The CGSC Foundation’s Simons Center hosted a Des Moines National Security Forum on July 19, 2023, with a luncheon event featuring a presentation by retired Colonel Bob Ulin at the Des Moines Embassy Club West in West Des Moines, Iowa. Brownells, headquartered in Grinnell, Iowa, was the Simons Center’s cohost for the event.
Ulin, the Simons Center founder and director, welcomed the attendees from the Des Moines area business community and delivered a presentation on NATO’s nuclear posture, the 1983 Soviet nuclear war scare and the prospect for nuclear war today.
Ulin was a private first class in 1961 assigned as a special (atomic) weapons assembler with the 3rd Gun Battalion, 39th Artillery (280mm Atomic Canon). In the 1970s he was a nuclear weapons employment officer as a captain with the 56th Field Artillery Brigade (Pershing Missiles). During NATO exercises he plotted targets in Eastern Europe to be attacked by Pershings should nuclear war break out. In 1983, as a lieutenant colonel, he was assigned as a policy analyst at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) during the nuclear war game “Able Archer 83.” It was during Able Archer 83 that Soviet leaders believed the U.S. was preparing to launch a nuclear first strike.
At the height of the Cold War, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact had thousands of tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe to guarantee Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) – a policy that sought to deter war. The belief was that any use of nuclear weapons would quickly escalate into a thermonuclear war thereby destroying both NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. A recently declassified top secret document notes that in 1983 “Soviet leadership was seriously concerned about the possibility of a sudden strike launched by the United States and its NATO allies… arguing that the U.S. was seeking strategic superiority in order to be able to launch a nuclear first strike.”
The Simons Center designed the Des Moines National Security Forum in the mold of its Arter-Rowland National Security Forum in Kansas City wherein members of the forum meet periodically at guest speaker events to learn about issues related to national security. To help facilitate the new program, Brownells in Grinnell, Iowa has come on board as a local partner. Brownells Chairman Pete Brownell is also the Vice Chair for the Central Region for the CGSC Foundation. The Simons Center and Brownells plan to present at least four programs each year by subject matter experts on national security issues that impact the business community.