russian roulette

navigation, see below for text
frontline online

join the discussion
What do you think the chances are of a crude nuclear device going off on American soil? What can we do about it?


Dear FRONTLINE,

I have just finished reading some of the remarks made on your website by people from around the country. While I believe that drastic measures are needed to provide for the current and future safety of our government and citizens in terms of response teams, emergency personnel and the like, I believe that that would only succeed in cutting off the arm of the beast. I believe that the United States government should focus its attention on those groups who would pose serious threats to the national security of the United States and who, at the same time, would have the capital, connections, and support to carry out an attack using weapons of mass destruction. I hope it doesn't take an incident of this magnitude to provoke action.

Brian Reed
lee's summit, missouri


Dear FRONTLINE,

I congratulate PBS and the Frontline for presenting the greatest threat to mankind in the 21st century in such a convincing hour of chilling detail. I have read several books published by many of your distinguished guests. Dr Bruce Blair and the others made a convincing case for assisting the Russia and the other nuclear states of the former Soviet Union in dismantling nuclear weapons, de-alerting and upgrading command & control systems. The United States and other Nations should purchase as much of the nuclear bomb grade material stockpiled in Russia as insurance of it not getting into the wrong hands. We should also find useful work and give financial assistance to the several thousand nuclear scientists and technicians. This would also be money well spent to prevent their knowledge from following into the wrong hands. There are no easy solutions on how to prevent the unimaginable event of an accidentally launched ICBM or small SADM weapon placed by terrorist or a rogue state form detonating in the United States or abroad. We can hopeful that new technology and old fashion luck to detect a potential threat before it becomes a reality.

Robert Kowalski
dallas, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program focused on the technical problems when the real problem is political and therefore the solution must be political. The US must somehow assure Russia that we are as likely to bomb Moscow as we are to bomb London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, or Berlin -- 3 of which were the capital cities of our enemies during WWII.

What is a US nuclear attack submarine doing in Norwegian waters? Forcing the Russians into a 10 minute decision scenario? In a stepwise, verifiable fashion we must withdraw our nuclear forces from their 'frontline' positions.

We should also invite Russia into NATO. It would go a long way to re-assure them of our intentions while at the same time give them the prestige they need. It would also give us a formidable ally in foiling the plans of such rogue states as Iraq and North Korea and terrorists in general. Think of the value of all the KGB records in NATO hands!

Ralph Lanni
hopewell, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

As an enlisted man, I spent one year and eight months underneath the water on two different nuclear powered submarines, at one point sleeping next to missle tube #12 (the area of the second stage engine of the missle). For a period of time I feared annihilation via a nuclear holocaust. Then the Wall came down and the shadow lifted for a while. Since first hearing the rumors that people were being intercepted with fissonable I have feared that those caught were only but a few. Tonights program confirmed my thoughts that there exists a defined point in the future when a nuclear device will be detonated on American soil by a terrorist organization. Our children deserve a better world.

David Fischer
imperial, missouri


Dear FRONTLINE,

William Jefferson Clinton's speech should have been, "I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that no longer are there Soviet missles with nuclear warheads pointed at the United States. The bad news is that they can be in the matter of minutes."

Lon Harlow
camdenton, missouri


Dear FRONTLINE,

I have been to Russia 4 times as a farmer/agricultural-advisor. One of the strengths of their military has been the fact that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing, so outside intelligence is at a great disadvantage. I have seen potato-cellars near Volokolamsk, with good smooth turning access to 2 miles of straight road, no obstacles, and UHF antennas between the buildings, or at least they looked like potato-cellars. The accounting systems I saw for other things lead me to believe General Lebed when he says they can't find the weapons. If he can't, an invader isn't likely to either. When you've been on the battlefields of the Eastern Front, visited with WWII survivors, and understand that the term "Rodina" has nothing to do with whose zad is in the president's chair, the defensive mentality of the Russians becomes more understandable.

imogene, iowa


Dear FRONTLINE,

If we as Americans can't even control domestic terrorism from our own disgruntled citizens, (i.e.The bombing of the federal building, letter bombs from people like Ted Kazinsky, etc.) what chance do we have against foreign insurgents like the Russian mafia, and others bent on toppling our freedom?

Michael Gibson
ringoes, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think that our chances are getting lower because of treaties. And that's good. Just for a precaution I believe we shouldn't de-activate them. But we should remove the missiles from their launching platforms and come up with a device that will quickly be able to put them back into position.

Another thing we could do is stockpile most nuclear missiles in an area that is very hard to reach, and not just underground. If I were to want to aim a nuclear wepeon at the U.S. I wouldn't aim at the capitol, that's stupid, you should threaten the country to show you mean business, not destroy it. Go for a large city. And scare 'em good!

Travis M.
houston, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think the chances are unfortunately excellent. I am not altogether comfortable with the motives of Russia itself. At a time when they need U.S. funds for nuclear weapons safety, etc., they allegedly continue to produce and install new ICBMs such as the SS27 (I believe). The U.S. is no longer doing this. How is it the Soviets can afford it? Why? Now the Clinton Admin. wants to give them $4 Billion for housing troops. I suppose this will free up their own funds to continue to build and deploy weapons that the U.S. is no longer deploying. Many questions need answering quickly.

Bruce Gregg
san antonio, tx


Dear FRONTLINE,

When I was young and gung-ho, I would have been for first strike. Now that I'm old, this stuff scares me. What happens when some young gung-ho mislead religious militant is sent to give his life for Allah! It may well happen, and could happen and probably will. The hell of it is nobody will know where until it happens.

Charles Neel
fort worth, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

The fact that the U.S. undercover Customs officials were ordered not to pursue the suitcase bomb deal with the two arms dealers suggests, at best, that American authorities are not interested in verifying or understanding the truth about this frightening possibility. This leads one to believe that we may not know the truth of this until after one of these portable devices is exploded by some other "end user."

Thomas Graewolf
new york, new york


Dear FRONTLINE,

While watching your broadcast right now I can see the future disasters that could occur as a result of the destabilization of the Russian government. It seems entirely possible that a nuclear device could go off but not land on American soil. It seems much more plausible to make the argument that a nuclear device smuggled out of Russia (or sold to another country not friendly to America) would be able to land on American soil.

This is a very disturbing idea!

I do not feel that the Y2K problem will affect the computer systems in Russia. I have a degree in Computer Science and know the technolgoy that we are capable of. A friend of mine who is a naturalized American who immigrated to the US nine years ago was completely amazed at how much technology is at the fingertips of the average American.

If a problem occurs it will most likely arise from mishandling of existing nuclear weapons that are reported as missing or from lack of communication between the US and the new Russian military system.

Your program is very informative and "rocks my boat." It is like viewing a real-life horror story.

Thanks for keeping all of us up to date on the situation.

boonville, mo


Dear FRONTLINE,

what do I think? only what is fed to me through the media. There are many uncertainties when it comes to the Russian command and control of their nuclear weapons. It's only a guessing game as to how serious the situation really is.

mark gingles
nashville, tn


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am watching your special on the Russain nuclear safety. As someone who used to serve in the Soviet military, I cannot wonder at some of the information and conclusions made by the "experts" quoted by your program. Do you realize how far "impoverished guards" are from actually accessing the weapons?! It's like saying that one US marine guarding the White House wil desptoy the whole system of state security of the United States. Check your sources please because the reputation of Yablokov who cites the "suitcase bomb" and general Lebed who also spoke about them extensively is not very good at home. Thank you for your attention.

Pavel Zemliansky
tallahassee, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

We used to have dreams and fantasies; now we have nightmares and worst case scenarios. I think the possibilities are good for a nuclear explosion on American soil, especially something like the suitcase bomb. I think that Power and Money must recognize that this will affect them too, and work to stop disenfranchising large segments of the world population. We need to completely revamp our attitudes toward guns, violence, bombing, etc. Our whole mindset regarding world domination or "leadership" should undergo a sea change so that children will not accept holocausts of any kind as a matter of course.

Marcia Reiter
milwaukee, wi

more



home . atomic suitcase bombs .a close call? .a nuclear smuggling scenario .russia's nuclear complex .debating the future .interviews .readings
join the discussion .synopsis .links .press .tapes & transcripts
frontline online .pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS