Russian players race to prevent nuclear war

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The latest craze in Moscow is war games, where players compete to find nuclear codes

Russian officials are playing on fear and staging a lot of nuclear exercise


“Attention! Attention!” roars the Russian voice from a loudspeaker. “The atomic bombs will be fired in an hour.”

Inside a space designed as a Soviet-era nuclear bunker, a pair of Russians are hijacked to prevent a catastrophic attack on the United States.

Their quest – the latest craze in Moscow – is to find the nuclear firing codes and deactivate a hidden red button that has already been pressed by a mad Russian general.

It’s a complete fantasy; just an interactive game held in a building in a former industrial area of ​​the city that returns to the fear of the Cold War.

But amid current tensions with Russia, where potential nuclear confrontation with the West has been raised again, it feels a little unsettling.

A mad Russian general has pressed the atomic button - and players must stop firing missiles

“I’m worried because there’s a lot of stupid information on both sides,” said Maxim Motin, a Russian who has just completed the Red Button Quest game.

“I know normal people all over the world do not want any war,” he added.

But Russian officials have prepared the nation for the possibility of conflict and raised deep-seated concerns about a battle with the West, Russia’s old rival from the Cold War.

Russian television has broadcast a mass training exercise involving up to 40 million people across the country. It is designed to prepare responses, the government says, to a chemical or nuclear attack.

The Russian Ministry of Emergencies released this image from a nationwide civil defense exercise

The video shows emergency workers with protective suits and gas masks leading the civil defense test, the largest of its kind since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This 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 deterrent, as it did during the Cold War.

But with rising tensions over Syria, Ukraine and the Baltic states, analysts say a small risk of contact, misunderstandings and escalation between the nuclear superpowers has become very real.

“I do not think nuclear war is likely,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, Russia’s editor in Global Affairs, a prominent foreign policy magazine.

“But when two nuclear superpowers operate their military machines in the same area, very close to each other, and they do not have proper coordination, any unintentional thing can happen,” he told CNN.

It is a risk that the Kremlin seems eager to play up, as state television has increased its harsh rhetoric in recent weeks.

In his flagship news show, Russia’s top state news anchor, Dmitry Kiselyev – dubbed the Kremlin’s top propagandist by critics – recently issued a stern warning of global war if Russian and US forces clash in Syria.

“Brus’ behavior towards Russia could have nuclear dimensions,” he declared.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has also released details of the latest intercontinental ballistic missile added to its nuclear arsenal.

Satan 2, as it is known, will be the world’s most destructive weapon, guaranteeing Russia’s place as a top atomic power.

It is an apocalyptic vision that adds an additional sense of realism to the fantasy quest played out by players in Moscow.

“I know that now in schools in Russia they are telling the children that our main enemy is the United States,” said Alisa Sokoleva, another Moscow player.

“But it sounds ridiculous to me and I’m pretty sure war is impossible,” she adds.

The Quest players - who pretend to be a special ops team - are the only ones who can avert war

Back in the fake Cold War bunker, the Russian players have cracked the firing codes and deactivated the missile firing. 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.

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