Using virtual reality, a Russian journalist became the president of the United States and decided the fate of a nuclear war with Russia
15 minutes to the nuclear apocalypse: as a correspondent of the publication “Kommersant” in the role of the president of the United States, he decided whether to bomb Russia or not.
On the sidelines of the Munich International Security Conference, the American organization for promoting the idea of disarmament Global Zero arranged an unusual performance: the forum participants were invited to introduce themselves in virtual reality format as the US president at the time of the nuclear attack from Russia. In 15 minutes, the owner of the White House had to choose one of three scenarios of a retaliatory nuclear strike, fraught with the death of 5 to 45 million people. The option chosen by Kommersant’s special correspondent Elena Chernenko turned out to be the most widespread.
Over the three days of the Munich conference, several dozen people took part in the Global Zero project. The session was held in a room adjacent to the main hall of the Bayerischer Hof, where harsh criticism of each other was made by senior representatives of nuclear powers. This gave the performance relevance and credibility.
A representative of Global Zero met me and led me into a small room without windows, in the middle of which stood only a chair and a table. On the table - equipment for immersion in virtual reality.
Wearing glasses and headphones, I move to another room, where there is also only a table and chair. On the virtual wall is the emblem of the office of the President of the United States.
“Madam President, please raise your right hand and repeat after me,” someone's voice commands in English. “I solemnly swear that I will honestly perform the duties of the President of the United States ...”
“I solemnly swear that I will honestly fulfill the duties of the President of the United States ...” - I repeat the words and at the same time I turn my head to make out the ceiling, walls, door on the left.
“... and to do everything in my power to support, protect and defend the constitution of the United States,” the announcer sounds very solemn.
And to do everything in my power ... "- I try to match the moment, but I can hardly restrain laughter.
The door on the left suddenly opens. It turns out to be an elevator. Inside him is a Secret Service officer who asks me to follow him into the Oval Office of the White House. I follow him, but very slowly. The room where I was physically seemed to me quite small, and it was scary to stumble on something.
The virtual elevator doors are closing, we are going somewhere. The officer is standing very close. I reason what will happen if you touch it.
But then the doors open, and we find ourselves in the Oval Office. I’m trying to remember from the films whether there was such an elevator. It’s not seen. But everything else looks absolutely real: a huge table with a monitor and stationery, sofas facing each other, a fireplace, a door to the garden. You can walk around the room and move objects.
I sit down at the table. On the monitor, CNN channel news, something about the Middle East. Suddenly an alarm sounds, the lights in the office begin to blink red.
The elevator doors open again, the same officer asks me to immediately follow him. This time the elevator is definitely going down, I was escorted into a bunker with numerous monitors, a map of the USA and a long table. There is a large electronic clock on the table, already counting down from 15 minutes.
A black and white image appears on one of the monitors. I see a man, also clearly located in a bunker. I am informed that this is the head of the US Strategic Command.
He is very excited: “Madam President, our radars have recorded the launch of numerous intercontinental ballistic missiles from the territory of our main enemy, they are sent to the United States. Judging by the trajectory, they are aimed at the locations of our nuclear forces. Our missile defense system will not be able to bring down these missiles. We estimate that the number of civilian casualties in the United States will be 2 million. You must decide to retaliate before they disable our ballistic missiles. Which option do you choose? ”
Three sheets appear on the table. Retaliation scenarios differ in the composition of the elements of the nuclear triad: intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic aviation missiles and submarines.
When implementing the first scenario, the number of victims among the enemy’s civilian population will be from 5 to 15 million people. In the second - from 15 to 25 million. And in the third - up to 45 million.
“You must choose one of the scenarios, Madam President! Otherwise, the enemy will disarm us and we will have nothing to answer, ”insists the head of the Stratcom. Video calling is interrupted by interference.
A Secret Service officer intervenes in the conversation: “Madam President, you cannot stay here for a long time, in a few minutes we will have to take you to a safe place, but there will be no connection.”
Madam President, if you leave this room without deciding on a strike, we will not be able to respond to the enemy, ”warns the head of the Stratcom.
An image appears on the second monitor, they tell me that this is my national security adviser, and he is ready to answer my questions. I ask: "How confident are you that this is a nuclear attack on the United States?" The adviser’s response does not please: “With a high degree of confidence.”
- And who is our opponent? I specify, although I have no doubt in the answer.
“Russia,” the man on the monitor confirms my fears.
I'm starting to get nervous.
The head of the Stratcom again demands an answer from me. Secret Service Officer points to the elevator. The clock on the table shows that I have less than four minutes. I demand that the adviser contact Moscow.
“We tried, but we were not able to establish a connection,” he replies.
I ask the head of the Stratcom if there are options with fewer victims. It turns out that there is.
The fourth retaliatory strike assumes that about 500 thousand people will die.
My first thought: “Why didn’t they immediately show it to me?”
My second thought: “Half a million people - it's still a lot!”
I want to take off my glasses and stop the session. I imagine for a second that in this situation, the current US President Donald Trump could be. Trying to figure out which option he would choose.
The National Security Advisor interrupts the train of thought: “Madam President, you should know that a cyber attack was committed on our information infrastructure this morning.”
- That is, it may not be a real hit now? Could hackers have hacked us? I ask hopefully.
“We cannot say that,” the adviser again does not please.
Time is less than a minute.
- Did you manage to contact Moscow? “I don't want to make a decision.”
But the connection cannot be established. Red lights light up in the room, the elevator door opens, I have to go. The head of the Strathcom actually shouts: "Madam President, which option do you choose?"
Time is up. I rent equipment. I am shaking and a little sick.
Most of the participants in the performance, as the organizers tell me, still strike.
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