My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

The Phone

You're a lieutenant colonel in a secure bunker buried in a secret location in the USSR. You are the night shift commander of the Soviet missile defense system. It's September 1983, so your government's stated policy is "launch on warning".

You have five warnings on your screen.

Each is tagged as an American Minuteman-III intercontinental ballistic missile, carrying three nuclear warheads of 500 kilotons each. Beyond a glimmer of a doubt, your job is to immediately escalate the matter to missile command. They will launch a counterattack, which might -- just might -- stop the second wave of American missiles before they ravage your homeland.

There are only five missiles, not the hundreds you'd expect. Five missiles will kill millions -- cities -- but not even close to everyone. The Americans could do so much more, and they've only launched five.

But if you don't pick up the phone to Moscow now and there are a hundred more that still can be stopped, and if anyone in your nation survives, you will be court-martialed for treason and sentenced to death.

Do you pick up the phone to Moscow?


Happy Stanislav Petrov Day.

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