*Authors Note: With the Christmas break finally here, I am going to use the free time to reorganize the blog, edit and revise previous postings, and make some other changes if possible. This timeline is being posted for the benefit of new readers, providing them, and everyone else, with an alternative to digging deep in the archives to find information on what events led up to the outbreak of war.*
When Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the policies of Glasnost and Perestroika, the move was hailed by the West as a major step by the new Soviet general secretary to reform the Soviet Union, and repair relations with the United States. It is apparent now that the intended purpose of the twin policies was to act as a safety valve. Internal unrest, rampant corruption, increasing economic hardship on a national scale, along with the never-ending Cold War, and war in Afghanistan, were coming together to form a perfect storm that Gorbachev doubted his nation could weather. The outlook beyond the borders of the USSR was no better. Eastern Europe was a powder keg. Soviet influence in the Third World was diminishing, while US power and prestige were on the rise. Glasnost and Perestroika, it was hoped, would give the colossal Soviet giant an opportunity to catch its breath.
Hardliners at home had other ideas. The policies were viewed with suspicion by many of the old guard members of the government, and their supporters. To some, Glasnost, and Perestroika were tantamount to surrendering the coven of true communism to the forces of capitalism. This could not be allowed to happen. As the policies were injected into the national bloodstream, clandestine meetings were being held in the luxurious dachas situated in the Lenin Hills. Decisions were made, recruitment began, and shortly thereafter, serious preparations commenced.
In early 1987 Gorbachev’s reforms were beginning to make substantial headway. The hardliners, and their leader Grigory Romanov, realized their window of opportunity was going to close by the summer. They would have to move soon, before they were truly ready. Mid-April was agreed upon as the time to launch the operation that would, in their eyes, rescue the Soviet Union from certain destruction.
Unbeknownst to Romanov or his co-conspirators at the time, their intentions, and subsequent actions would set their country directly on the road to destruction.
18 April, 1987– Grigory Romanov, a former Politburo member, launches a coup aimed at toppling Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev from power.
19-21 April, 1987- The Romanov coup is successful. He spends the next forty-eight hours consolidating his position, and purging pro-Gorbachev elements from the government, military, and security services.
Early May, 1987– US-led efforts to impose economic sanctions on the Soviet Union as punishment for Romanov’s power grab gain momentum.
17 May, 1987– The frigate USS Stark is attacked by Iraqi warplanes in the Persian Gulf
19 May, 1987– A collision between a US Navy F-14 Tomcat and Soviet Tu-95 Bear in the Western Pacific marks the beginning of increased tensions between the military forces of both sides.
June, 1987– Through much of the month the US-Soviet relationship deteriorates steadily. The upcoming major Soviet military exercise Zapad-87 is causing particular concern in Washington DC and Western European capitals.
1 July, 1987– Zapad-87 begins.
2 July, 1987– Encounter between US and Soviet warships in the Mediterranean. Soviet cruiser Kerch is sunk, and the frigate USS Klakring is severely damaged. Casualties are high.
3 July, 1987– Zapad-87 ends prematurely because of the ‘deteriorating international situation.’ There are no indications of Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces packing up and returning to their home countries. Instead, NATO and US intelligence suspect those same forces will begin moving into East Germany within a short period of time.
5 July, 1987– President Reagan orders REFORGER to commence, and hints that a callup of reservists is being considered.
6 July, 1987– Romanov accuses the US of deliberately preparing for war and announces that the Soviet Union will respond with a ‘defensive military buildup’ of its own. NATO nations begin increasing the readiness of their own militaries.
7 July, 1987– NATO mobilization officially gets underway.