"This doomsday apparatus, which became operational in 1984, during the height of the Reagan-era nuclear tensions, is an amazing feat of creative engineering." According to Blair, if Perimetr senses a nuclear explosion in Russian territory and then receives no communication from Moscow, it will assume the incapacity of human leadership in Moscow or elsewhere, and will then grant a single human being deep within the Kosvinsky mountains the authority and capability to launch the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal.
Slate points out that Russia is still sat on a Strangelove-esque Doomsday Device that has never knowingly been deactivated, and is more likely to have recently been re-activated. It's pure Strangelove all the way: a vast base built inside a quartz mountain, training designed to turn men into mindless button-pushers (no word on whether they all had to wear orange overalls), and machinery that could wipe out most life on the planet "semi-automatically". Which suggests we're one blown fuse or crazed nutter away from oblivion.
Not to be outdone in the ridiculous yet utterly terrifying stakes, the US also boasts a "launch on warning" system. Bonus dread comes from GIs talking about the "permissive action". This is the fail-safe that requires two key-holders to activate the machinery, supposedly preventing a crazed general from starting the war in the style of Jack D. Ripper. It doesn't offer the security you might have hoped for:
You just shoot the other guy and "rig up a thing where you tie a string to one end of a spoon," he told me, "and tie the other end to the guy's key. Then you can sit in your chair and twist your key with one hand while you yank on the spoon with the other hand to twist the other key over."
So, not only is the nuclear deterrent still there and likely to go off entirely by accident, but there are bored GIs down there idly working out ways to bypass the security system.