Who is Stanislav Petrov?


Peter Sellers as Group Captain Mandrake sitting at an IBM console  in Dr. Stranglove in 1964. Wikipedia.

Who is he? Just the man who saved the world from a nuclear war, that is all.  Recently Stanislav was awarded the German Media prize.  The prize has been given to Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and the Dali Lama, among others.  The prize is awarded to individuals who make significant contributions to world peace.   What did Stanislav Petrov do to deserve being in such illustrious company?  Single-highhandedly, he saved the world from destruction; that has to be a joke right, a man that saved the world and we don’t even know his name?

While trolling around English language Russia media looking for some insight into Vladimir Putin, I discovered a story about Petrov and his award.  Instead of retelling the story, I am just going to past in the story from RT on 2-25-12.

 On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov was the duty officer at an early-warning anti-nuclear center just outside Moscow. The clock had just struck midnight, when a piercing warning siren began to wail. It was less than a month after the USSR had shot down a Korean passenger jet, and Cold War tensions were at their highest for years. Petrov’s computer showed that the United States had launched a ballistic missile towards the Soviet Union. In seconds, several more appeared.

“I didn’t even have time to think about what I was doing, or to fill out my log. I just had to make a decision on the spot,” Petrov said in an interview with RT.

Petrov’s job was to decide whether the threat was credible, and how to report it to his superiors, who’d relay the information directly to the elderly Soviet leaders. “I was the one with the information and my reaction would determine the course of action. If I told them it was an attack, it would have been easier for them to go along with this and to act accordingly than to say otherwise. The panic would have spread like in a henhouse,” Petrov says.

Petrov thought it was strange that the United States, with its thousands of nuclear warheads, would begin an assault with just a few of them. The early detection system was also new and Petrov had little trust in it. But whatever the arguments he knew that all he really had to go on was a hunch.

“I’ll admit it, I was scared. I knew the level of responsibility at my fingertips.”

Stanislav Petrov did not report that World War III was beginning. Instead, he called his superiors and told them that this was a false alarm. When other stations did not confirm a launch, the nuclear response was called off. As it turned out the Soviet spy satellites had mistaken sunlight reflected from clouds for ballistic missiles rising from US bases. But Petrov’s sound call was not rewarded.

He explains: “When the State Commission started looking into the reasons behind the false alarm, they encountered plenty of flaws in the early detection system. So my superiors were getting the blame and they did not want to recognize that anyone did any good, but instead chose to spread the blame.”

The entire incident was highly classified, and even Stanislav Petrov’s name was not revealed to the public until 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then he has been the subject of countless reports and received many awards, though primarily from abroad. In his retirement he continues to live a simple life at his country house, proud but not fixated on the events of September 26, 1983.

That was nearly 29 years ago, without Stanislav and his courage the world might very well have ended in September of 1983.  I think we should give him an award too and make him officially a Hero of the American Republic.  There was another possibility, the one that Peter Sellers pointed out to us in 1964 – fools, warmongers and would be heroes in Dr. Strangelove lead the world down a very different path. Stanislav was a very brave and confident man.  He was brave enough to do the right think and confident enough to trust his own thinking. I for one, who him a debt of gratitude.  I would like to thank him in person and shake his hand.  It is difficult to image that one man could do more for world peace than he did.

That was

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