During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, an Israeli A-4 jet carrying a nuclear bomb is shot down over the desert in the Middle East. In 2002, the bomb is found and sold to an arms dealer named Olson (Colm Feore), he sells it to an Austrian neo-nazi named Richard Dressler (Alan Bates) for 45 million dollars on the black market.
Meanwhile, the United States becomes concerned when Alexander Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds) becomes the new president of the Russian Federation. Nemerov is seen as a hard-liner with regards to his control over the Russian military. Director of Central Intelligence William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) seeks the opinion of young CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), who has done extensive research on Nemerov's life and career. While on a routine inspection of Russia's nuclear weapons facilities, Cabot and Ryan are invited to the Kremlin to meet with Nemerov personally. Tension arises when Nemerov likens the United States' involvement in Russian-Chechen affairs to 'sleeping with another man's wife', with Russia playing the part of the betrayed and vengeful husband.