‘This is slovenliness!’ Where the Pentagon’s nuclear briefcase was left

Anton Skripunov

The storming of the Capitol in January still haunts Washington. Now the Pentagon has admitted that the radicals could take possession of a nuclear briefcase, with the help of which they give the command for a massive missile strike. Therefore, the US military decided to revise the rules for protecting the mobile “red button”. About the secrets of the “deadly case”, how it is defended in the United States and Russia – in the material of RIA Novosti.

Almost lost

The nuclear briefcase scandals have accompanied both the beginning and the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. After winning the elections in 2016, the Democrats expressed doubts about the adequacy of the new owner of the “button” – they say, how to entrust him with such a dangerous weapon? In 2021, it became clear at all: the Americans simply almost lost the modern analogue of the scepter and powers.

This was diplomatically silent for half a year. Only the other day, the Pentagon said that on January 6, the radicals who stormed the Capitol were “dangerously close” to the black case of Vice President Mike Pence.

“The uprising at the Capitol was an attack not only on our democracy, but also on the security system. <…> Mike Pence then went into hiding with his assistant, who had a nuclear suitcase in his hands. They were both in danger,” the US Department of Defense said…

But they shyly kept silent about the details. It is not surprising, because the degree of the threat was realized only after the fact. The special commission examined the video recordings and saw firsthand a nightmare of the security personnel of the first persons: the rioters were a couple of steps from the shelter where Pence was hiding. The crowd chanting “Vice President to the gallows!” Could burst inside at any moment. And there is not only the second face of the American state, but also the cherished “nuclear button”.

The Pentagon has promised to review the current security protocols. They are actually uncomplicated. “Lethal bag” is always with the President of the United States. A spare one – with the vice president, in case the head of state is unconscious. They are usually worn by special assistants – specially selected naval officers. First of all, people are tested for emotional stability. True, the control system sometimes fails. So, in 2017, the adjutant left the suitcase unattended, getting involved in a fight between Trump’s guards and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The top officials carry with them the so-called nuclear bisquit – a plastic card with codes for launching intercontinental missiles. Each in its own way – someone in his pants pocket, someone in a jacket. Which is also fraught: in the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter forgot to remove the card from the suit, which he gave to dry cleaning. And in 2000, Bill Clinton could not find a “cookie” for several months – apparently, it fell out in the Oval Office. The fact that it happened immediately after the sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky added to the acuteness of the incident.

“Nuclear ball”

The White House only spoke of that incident a few years later. I didn’t want to disturb the public. Indeed, in the minds of most citizens, you cannot imagine a device worse than a device: you press the red button – the end of humanity. In fact, everything is much more complicated.

“This is not a button at all, but a secure communication device. And not over one channel. It is necessary in order to confirm the decision to use nuclear weapons from any place and in any situation,” military expert Viktor Murakhovsky explains to RIA Novosti. a means that allows the command posts of strategic nuclear forces to identify relevantly the received order. This is a communication means and a data transmission apparatus in one bottle. “

In fact, we are talking about a mobile command post. It was first created in the United States in the early 1960s, when the world was closer than ever to a nuclear war. The Americans called the missile launch plan a “kick” (dropkick), and the nuclear briefcase – a “soccer ball” (football). This is how they still express themselves.

With the help of the “ball” and “cookie”, the Supreme Commander contacts the Pentagon, the Strategic Command of the US Armed Forces and the crews of the Doomsday planes. They also have codes. After checking the data, the missiles are launched. But this is only in general terms – the details, like the contents of the nuclear briefcase, are strictly classified.

The Soviet counterpart was developed by 1980. The official name is the Cheget subscriber complex of the Kazbek automated control system for strategic nuclear forces. They still use it because it is very convenient. After all, it was made specifically for the elderly Leonid Brezhnev.

True, the secretary general did not have time to transfer the device. As well as his successor Yuri Andropov. Only Konstantin Chernenko received a black portfolio in 1984. But, according to the testimony of contemporaries, he did not delve into the principles of his work – he immediately gave it to his assistant.

Subsequent general secretaries and presidents still had to understand: the nuclear briefcase became not only a symbol of power, but also a marker of responsibility – no less – for the entire planet. Today, according to official data, only two countries have such devices – Russia and the United States.

“The Russian president at least once a year participates in training on the use of the” suitcase “, – said Murakhovsky.

“Instead of a button – a bottle of vodka”

Once the Russian leader had to use Cheget. In January 1995, scientists launched the Black Brant XII meteorological rocket off the coast of Norway. In trajectory, it strongly resembled the American Trident ICBMs, which are armed with nuclear submarines. Boris Yeltsin later told the press that he had activated the suitcase to communicate with the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff – they also have such. And without their codes, the launch will not take place.

“The portfolio of the head of state is carried by the adjutant. He usually walks in a navy uniform,” says Vladimir Shorokhov, head of the Gorbachev and Yeltsin protocol.

This person should always be close to the supreme commander, even when he goes on vacation. Sometimes funny things happen – like what happened to Boris Yeltsin while hunting in the Moscow region in 1991.

“When we were sailing on a boat on the lake, one foreign guest kept looking at the black suitcase at the bottom of the boat,” he recalled in his book “The President’s Marathon.” And when the suitcase was opened on the island and two bottles of vodka and pickles were taken out, the guest laughed for a long time. “

Once Boris Nikolay-evich parted with the “button”. In 1996, when he w-ent to the hospital for surgery. “Before that, he sign-ed a special decree, according to which the adjutant with a suitcase was“ transferred ”to the acting president, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. As soon as Yeltsin regained consciousness after anesthesia, the decree was terminated,” Shorokhov said.

“American carelessness”

Finally, they part with the portfolio during the transfer of power. According to Shorokhov, this is a special ceremony. “The new supreme commander is also given ciphers, they explain how to use it. Everything is recorded.”

True, the outgoing leader does not always do it personally. For example, in 1991, Yeltsin received the “scepter of superpower” not from Gorbachev, but from the officers of the signal corps – politicians at that time had strained relations.

The same thing happened with Biden in January. Trump did not want to pass the “ball” – and everything turned into a scandal. But, as it turned out six months later, not the last with the participation of the president and his “buttons”.

“The incident in the Cap-itol is an example of Ame-rican carelessness. What c-an I say if the president (Joe Biden.) Goes up the ladder with a suitcase, still carries an umbrella – and without protection. I can’t imagine that I have Gorbachev, Yeltsin or Vladimir Vladimirovich walked with a suitcase or an umbrella in their hands, while the guards stood there and opened their mouths. This is just slovenliness! ” – Shorokhov is indignant.

Murakhovsky emphasizes: the Russian system of nuclear codes is designed in such a way that “if the case itself is lost and it is found somewhere, it is still impossible to use it – special devices are provided for this, built into it.”

Be that as it may, a black briefcase about ten centimeters thick and weighing ten kilograms is carefully guarded around the clock. At the same time, one of the most secret devices in the world is constantly in sight of many people.

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