'This Week': Cold War Echoes

ABC News' Martha Raddatz reports from nuclear launch facilities in the western U.S.
3:00 | 03/09/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Cold War Echoes
Echoes of the dramatic cold war confrontation that had both countries on edge for decades. And a new reminder, a Russian military official hinting that the Ukraine crisis may lead them to consider suspending inspections of the Russian nuclear arsenal. That signal means to stop whatever you are doing and get to the nearest safe place fast. That very real threat of nuclear war seems a long time ago. But watching developments this week, it was hard not to think about those battle days of the cold war. Russian troops on the March. The U.S. Sending fighter jets to eastern Europe. Vladimir Putin test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile. That icbm, though unarmed, an especially sharp reminder that America remains on alert for nuclear war. Across the frozen plains of our country are scattered 450 of them. Nuclear-tipped missiles that could destroy the world. Still manned every hour of every day. You could drive by this remote site and have no idea there was a nuclear missile silo here, but essentially, the nuclear warhead is just ten feet below me. We traveled to missile sites and training facilities to see how the air force maintains the nuclear arsenal. Each missile silo is connected, along with nine others, to a control capsule nearby, buried 60 feet underground. Behind blast doors, inside five-foot thick concrete walls, launch officers have their fingers on the nuclear trigger. Step one launch started. So it would only take four people to launch a nuclear weapon? Yes, ma'am. That's pretty heavy stuff. But if the president gave the word, they would be ready. Most of us here think about that pretty much every time we're on alert. They are on alert duty eight times a month. All alone underground for 24 hours. Test initiate. It's not the most exciting job in the military. Two, one. Even though it comes with an unbelievable responsibility. That pressure has been overwhelming for some. The nuclear force has been plagued with scandals. Cheating, drugs, alcohol abuse, gambling. But the mission goes on. The system is safe 24 hours a day. I sleep well at night knowing the people we have out there. I really do. Colonel Steve ganyard is back with us now. What about these threats to not allow nuclear inspections? It's more saber rattling by the Russians. I think this is just something to turn up the heat. We won't be too concerned. The treaties have been on the cold war downhill for a while. But talk about the show of force in the region, what can we do militarily? John Kerry was very careful this week when I was with him not to talk about any show of force, particularly. Right. It's really because it's limited. Do we want to go and rattle saber in the face of the Russians? The things we have done, put six more F-16s in Lithuania. There's a contingent patrolling the baltics up there. Crimea is in the black sea. Patrolling the wrong sea. It doesn't do any good. It makes us look foolish to put airplanes a thousand miles away. We couldn't put an aircraft carrier by treaty into the black sea. The Turks won't let us put anything. We are rattling saber so far away that the Russians will never hear it. That is dangerous in and of itself. It is. Thanks, Steve.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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