In the aftermath of a failed coup that stunned the nation, a jittery House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, brought the United States closer to nuclear war than at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
As Americans split over whether to condone or condemn the siege of the Capitol, overseas governments watched in bewilderment as hordes of angry protesters stormed the House and Senate floors, leaving hundreds wounded and at least five dead.
Less than twenty-four hours later, as Trump went dark, Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike, led by none other than Nancy Pelosi, petitioned the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, to dispossess Donald Trump of the launch codes with which he controls the country’s nuclear arsenal. Senators Jack Reed, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Tim Kaine, all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, followed in Pelosi’s footsteps, telling their military liaisons that an “unhinged” and “unstable” Trump could at any moment launch an unprovoked first strike anywhere on the planet.
“Chairman, no one and no place is safe. He could launch against our own cities, or abroad. He’s completely lost whatever mind he had left. If I were Putin or Xi, I’d be very concerned right now, Pelosi told Gen. Milley, according to a witness to her telephone call.
But Gen. Milley wasn’t the only person listening to Pelosi’s frantic plea. The unencrypted conversation was intercepted by the FSB, Russia’s federal security agency, and forwarded to Russian Defense Secretary Sergei Shoygu, a hardliner known for condemning Western expansionism. So alarmed was Shoygu that he at once ordered strategic nuclear forces to “sostoyaniye siniy,” or “condition blue,” the equivalent of Defense Condition (DEFCON) 2, as he and Vladimir Putin left the Kremlin for a secure bunker at an undisclosed location.
According to FSB agent Isaak Igorovich, Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy is to “launch on warning of impending or imminent attack. Strike first, ask questions later.
“The objective is launch before an enemies’ missiles have left their silos,” Igorovich said. “President Putin had good enough reason to believe that Trump had gone completely crazy and might want to take someone out in a blaze of patriotic glory before leaving office. Thirty-Seven United States Senators and officials said Trump’s lunacy might make him launch. At that moment, Putin had nothing to disprove. If he delay [sic] too long, 300 nuclear missiles might suddenly appear over Kremlin. Putin was desperate to speak to Trump, but he could not reach him.
Putin tried to contact trump via conventional and unconventional conduits, Igorovich added.
“Putin had to do something. I mean—we received a report that Trump had locked himself in a broom closet and was sitting in a corner cuddling the, uh, how you Americans call it, the nuclear football, muttering to himself “No one can take this from me.” Putin has special line to Oval Office. It’s like, how you say, the bat phone that Commissioner Gordon had to batman. White house switchboard wasn’t responding, either. Putin even resorted to trying the Kremlin teletype, which hasn’t been used since 1973. Putin didn’t know what to think. But he knows there is 400 ICBMs and many SLBMs pointed at Russia,” Igorovich said.
An hour passed, then two. At 2100 hours (EST) the FSB captured a second telephone call between Pelosi and Gen. Milley. “General, we need those codes now,” she said, emphasizing the word “now.”
Putin ordered the equivalent of DEFCON 1. Over 600 ICBMs stood ready to rain fiery death on the United States with countless multiple impact reentry vehicles. Secretary Shoygu ordered four Typhoon ballistic missile submarines to spin up all missiles, input targeting data, and prepare to launch. Twelve Tu-160 “Blackjack” nuclear bombers took flight and entered a holding pattern above the Bearing Sea.
Putin began issuing launch authority, but halfway through the order his telephone rang. It was Donald Trump, whom NORAD had alerted to the presence of Russian bombers staging near the Alaskan Air Identification Zone. Trump urged Putin to stand down his nuclear forces, promising that tales of his insanity and compromised launch codes were greatly exaggerated and not to be taken seriously.
“They spoke for about twenty minutes, and Putin, convinced Trump was of a sane and reasonable mind, deescalated the situation and recalled all strategic forces. Had that call not arrived, we may not have been alive for me to relay this story,” Igorovich said.