Soviet officer honored for averting nuclear war

/ Source: The Associated Press

A retired Soviet military officer was honored Friday for averting a potential nuclear war in 1983 by ignoring an alarm that said the United States had launched a ballistic missile, a U.S.-based peace association said on its Web site.

The officer, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, was in charge of the Soviet Union’s early warning system when the system wrongly signaled the launch of a U.S. Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile in September 1983.

Petrov had to decide within 20 minutes whether the report was accurate and whether he should launch missiles in retaliation, the magazine Vlast reported in 1998.

At the time of the incident, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were high. The Soviet military had recently shot down a Korean Air Lines jet that strayed over Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a member of the U.S. Congress.

Petrov decided that the alarm was false and did not launch a retaliatory strike.

The article said Petrov suffered severe stress after the incident and spent several months in hospitals before being discharged from the military.

Friday, the San-Francisco-based Association of World Citizens, a worldwide organization promoting peace, presented Petrov with the World Citizen Award and launched a campaign to raise $1,000 for the Russian, who receives only a meager pension.

“All the 20 years that passed since that moment, I didn’t believe I had done something extraordinary. I was simply doing my job, and I did it well,” Petrov said on Russia’s NTV television.