The One About Stanislav Petrov Saved The world

Take the moment you need to make the right call.

September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov commanded Serpukhov-15, a Soviet missile alert center. A US intercontinental ballistic missile launch was reported, then 4 more.

Stanislav knew what to do. “If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it. All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders – but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on
a hot frying pan.”

Petrov reported a malfunction. “I had a funny feeling in my gut, I didn’t want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it.”

Petrov took a moment: Only 5 missiles seemed illogical, the detection system was new, the message passed 30 layers of verification too quickly, and ground radar didn’t corroborate. “23 minutes later I realized that nothing had happened. If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief.”

An investigation concluded that sunlight reflecting on high level clouds was mistaken for the missiles.

The Soviets changed their early warning system to require multiple confirmations.

In May 2017 Stanislav passed away.

Interview with Stanislav Petrov


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