While the threat of imminent nuclear armageddon may not be at the forefront of the average person’s mind today, it was a real, globe-spanning fear not so long ago during the Cold War. Absent the treaties and confidence-building measures developed to mitigate the risk of such an event, U.S. and Soviet civil defense then was totally consumed with the daunting task of planning for the worst.
So how does a state prepare for the event of a nuclear attack? How do you ensure continuity of government in a country laid waste? How conscious are ordinary citizens of this reality and how involved are they in preparedness efforts?
Olga and Hugh debate these all-important questions from the peak of their salience to now with Edward Geist, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and author of the book Armageddon Insurance: Civil Defense in the United States and the Soviet Union, and Ivan Kalugin, Moscow-based researcher and Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) affiliate. Together they discuss how the two superpowers went about tackling them, from the survivability of essential infrastructure and public information campaigns to the logic of mutually assured destruction and the rumored existence of automatic launching systems known as the ‘Dead Hand’.