General Secretary Grigory Vasilyevich Romanov stared hard at the men seated around the conference table with him. Together, they made up the leadership core that would reenergize the rapidly failing Soviet Union and ascend the CCCP to new heights of power and global leadership. These men were all subordinate to Romanov, willfully accepting their places and roles in the new hierarchy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. There was to be no sharing of power. When Romanov began planning for his eventual seizure of power shortly after being ousted by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, he deliberately kept his intentions from being known even by these men who were all close to him. Nothing was said until minutes before the bold undertaking was launched. As Romanov had fervently hoped, these men immediately realized the opportunity presented to them and gave their support without a second thought.
Now, here they were less than three months since Romanov took power, in a position that none of them, including the General Secretary, anticipated would arrive so quickly. He understood the precarious position the Soviet Union had been placed in, largely due to Gorbachev’s attempted reforms. Glasnost and Perestroika would only serve to speed up the demise of the Soviet Union. Romanov recognized this and it motivated him to move decisively to prevent his predecessor and rival from sending the motherland into an irrecoverable tailspin.
Lamentably, Romanov quickly discovered the true condition of his nation upon assuming control. The Soviet Union was essentially on life support. The degeneration of the state’s power had advanced farther than anyone outside Gorbachev’s circle fully understood. The nation had been sedentary for far too long. Its economic strength had been allowed to decay, and Soviet military power would not lagging very far behind. Support for the Party was diminishing, and for good reason, Romanov believed. The Party was doing nothing for its people! Animosity was reaching the critical level in the Southern and Baltic republics. And of course, there was still Afghanistan to contend with.
Outside of the CCCP, the situation was even more desperate. The Eastern European satellites were in perilous condition. All that was needed for a complete collapse was one errant event. Poles, East Germans, Hungarians, and Czechs were frustrated and despondent. Their living conditions steadily diminished while to the west, their counterparts in West Germany, France, the Low Countries and beyond were enjoying unprecedented economic prosperity.
The writing on the wall was clear: Nothing short of extreme measures was going to save the Soviet empire from being consigned to the dustbin of history. Those measures were less than 24 hours in coming, Romanov noted with some sadness. He certainly had not wanted it to come to this. At least not this quickly. Regrettably, time was against him. The Romanov coup had instigated a chain of events that would consume the State if left untreated. World opinion was decidedly against him. Many governments refused to recognize the legitimacy of his government. The United States had denounced the coup and demanded that Gorbachev be reinstated. Beneath the surface, the US was licking its chops and preparing to use the situation to its advantage, Romanov was positive. Sure enough, evidence of US military preparations around the world materialized after he was in power. In response, Romanov took a hard stance and challenged the US and Reagan, hoping to dissuade any opportunistic moves while the Soviet Union was undergoing transition.
That was not to be, and it became clear very rapidly the US was not going to give Romanov the time needed to consolidate his hold on power, and begin repairing the dry-rot that had become so prevalent in the Soviet Union.
Security is inextricably linked to expansion, Western scholars liked to contend. Romanov agreed, though the current position was more akin to security being linked to a consolidation of power. Conversely, that would not be possible until NATO and the United States were forced into compliance with the Soviet Union’s intended course into the future. And to bring that about meant war, while the Soviet military still held the advantage over the armies, navies, and air forces of the West. An advantage which would cease to exist come 1988.
Therefore, action had to be taken immediately.