The latest craze in Moscow is a war game where players race to find nuclear codes
Russian Officials Play on Fears and Organize Massive Nuclear Exercise
“Attention! Attention!” the Russian voice blares from a loudspeaker. “The atomic bombs will be launched in an hour.”
In a room decorated like a Soviet-era nuclear bunker, a few Russians race to prevent a catastrophic attack on the United States.
Their quest – the latest craze in Moscow – is to find the nuclear launch codes and deactivate a hidden red button, already pressed by a mad Russian general.
It’s complete fantasy; simply an interactive game hosted in a building in a former industrial area of the city, harking back to the fears of the Cold War.
But amid the current tensions with Russia, in which a potential nuclear showdown with the West has been re-raised, it feels a little unsettling.
Thanks to Lev Medvedev
A crazy Russian general has pressed the nuclear button – and gamers must stop launching missiles
“I’m worried because there’s some really stupid information from both sides,” said Maxim Motin, a Russian who just completed the Red Button Quest game.
“I know normal people around the world don’t want war,” he added.
But Russian officials have prepared the nation for the possibility of conflict and have raised deep-seated concerns about a standoff with the West, Russia’s longtime Cold War rival.
Russian television is broadcasting a massive training exercise involving up to 40 million people across the country. It is designed to prepare reactions, the government says, for a chemical or nuclear attack.
Ministry of Emergencies/AP
The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations has released this photo from a nationwide civil defense exercise
The video shows aid workers in protective suits and gas masks leading the civil defense rehearsal, the largest of its kind since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It suggests that the Kremlin wants the Russians to take the threat of war very seriously.
Of course, a total conflict between Russia and the West remains highly unlikely.
Analysts say the principle of mutually assured destruction – or MAD – still holds as a deterrent, just as it did during the Cold War.
But as tensions over Syria, Ukraine and the Baltic states mount, analysts say a small risk of contact, misunderstanding and escalation between the nuclear powers has become very real.
“I don’t think nuclear war is likely,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading foreign policy magazine.
“But when two nuclear superpowers operate in the same area with their military machines, very close to each other and they don’t have good coordination, something unintended can happen,” he told NewsMadura.
It’s a risk the Kremlin likes to play as state television has stepped up its harsh rhetoric in recent weeks.
In his flagship current affairs program, Russia’s chief state news anchor, Dmitri Kiselyev — dubbed the Kremlin’s chief propagandist by critics — recently issued a stark warning of global war if Russian and US forces clash in Syria.
“Brutal behavior towards Russia can have nuclear dimensions,” he stated.
The Russian Defense Ministry has also released details about the latest intercontinental ballistic missile to be added to its nuclear arsenal.
The Satan 2, as it is known, will be the world’s most destructive weapon, guaranteeing Russia’s place as a top nuclear power.
It’s an apocalyptic vision that adds a further sense of realism to the fantasy quest conducted by gamers in Moscow.
“I know now in schools in Russia they tell the kids that our biggest enemy is the US,” said Alisa Sokoleva, another gamer in Moscow.
“But it sounds ridiculous to me and I am absolutely certain that war is impossible,” she adds.
Thanks to Lev Medvedev
The quest game players – posing as a special ops team – are the only ones who can avert war
Back in the fake Cold War bunker, the Russian gamers have cracked the launch codes and deactivated the missile launch. It seems that the United States has once again been rescued from this virtual Russian nuclear attack.
Hopefully, the real world will also be spared such a confrontation.