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Revealed: The Soviet Union’s $1 Billion ‘Psychotronic’ Arms Race with the US

During the Cold War, the Soviet scientists vied with the US to understand mind control, remote viewing and non-local physics, according to a new review of unconventional research in the USSR

During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union battled on many fronts to demonstrate their superior technical and scientific achievements. Some of these battles are well known and well documented, such as the race to put a human in space and then on the Moon.

Others are much less well known. One of these battlefronts was in unconventional research—parapsychology (or psychotronics as the Soviets called it), mind control and remote influence and the such like. Some of the US work on these topics is now public and has famously become the basis for various books, TV documentaries and for the Hollywood film “The Men Who Stare at Goats”.

But much less is known about the Soviet equivalents. Today that changes thanks to the work of Serge Kernbach at the Research Center of Advanced Robotics and Environmental Science in Stuttgart, Germany. Kernbach provides an overview of Soviet efforts in unconventional research between 1917 and 2003 based on publications in Russian technical journals and recently declassified documents.

He shows how Soviet research evolved more or less independently of work in the western world but focused on many of the same unconventional themes as secret US programs. And he shows how the Soviets and the Americans used what little they knew of each other’s work to create a self-sustaining cycle of funding. This psychotronic arms race cost as much as $1 billion and only ended in the early 21st century when the funding bubble burst.

Kernbach begins by pointing out that research in the USSR could only be done with government support, unlike research in the west which could be privately funded. So the Soviets had a considerable bureaucracy to manage unconventional research and to fund it, albeit with a certain cyclical character as it fell in and out of favour.

Over the years, the Soviets focused on a number of areas, many of which mirrored US efforts. For example, the US Project MKULTRA, was a 20-year CIA program that studied ways of manipulating people’s minds and altering their brain function.

The Soviets had a similar program. This included experiments in parapsychology, which the Soviets called psychotronics. The work built on a long-standing idea in Soviet science that the human brain could receive and transmit a certain kind of high frequency electromagnetic radiation and that this could influence other objects too.

Various researchers reported that this “human energy” could change the magnetisation of hydrogen nuclei and stimulate the immune systems of wheat, vine and even humans. They even developed a device called a “cerpan” that could generate and store this energy.

Like MKULTRA, this program also included a study of the effects of electromagnetic waves on humans and led to the development psychotronic weapons, which were intended to alter people’s minds.

Kernbach also describes significant Soviet research on non-local signal transmission based on the Aharonov-Bohm effect. This occurs when a charged particle is influenced by an electromagnetic field, even when it is confined to a region where the field strength is zero.

Soviet scientists appear to have called this effect “spin-torsion” and built a number of devices to exploit it. But just how successful this was isn’t clear and this line of work appears to have been killed off in 2003.

One thing that Kernbach’s analysis lacks is any detailed discussion of the results of these programs. Consequently, it’s hard to escape the sense that this research is steeped in jargon and pseudoscience

All this research required substantial investment, says Kernbach. Numbers are difficult to come by but he concludes that Soviet spending on unconventional research must have reached the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars and may have hit $1 billion.

It certainly matched US spending and on projects such as MKULTRA this was in the hundreds of millions. “Soviet and US costs are comparable at least on a level of separate programs,” he says.

Although Kernbach says much of this research was discontinued in 2003, it is not clear whether Russia (or the US) has ongoing programs in these areas. However, Kernbach says there are as many as 500 researchers in Russia that are still active in the field of psychotronics (as measured by the numbers still attending conferences on this topic).

What’s also clear is that a significant amount unconventional research is still classified in Russia. “For instance, documents on experiments performed in OGPU and NKVD — even 80 years after — still remain classified,” says Kernbach (OGPU was the secret police force of the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1934. It evolved into the NKVD, which included the organisation that later became the KGB.)

Kernbach’s review merely scratches the surface of all this. There’s obviously significantly more to the Soviet work on unconventional research than he is able to reveal.

For the moment we’ll have to wait to find out whether that will ever be made public. And whether it was matched by similar programs in the West.

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Underworld

Havana Syndrome again? CIA officers are mowed down by a mysterious disease

A CIA officer in Moscow experienced symptoms of the so-called “Havana syndrome” in 2017. This became known to The New York Times with reference to sources in diplomatic circles.

CIA officer Mark Polimepulos, who helped lead covert operations in Russia and Europe, complained about the manifestation of mysterious symptoms. According to the newspaper, in December 2017, he felt severe dizziness, which later developed into a prolonged migraine, forcing him to retire. At that time, Polymerpoulos was 48 years old.

It is noted that such a case was not the only one. Similar symptoms were experienced by the staff of the American ambassadors in Cuba and China in 2016-2018. However, the exact number of cases and the place where this happened is not named. It is alleged that the US diplomats have tried to influence in a similar way around the world.

At the same time, the US State Department was unable to establish an unambiguous reason that caused the “Havana syndrome.” Among other things, it was assumed that the diplomats may have been exposed to an unidentified sound effect.

In 2017, it was reported that, beginning in late 2016, American diplomatic officials and their relatives in Cuba began to complain of symptoms such as hearing loss, nausea, headaches and balance disorder. 

The Associated Press received audio footage of the attack and described the harassing sounds as “the high-pitched sound of crickets combined with fingernails scratching on a board.” Then the American government suggested that Russia or China could be the culprit.

Many victims are still undergoing rehabilitation. Specialists from the University of Pennsylvania performed magnetic resonance imaging and revealed visible changes in the structure of the brain in the diplomatic missions.

Differences were found in 23 men and 17 women who complained of health problems while on diplomatic duties in Havana. Scientists have yet to figure out what causes the unusual symptoms.

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Underworld

How Russia and the United States nearly started a nuclear war in 1995

The Norwegian meteorological rocket incident remains the only time in history that the Russian president has activated his nuclear briefcase.

On January 25, 1995, Doomsday could have come in the world: the Russian Federation was preparing to launch a nuclear strike on the United States. How did it come about that the states that left the confrontation of the Cold War in the past and had just normalized relations with each other found themselves on the verge of mutual destruction?

The beginning of the war?

The cause of the crisis was an ordinary Norwegian meteorological rocket. Its launch from the small island of Anneia at 7 am local time (10 am Moscow time) towards Spitsbergen caused a stir in Russia. 

Black Brant XII.

Black Brant XII. Legion Media / ZUMA Press

Equipped with scientific equipment to study the aurora borealis, the Black Brant XII was similar in size to the nuclear-powered American Trident D-5 ballistic missile, intended for launch from submarines. In addition, it flew along a trajectory along which, as the Russian Defense Ministry believed, American missiles would fly in the event of a nuclear war. 

In December 1994, Norway informed 28 states, including Russia, about the planned launch, but did not give a specific date, limiting itself to specifying the period: from January 15 to February 10 of the next year. Due to bureaucratic delays, this information did not reach the Russian Missile Warning System, which sounded the alarm.

Decisive minutes

An emergency meeting with the country’s top political and military leadership was convened in the Kremlin. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Chief of the General Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov and President of the Russian Federation (as Supreme Commander-in-Chief) Boris Yeltsin had three strategic missile forces control terminals activated – the so-called nuclear suitcases.

Vladimir Sayapin / TASS

The military believed the lone missile could have been fired to create an electromagnetic pulse that knocked out Russian radars and communications systems. Following it, a massive blow could be expected.

For several tense minutes, as leaders watched it flight, it was decided whether Russia would launch a nuclear strike against the United States. 

“Little is known today about what Yeltsin said at the time, given that it could have been some of the most dangerous moments in the entire history of the nuclear era,” The Washington Post journalist, David Hoffman wrote three years after the incident : “They make it clear that the Cold War nuclear readiness system continues to operate, and how catastrophic its consequences could be, despite the fact that the feud between the great powers is already over.”   

The situation was discharged only when it became clear that the rocket had gone towards Spitsbergen (not far from which it fell into the ocean). The nuclear cases have been deactivated. Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right).

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right). Igor Mikhalev / Sputnik

The incident with bringing Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces to combat readiness, soon became the property of the world community. When, four years later, the Norwegians were about to repeat their launch of Black Brant XII and reported this to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US additionally warned all key Russian military departments about it through their channels. As a result, this time there were no unpleasant surprises. 

Source: rbth.com

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Underworld

Germany conducted exercises in case of nuclear war

Bundeswehr / Birthe Brechters

The Bundeswehr with partners in the North Atlantic Alliance ( NATO) trained in operations in a nuclear war.

The German army, together with Italian, Belgian and Dutch colleagues, conducted exercises in the event of a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

The location of the exercise “Steadfest Noon” was chosen airbase “Nörfenich”, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 31 “Boelcke” is located. Together with the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr, the air forces of other NATO countries, in particular, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, took part in the exercises.

According to a report by Bild, the exercise scenario involved training procedures for safely removing nuclear weapons from storage, delivering ammunition and installing them on aircraft. The training flights took place without nuclear weapons, and in parallel with the aviation exercises at the Büchel airbase, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 51 Immelman is located, the Resilient Guard air defense systems were trained to protect the airfield from air attacks.

The training sites for the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr were not chosen by chance, since the Nörfenich airbase is a reserve storage site for the B61, a hydrogen bomb that forms the basis of nuclear weapons of the US strategic nuclear forces. 

Some of this ammunition is stationed at NATO bases in Europe. The exact number of hydrogen bombs that are stored at European sites and which ones are not reported. In Europe, the B61 is carried by Panavia Tornado fighter-bombers (pictured) and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters.

Recall that the B61 thermonuclear bomb is the main weapon of the US strategic nuclear forces, although it entered service in 1968. Since 2012, a new guided version of the B61-12 has been under development, which will replace all B61 and B83 bombs that have been in service since 1983. It can be used both on strategic bombers and tactical aircraft. About two billion dollars were spent on the development of the 12th modification of the aerial bomb.

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