Where Was the Black Box?

One of the most chilling aspects of last week's coup attempt is that -- for 76 hours -- the Soviet Union's top-secret nuclear release codes were in the hands of men later denounced as "adventurists" by Mikhail Gorbachev. According to the Washington Post, a member of the Russian delegation that accompanied Gorbachev back to Moscow said the men who put the Soviet President under house arrest in his Crimean dacha also seized the "black box" (actually a briefcase) containing the codes. Could the coupmakers have launched or threatened a nuclear attack? Or was the Soviet deterrent effectively paralyzed for three days?

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