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Rainer Rupp, ‘Able Archer’, NATO, Syria, Ukraine

John Dolva

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Rainer Rupp about ‘Able Archer,’ his work in NATO headquarters, the Syrian War and the conflict with Russia

Sept. 19, 2015

In the early 1990s he was “most wanted.” The Attorney General at that time called it the “biggest search operation of the German Federal Republic’s police services in the postwar period.” Rainer Rupp, under the code name “Topaz,” had delivered highly sensitive information from NATO headquarters in Brussels to the Main Directorate for Reconnaissance (HVA) of the German Democratic Republic. Rupp was arrested in 1993 and sentenced by the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) in Dusseldorf to 12 years’ imprisonment. He was released in the year 2000. The superspy, who turned 70 on Sept. 21, gave the following interview to Karlen Vesper of the newspaper Neues Deutschland. Vesper’s questions are in bold.


Rainer Rupp

Mr. Rupp, was there really a threat of World War III in 1983? And was it actually you who prevented it?

I never said that, and I’ll never say it. I’m not so presumptuous. I can only quote others. Milton Bearden, former chief of the CIA’s Department for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, is convinced there was such a danger and expressed this publicly at the International Spy Conference on May 7, 2004, in Berlin. Also Benjamin Fisher, longtime collaborator and chief historian of the CIA, has this view. Also Vojtech Mastny, professor of strategy at the Military Academy of the U.S. Navy, supported this view in his pamphlet, “Did East German Spies Prevent a Nuclear War?” regarding my role in the crisis in 1983. The same viewpoint can be read in publications of “Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security,” a Zurich-based international research program on security issues, and not only during the Cold War. And Vladimir Kryuchkov, the KGB chief at that critical time, in a 2005 interview with a German television station pointed out that my actions kept the conflict from escalating in 1983 and blowing up. Last but not least, an award-winning German television documentary in a voice-over commentary raised the question: “Did Rainer Rupp possibly prevent the Third World War?”

How did it happen that in November 1983 the world was again, as in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, on the brink of a nuclear war? And what was your contribution in concrete terms to prevent it?

From Nov. 7 to 11, 1983, there was a European NATO command staff exercise that simulated a nuclear war: “Able Archer.” I was sitting at the time in the nerve center of NATO, and was head of the Current Intelligence Group. This group gathered all information on the situation of the enemy and their own in one place. Early in the morning each day they met under a rotating chairmanship and evaluated the synthesis of the problems that in turn were sent to the NATO command bodies and to the governments and secret services of the NATO countries. In times of crisis or at the time of staff maneuvers, in which we planned to use nuclear weapons in a first strike …

“We” – out of your mouth?

I used “we” according to my former identity at NATO Headquarters. As head of the Current Intelligence Group I had to also deliver this information before the Supreme Defense Planning Council. I had all the top-secret information “at my fingertips,” as they say. I could also access everything (laughs), not just the information that I got to see during my tenure, but also that which came before.

The Soviets were completely convinced that “Able Archer” was the cover for a real nuclear strike. They believed that starting from this maneuver a strike aimed at decapitating the command, control and communication centers of the Soviet army, the state apparatus and the party apparatus would be carried out with the help of the new ultra-modern and precise tactical nuclear missiles, Pershing II and cruise missiles for which you had a warning time of only five to eight minutes. With these rockets, the criminal gang in the Pentagon hoped to decapitate the Soviet army, so that they — a quote that I myself have heard — “would run around the farmhouse like a chicken with its head cut off.”

The Soviet fear seemed justified given the then low level of relations between East and West. In March 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and announced the start of the missile defense program SDI [star Wars].

As head of the Current Intelligence Group, I saw that the fear of a nuclear strike was unfounded. There was no sign in my files of such a strike. That didn’t make NATO any more peaceful, but in this particular situation it was important knowledge. In order to allay the concerns of the Soviets, I scanned all the documents — whether important or not — and sent them to the GDR. Since all documents were officially numbered, the comrades in the HVA and Moscow could clearly see that nothing was missing and nothing important had been overlooked. At the height of the crisis this was supplemented by daily messages to East Berlin. And since they had a corresponding confidence in the sources, Moscow finally dropped the option of a pre-emptive counter-attack.

In view of the many new, never-ending wars in the Middle East and to the escalating confrontation between the U.S. and Russia – is there again the threat of a Third World War? What if the Russians and Americans shoot at each other in Syria? And the French and English, as was announced recently, want to drop bombs inside Syria?

I do not think that a third world war is now an imminent risk. The Syrian spark, however, can quickly jump over to the Ukraine. In U.S. media and talk shows a year ago this opinion was expressed openly and hatefully to Moscow: “The crisis in Ukraine is the tit-for-tat for Syria.” Because two years ago Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied U.S. neo-conservatives their war against Assad. That was in the context of poison gas attacks allegedly commanded from Damascus, attacks that were all faked. They blamed the attacks on Bashar al-Assad in order to push Obama to war. Putin and Lavrov prevented this when they said: “We can get the chemical weapons out of Syria, without you waging war.”

The war in Syria is not really a civil war …

This is no civil war. An American officer and lecturer at a U.S. military academy aptly said: “That’s a war imposed from the outside.”

Could it spread to other neighboring countries and to Europe? Does it really threaten a wildfire?

This threatened two years ago when U.S. American and Russian warships off the Syrian coast in sight of each other crossed paths and the Americans, British and French were preparing a bombing campaign against Syria. A Russian warship could have shot down a bomber located above Syrian territorial waters or at least could have forwarded the flight coordinates to the Syrian anti-aircraft guns. One can assume that the Russians and Syrians have coordinated their systems for a long time. And that would all naturally have brought us into the mess. It was therefore already a highly dangerous situation. Tit for tat along the lines of: “If you make us angry, we will light a small fire on your doorstep” are treacherous. Therefore Lavrov has now called the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry again, so that he might give the real experts on both sides, the Russian and American military, the opportunity to talk to each other, if he wants to avoid collisions. Those are professionals. But for many years Washington has sabotaged any meeting of top military fr...

for the rest of this fascinating interview go to :


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