Operation Ryan 1983 : When World Almost Came to the Nuclear War

Operation Ryan 1983 : When World Almost Came to the Nuclear War

Operation Ryan is the story of when the world almost came to a nuclear war. It was 1983 when Russia (then USSR) believed that the Ronald Reagan administration would have the first atomic attack on the Soviet Union. That belief led to the creation of Operation Ryan.

Yuri Andropov was the chairman of KGB. under his leadership in May 1981. In a top-secret meeting, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev condemns US President Ronald Reagan for being an anti-communist.

Yuri Andropov announced that the Reagan administration was planning a nuclear attack against the soviet union. In response to that, Yuri Andropov decided to launch an operation named “RYAN,” an acronym for Raketno-Yadernoe Napadenie, or “nuclear missile attack.”

Operation Ryan Objectives

The operation’s main objective was to keep an eye on every move of the USA. Operation Ryan’s slogan was, “Do not miss the moment when the West is about to launch a war.”

Operation Ryan primarily depended on the KGB officers stationed abroad for their information regarding the attack. In a way, this operation was entirely dedicated to every piece of information related to the USA officials & their site movement. 

Oleg Gordievsky was stationed at the Soviet embassy in London at the time. Gordievsky came to know that Operation Ryan had flawed principles. He said, “Soon, I came to know that my colleagues see Operation Ryan skeptically.” Still, no one approached the general secretary or the KGB head, Yuri Andropov. The result was Ryan became the most vicious intelligence-gathering operation to date.

Foreign stations and the officers were bound to send reports of even a little information related to the US, even if they didn’t believe it. 

London stationed officers were instructed to survey the lower to higher officials, keep an eye on their movement, watch their routine, and notify Moscow if anything shady smelled. It is said that London and spies in the USA and EUROPE were ordered to do the same.

Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky remembered a top-secret KGB telegram being sent to London KGB residency in February 1983. stating the objective to ensure the residency fulfills the need to take necessary precautions. And to be committed to making plans and preparing to find out the plans of the main adversary, the USA. 

And to organize the continual watch of any indication of a nuclear attack against the USSR, and if there is, then to notify to prepare for the nuclear missile attack, there was an attachment included. The collection of data on potential place shelters. 

A series of Instructions were forwarded To increase the stock of blood in blood banks, Watching over the nuclear armory. Observation of the highest officials in nuclear decision-making, communication lines, keeping an eye on churches and banks, and military installations surveillance. 

An announcement was made of missile Pershing ll, a nuclear-armed missile, to West Germany. Pershing II was capable of being fired from a road-mobile vehicle, which was hard to find. Europe and Russia were only 6-8 minutes of flight time away for Pershing ll. 6-8 minutes was way less time to be prepared for a nuclear attack.

On 23 March 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced the development of the strategic defense initiative. That made the soviet union more concerned about the imminent attack resulting from the expansion of Operation Ryan. KGB head Andropov died in February 1984. Ryan continued to be maintained and developed under the direction of Victor Chebrikov. Operation Ryan was continued till April 1989.


The article concludes with a reflection on the tense and dangerous atmosphere that characterized the Cold War era. The story of Operation Ryan serves as a reminder of how close the world came to nuclear war and the lengths to which both superpowers went to protect themselves from perceived threats.

The continued development of Operation Ryan under new leadership after Andropov’s death demonstrates the enduring nature of Cold War tensions and the intense scrutiny under which each side placed the other. Overall, Operation Ryan stands as a chilling testament to the fear and paranoia that defined this period of history and the catastrophic consequences that were narrowly avoided.