The Northern Flank D+6 (15 July, 1987) Part I

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The discovery that the Geneva Pause was, in fact, an elaborate ruse conjured up by the Dutch and West German governments was received unfavorably by General Secretary Romanov, and the upper echelons of Soviet political, and military leadership. Romanov’s outrage stemmed from the realization that he had been played the fool. The indignation and frustration of his senior generals was connected to the bitter fact that the faux overture was responsible for a pause in military operations on the Central Front at the very moment a major attack was to be launched. In the immediate aftermath, Romanov was determined not to allow politics to derail the forward progress of Soviet forces on the Central Front or any other theater of operations again. Finland’s  refusal to allow Soviet forces to transit its northern territory was to be the first target of Romanov’s newfound resolve.

Early on the morning of D+6, the Soviet ambassador to Finland Vladimir Sobolev requested an immediate audience with Finnish President Mauno Koivisto. The Finns agreed and scheduled the appointment for seven o’clock that morning. This would be the second meeting between the two men in four days. Koivisto was sure the ambassador was going to put forth another formal request for Soviet troops to pass across northern Finland without interference by the Finnish armed forces. Koivisto had rejected the first Soviet request and intended to turn down any similar requests made today, or in the future.

Sure enough, Sobolev arrived and again presented a formal appeal by the Soviet government for its military forces to transit a ‘narrow corridor’ of Finnish Lapland for a ‘limited period of time.’  Next, he informed Koivisto that an answer was expected by 10 AM that morning. With his task complete, the diplomat departed the office, leaving behind the Finnish president who was alarmed at how the brief meeting had played out. Koivisto had originally intended to turn down the Soviet request immediately, but hesitated. Sobolev’s demeanor was entirely different from their last meeting. It was apparent to the president that Moscow’s latest request was nothing short of an ultimatum and if Finland rejected it, there would be consequences. Koivisto’s next move was to convene his cabinet. A decision needed to be reached quickly.

As Sobolev returned to the embassy, Northwestern TVD’s commanding general received a phone call from Moscow ordering him to implement the Finnish contingency in six hours. The general subsequently ordered the 54th Motor Rifle Division to prepare for operations in Finnish Lapland with all possible haste. It was no longer a matter of whether or not Soviet forces would encroach upon Finnish soil. A decision had been reached by the Kremlin. What remained to be seen was if the Finns would passively submit to the intrusion and look the other way, or choose to actively resist.

The Finns, it turned out, appeared destined to defend the sovereignty of their homeland. A few minutes before 10 AM Helsinki time, President Koivisto telephoned the Soviet embassy and informed Ambassador Sobolev that the Finnish government was rejecting the latest Soviet request. He went on to remind Sobolev of Finland’s neutrality in the present conflict, as well as Moscow’s guarantees to honor that status.

3 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+6 (15 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. I agree the Finns are tough and can handle anything the Russians throw their way. I’m almost feeling sorry for the officers and men of the Soviet 54th MRD 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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