My latest at the Diplomat talks a bit more about Nate Jones’ work at National Security Archive:
Like in the United States, the political and military elite of the Soviet Union disagreed on the likelihood of war, and on the predisposition of the new administration in Washington. Soviet hawks took the exercises as evidence of American aggression,focusing on the parallels between the German attack in 1941 and NATO preparations in 1983. It didn’t help that US-Soviet relations were already at a low in the wake of the September 1983 shoot down of KAL 007.
According to Nate Jones, the editor of the series, the documents indicate that Able Archer included several non-routine elements that could have alarmed the Soviets (or at least given ammunition to the most hawkish elements in the Kremlin). These included a massive, silent air-lift of U.S. soldiers to Europe, the shuffling of headquarters command assignments, the practice of “new nuclear weapons release procedures,” and various references to B-52 sorties as nuclear “strikes.” It wasn’t entirely clear to the U.S. policymakers how the Soviets were interpreting the exercises; Robert Gates, among others, argued that the Russians were taking them very seriously indeed, while Reagan wondered whether ” Soviet leaders really fear us, or is all the huffing and puffing just part of their propaganda?”