Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin died today. And I immediately ran to Wikipedia and added three stories to his biography about his threats to nuke America -- the first brought on by an oversight, the second by U.S. attacks on Serbia, the third by President Bill Clinton's criticisms of his war on Chechnya. The point, of course, not to attack Yeltsin or Russia as to remind us that our fates rest in the hands of imperfect and even unstable leaders. Personally, I consider President George Bush to be far more unstable than Yeltsin - after all, he's just waiting for Jesus to tell him to start Armageddon!
I'll just quote my three Wikipedia entries below:
1. On January 25, 1995 Russian early warning radar detected a rocket identified as possibly launched by an American trident missile. After notification, Boris Yeltsin immediately opened "nuclear briefcases" used to authorize the launch of nuclear missiles. Some claim he came within minutes of ordering a full scale nuclear attack on the United States, until the rocket was confirmed to be heading away from Russian airspace. It later was learned that the launch was an American and Norwegian scientific rocket and that Russian radar commanders had never received the widely dispersed advance notice of its launch.
See the video!
2. During the 1999 Kosovo war, Yeltsin strongly opposed the NATO military campaign against Yugoslavia, and warned of possible Russian intervention if NATO deployed ground troops to Kosovo. In televised comments he stated: "I told NATO, the Americans, the Germans: Don't push us toward military action. Otherwise there will be a European war for sure and possibly world war.
3. During November and December of 1999 Yeltsin and President Clinton escalated sparring over Russia’s occupation of Chechnya. Speaking before a November meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Clinton pointed his finger at Yeltsin and demanded he halt bombing attacks that had resulted in many civilian casualties. Yeltsin immediately left the conference.
In December while visiting China to seek support on Chechnya, Yeltsin replied to Clinton’s criticism of a Russian ultimatum to citizens of Grozney. He bluntly pronounced: "Yesterday, Clinton permitted himself to put pressure on Russia. It seems he has for a minute, for a second, for half a minute, forgotten that Russia has a full arsenal of nuclear weapons. He has forgotten about that." Clinton dismissed Yeltsin’s comments stating: "I didn't think he'd forgotten that America was a great power when he disagreed with what I did in Kosovo." It fell to Vladimir Putin to down play Yeltsin’s comments and present reassurances about U.S. and Russian relations.