Bruce Blair, Crusader for Nuclear Arms Control, Dies at 72


Among his many books was “Strategic Command and Control: Redefining the Nuclear Threat” (1985). He was also executive producer of the documentary film “Countdown to Zero” (2010) and established or ran a number of think tanks and advocacy groups, including the Center for Defense Information (later known as the World Security Institute) and the Nuclear Crisis Group.

Bruce Gentry Blair was born on Nov. 16, 1947, in Creston, Iowa, to Donald and Betty Ann (Bruce) Blair. His father was a hardware salesman and a veteran of 17 bomber missions over Germany during World War II. His mother was a homemaker.

After graduating from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1970 and serving in the Air Force from 1970 to 1974, Dr. Blair began graduate studies at Yale. He left to work for the congressional office in Washington and returned to Yale to complete his doctorate in operations research in 1984.

His marriages to Cindy Olsen Hart and Monica Manchien Yin ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, his survivors include two daughters from his first marriage, Carrie Blair Shives and Erica Blair Lockney; a daughter from his second marriage, Celia Paoro Yin-Blair; a son from his third marriage, Thomas Onesti Blair; his mother; three sisters, Kathy Donzis, Jill Firszt and Jann Jarvis; and seven grandchildren. He lived in New Hope, Pa.

In a statement, Sam Nunn, the former Democratic senator from Georgia and a co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, who wrote legislation to help Russia reduce its weapons stockpile, called Dr. Blair “an extraordinary public servant who committed his life to reducing nuclear risks around the world.”

Dr. Blair never forgot his time in a missile bunker. He wanted warheads separated from missiles, and he feared that weapons could be acquired by terrorists or rogue states.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 1993, he warned of a Soviet doomsday system that could automatically launch a nuclear counterattack even if Moscow’s military command were wiped out. On another occasion, interviewed for the PBS program “Frontline,” he said, “We need to recognize that the primary challenge that we face today is not deterrence but a failure of control, particularly in Russia.”



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