Military Exercises and the Dangers of Misunderstandings: the East-West Crisis of the Early 1980s

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Abstract


This article analyzes the risks of mutual misunderstanding caused by NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) large-scale military command-and-staff exercises in 1983. The problem of mutual misunderstanding is analyzed in the context of the classic «Security Dilemma» elaborated in 1951 by J. Gertz and adapted to military exercise issues by D. Adamski. In spite of all the available knowledge, analysis, intelligence and other forms of communication between the West and the East, a problem of mutual misunderstanding appeared between two blocs. This was highlighted during the command and staff exercises of the NATO countries «Able Archer 83» when the world was put on the brink of nuclear war. Given that the Western countries have considered exercises as a deterrence of possible attack by the WTO, the Eastern Bloc countries considered such activities directly threatening their military security. According to the author, these were military exercise carried out by both sides, which represented the most important factor of the sharp deterioration in relations between the West and the East in the early 1980s following the period of détente in the 1970s. The article is based on a large empirical data, archives data, personal interviews by the author of the participants of these events.


About the authors

B Heuser

Reading University

Author for correspondence.
Email: ee@yr.ru
Reading, United Kingdom

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