Whereas the President of the United States has to confirm and in fact
invoke a launch when a Soviet strike is detected, the leadership of the
USSR would have had to actually "turn off" the retaliatory launch. The
functional difference is subtle but has very real strategic
The idea behind it was to deter an attack by posturing the notion that
even if NATO was successful at eliminating Soviet command & control and
creating confusion in the chain of command, there would still be a major
retaliatory assault, by whatever arsenal survived, between the first
wave and a second wave NATO nuclear assault. This meant that ANY attack
on the USSR would have the consequence of full, or nearly-full nuclear
The name "Dead Hand" was assigned by the CIA to whom the system/strategy
was leaked. There's no reason to believe it doesn't exist, but there's
also no reason to worry about it in the Y2K context since A) it only
invokes when war is declared, B) none of the missiles have default
targets programmed into them anymore, and C) probably very few of the
launch/firing systems, as you point out, even work.
Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:
> That said, there is no proof that the Russian government has actually
> built the type of failsafe, counteroffensive system that is mentioned
> for various technical, safety, and political reasons. Further, the
> probability that a chain of events leading to a ground level detonation
> or accidental lauch is near zero. The posting you read is simply a 'what if'
> game just to review the possible risks.
Ian Andrew Bell firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Development Manager 408.525.8630
Global Alliances Partners Engineering 800.365.4578
Cisco Systems Inc. .:|:..:|:.