Andrew James John Mackenzie
an historiography
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1999; Y2K and possible Nuclear War

At the end of the 20th century, at the beginning of the new millennium, fears abounded concerning Y2K, the threat that computer systems posed when the calendars rolled from 1999 to 2000. However, as revealed by the testimonies of Sandy Berger, former national security advisor to US president Bill Clinton, the Asian continent was on the brink of nuclear war. 

According to the work of ex-CIA analyst, Bruce Riedel, Berger warned Clinton that matters between Pakistan and India were escalated. Such was the extent of hostilities that Pakistan was planning to use nuclear weapons against India in prosecution of the Kargil War between both countries in 1999.


The US president intended to meet with the Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, on the morning of 4 July 1999. Before that meeting, however, Berger discussed the escalating situation with Clinton.


Concerning Berger’s obituary, Riedel wrote the following:

“The morning of the Fourth, the CIA wrote in its top-secret Daily Brief that Pakistan was preparing its nuclear weapons for deployment and possible use. The intelligence was very compelling. The mood in the Oval Office was grim. Berger urged Clinton to hear out Sharif, but to be firm.


Pakistan started this crisis and it must end it without any compensation. The president needed to make clear to the prime minster that only a Pakistani withdrawal could avert further escalation.”


Riedel’s obituary claims that it was due to the good relationship between Berger and President Clinton which helped convince the Prime Minister of Pakistan to “climbdown” from the unravelling situation in order to bring a peaceful resolution.


Riedel reiterates that:


“It worked. Sharif agreed to pull back his troops. It later cost him his job: the army ousted him in a coup and he spent a decade in exile in Saudi Arabia. But the risk of a nuclear exchange in south Asia was averted.”

Winning a ceasefire undoubtedly prevented nuclear proliferation between the two countries. The consequences would be unthinkable. Casualties alone, the impact for this particular region would be catastrophic. Certainly not a pleasant prospect at the dawn of a new century.




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