Group Soviet Forces Germany D-3 (6 July, 1987) **


When the Commander-In-Chief of Group Soviet Forces Germany (GFSG) General Boris Vasilievich Snetkov told his aide that he was retiring to his quarters for six hours, he made it clear that he did not wish to be disturbed for any reason other than the start of war. The sixty-two year old army general had been awake for nearly thirty-six straight hours. He realized that he was not a young lieutenant any longer and going days without sleep was simply no longer acceptable. Senior commanders needed their rest, especially theater commanders. Things were quiet for the moment so he decided to take advantage of the quiet while it lasted.

For Snetkov, the past forty days were best described as a whirlwind of near-constant activity. activity. Shortly after the new General Secretary had assumed his duties in the Kremlin, he directed the Minister of Defense to begin a reshuffling of senior military commanders. Men known to be supportive of, or sympathetic to Gorbachev and his policies were ousted or transferred to insignificant postings. Snetkov was no lover of Gorbachev or his politics and this fact was well known in the hierarchy of the Red Army, and Soviet defense ministry. When Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov decided to replace then-GSFG commander Valery Belikov,   Boris Vasilievich was the selected to succeed him and assumed command of GFSG on 3 June, 1987.

From that moment forward Snetkov was a general officer preparing his command potentially for war. As June went on, and the international situation deteriorated, Snetkov familiarized himself with his inherited staff officers, and commanders of the army groups assigned to GFSG. The more he learned, the more simplified the job of determining how ready GFSG would be if the order to move west came from Moscow became. He sacked one army group commander and inserted many subordinate officers whom he was familiar with into staff and division command slots. The general was more confident now than he’d been a month ago, however, there was still much more work to be done though.

The question was whether or not he would have the time. Frankly, Snetkov doubted it. He did not know for certain what the thinking was in the Kremlin, but at his change-of-command ceremony,  Yazov had off-handedly advised him to have his command ready for possible offensive action by mid-July. Even going at the current pace, he wasn’t sure GFSG would be completely ready by then.

It was 0300 local time he was abruptly woken by his aide, who informed Snetkov that the defense minister was waiting for him on the telephone. The general took a moment to gather himself before accepting a bulky cordless phone from the young major.

“Boris Ivanovitch,” the voice of Marshal of the Soviet Union and current Minister of Defense Dimitri Yazov came through surprisingly clear.

“Good morning, Comrade Minister,” Snetkov answered as he shook away the cobwebs in his head as best he could.

“General, are you at your headquarters right now?”

“No, I am not. Do I need to go there?”

Yazov paused briefly. “Yes,” he decided. “It would be for the best.”

Snetkov began to get a sickening feeling in his stomach. “Has something happened?”

“The Americans have announced they will begin reinforcing Europe immediately. I will meet with the rest of the Politburo in a few hours and recommend immediate full-scale mobilization. Begin your preparations now, Boris Vasilievich. If the General Secretary is in agreement with my recommendations, your tanks will cross the border in seventy-two hours.”


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