Shadows of doom
Peter Handberg, a writer and translator, has in the years since the end of the Cold War traveled many times in the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He has visited many sites where nuclear weapons were kept, ready to destroy the world. Handberg has also spoken to military officers who once watched over these instruments of Armageddon. He has written an important book on the subject, Undergångens skuggor (Shadows of Doom). The book is not translated but a documentary film is planned.
Recently he led a group from Sweden to some of these bases, abandoned since 1987. We were about ten physicians from the Swedish section of IPPNW and ten others, including historians and people with an interest in the Baltic states.
I learned three important facts from the book and on the sites:
- The size of the Soviet nuclear complex in these small Baltic states was enormous, with at least 35 bases.
- The officers who watched over the missiles were—especially in 1983—convinced that an American attack was coming and they expected to launch their missiles.
- There were short distance missiles at some of these bases in the 1960s, but also much later, with a range of not more than 600 km—enough to reach southern Finland and eastern Sweden with a large number of 100-kiloton warheads, each equivalent to about six Hiroshima bombs. The reason “neutral” Sweden was targeted was that a US attack with bombers carrying nuclear weapons was expected to come over Swedish airspace, possibly using Swedish airfields.
Maybe the idea that Sweden would have been used as a platform for an American nuclear attack was correct. Thomas Reed, once the head of the US Air Force, describes such a scenario in his book, At the Abyss. Reed was a US defense analyst who, in the 1980s participated in the selection of enemy targets in the strategic plane called SIOP.
I cannot avoid comparisons with the situation today. My country moves ever closer to NATO and has, through the Host Country Agreement, prepared for NATO bases and for an attack to be carried out by NATO from our territory.
We are making ourselves a target.