Streaming Media


On January 25, 1995, a coalition of Norwegian and American scientists launched a Black Brant XII sounding rocket from the Andøya Rocket Range in northern Norway. Though the scientists notified neighbouring countries, the launch caught Russian leaders by surprise. During the rocket’s 20-minute flight over the Barents Sea, Russian radar monitors observed an unannounced self-propelled munition with similar characteristics to an American submarine-launched D-5 Trident missile. Under the pressure of time with a live missile in flight, Mikhail Kolesnikov, Pavel Grachev, and Boris Yeltsin activated the three chegets (nuclear briefcases) to assess what appeared to be a precursor nuclear attack. There was no glaring tension between the United States and Russia in 1995, but plenty of Russians continued to see the West as an enemy, not a partner. President Yeltsin had to assume Russia was not under attack. He trusted his personal relations with U.S. President Clinton, and acted on his visceral instinct in the face of danger. The event revealed a crucial flaw in Russian early-warning technology that has still not been addressed. Since 1995, the U.S.-Russian relationship has only intensified, thus increasing the possibility for a nuclear accident in the future.


Rathbone, Keith


Film Studies; History


European History | Film Production | Military History | Political History | United States History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 John W. Trainor