pension (Is it CP or P66??), the HR guys haven't found out yet--announcement coming in May or June. They don't even know how their department will be split yet. So stay tuned. However, no concerns whether pensions will still be paid. The company has a legal requirement to pay them and can't duck the requirement. Only in event of bankruptcy, does the governement Pension Guarantee Corp. take over.

My friend who had the 25 years service and who said he struggled two years with what-do-I-do-with-my-life-now questions, it turns out will get nearly $2000 a month pension.