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Accidental Nuclear War

A Timeline of Close Calls

The most devastating military threat to the superpowers arguably comes from a nuclear war started not intentionally but by accident or miscalculation. The list of close calls below is too long for comfort, suggesting that barring risk reduction, it’s merely a matter of time until our luck runs out. Moreover, there are signs of the Cold War restarting and the risk of accidental nuclear war growing again. (Except for the Arkhipov and Able Archer incidents, the reports come from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Files, or Eric Schlosser’s book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety. They are either paraphrased or directly quoted, with links to the original source.)