Reagan's Nuclear War Briefing Declassified

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tags: nuclear weapons, Reagan



Previously classified papers prepared for President Ronald Reagan’s first full briefing on U.S. nuclear war plans in 1982 predicted up to 80 million American losses after a Soviet nuclear attack and identified the Kremlin leadership as one of the primary targets of retaliation, according to a Joint Chiefs of Staff briefing outline posted today for the first time by the George Washington University-based National Security Archive.

The February 26, 1982, briefing came more than a year after Reagan entered the White House, although the president had received shorter overviews of the U.S. nuclear program earlier.  The session came on the eve of a major Pentagon nuclear command post exercise, IVY LEAGUE 82, designed to practice decision-making in a nuclear war.

Reflecting the Cold War tensions of the time, the JCS outline, originally classified Top Secret, described potential Soviet acts of aggression – “what the Russians could do to us” – and presumed a possible conflict escalating to nuclear strikes on the United States.  The president and his advisers were not yet aware that the Soviets had similar fears of a surprise attack and were searching for intelligence that could warn them of a U.S. attack.  Reagan would soon become a leading proponent of sharply reducing, and even abolishing, both sides’ nuclear stockpiles.




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