A Man With Stomach: R.I.P. Stanislav Petrov

A member of Ricochet.com posted this chilling and inspiring story in remembering Col. Stanislav Petrov, who died recently.

It’s an era where those of us of a certain age seem inundated by the deaths of people important to our lives. Against that backdrop, it would be a shame to allow the death of one of the most important, but least known, to pass unnoticed.

On September 26, 1983, the USSR’s early warning system for a nuclear attack indicated that five Minuteman missiles had been launched and were headed east. Col. Petrov, then on duty, was charged with monitoring the system and notifying his superiors, so that consultation about retaliation could be held with Yuri Andropov, the Putin of his time. Had Petrov simply followed this protocol, and, considering the state of US-USSR relations at the time, it is likely (maybe more than likely) that nuclear retaliation, and nuclear war, would have followed.

But Petrov was unmoved. While this brief remembrance cannot do justice to the entire episode, Petrov made a call–on his own and within the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. He decided that there was a malfunction, and, based on his personal assessment that a first strike with only five missiles made little sense, he declined to act. According to Petrov, he had a “funny feeling in my gut.” He was right. And there’s a good chance many of us are here today as a result. RIP to a man who thought for himself and was correct.