Bestselling science fiction and fantasy writer Piers Anthony publishes his novel Wielding a Red Sword. In the book, a character known as The Incarnation of War can use the Doomsday Clock to bring about World War III.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 symbolically ends the Cold War. Between 1989 and 1991, one Eastern European country after another overthrows its Soviet-backed government, while Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev repudiates his predecessors’ policies and refuses to intervene. These revolutions end the post-World War II ideological division of Europe and significantly diminish the risk of all-out nuclear war. “Forty-four years after Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech, the myth of monolithic communism has been shattered for all to see,” the Bulletin writes.
The Bulletin’s board of directors vigorously debates how far back from midnight the Doomsday Clock’s hands should be moved now that the Soviet Union has broken apart and the Cold War has ended. The time they choose—17 minutes to midnight—requires the minute hand to be moved to a position outside the portion of the Clock depicted on the original design. The change symbolizes the euphoria many feel for surviving 45 years without a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
With the Cold War officially over, the United States and Russia begin making deep cuts to their nuclear arsenals. US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Known as START, the agreement greatly reduces the number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed by the two countries. Better still, a series of unilateral initiatives take most of the missiles and bombers in both countries off hair-trigger alert. The Bulletin declares: “The illusion that tens of thousands of nuclear weapons are a guarantor of national security has been stripped away.”
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