Marshal Akhromeyev started with Germany. He did not exaggerate or diverge from the truth, yet presented only as many details as were necessary to support the briefing. The Red Army was advancing-slower than expected but still moving west. The reasons for the slow progress were summarized swiftly with Akhromeyev careful not to dwell, or allow enough time for questions to be asked by the other men at the conference table. Next, he spoke of Snetkov and how the general’s refinements of the battleplan were starting to pay off on the North German Plain. Yazov jumped in at this point, explaining the two-week deadline Snetkov had agreed to in Berlin on D+3. Between Akhromeyev’s briefing, and the defense minister’s postscript, a picture of imminent success on the Central Front was presented and accepted by the rest of the Defense Council.
Marshal Ogarkov, CINC-West was discussed next. Akhromeyev needed to tread carefully on this matter because the current commander of the Western TVD was a close ally of the general secretary. Ironically, Ogarkov preceded Akhromeyev as chief of the general staff. In 1984 he was officially dismissed from the post for “unpartylike tendencies.” In truth, his dismissal was a consequence of Romanov’s failed attempt to succeed Konstantin Chernenko as general secretary. Ogarkov, despite his age, was a very adept student of modern war who recognized the need to modernize the Soviet military. Because of his value to the military he was made commander of the Western TVD after leaving the general staff.
While Akhromeyev generally praised Ogarkov’s performance at this meeting, he had some very deep reservations about the some of the decisions his predecessor had made in the past twelve days. Namely his reluctance to release control of the Operational Maneuver Groups to Snetkov, and the army group commanders in Germany. Akhromeyev viewed this as a colossal missed opportunity and failure to seize the initiative. He made mention of how important it was for Snetkov and his subordinates to have control of the OMG at this stage of the battle. Things on the ground were changing too fast for an OMG release request to be sent up the line and then wait for an answer to come back. By the time one eventually did, the battlefield picture had changed and the potential opportunity to unleash the OMG divisions long gone.
To General Secretary Romanov’s credit, he understood what his head military man was saying. He agreed to give Snetkov four days to produce results. And if Ogarkov’s decisions or indecision disrupted the advance, Romanov would have him removed from command. Friendship not withstanding.
Other theaters were briefed next. Romanov listened intently, growing frustrated that the war was expanding and threatening to slip beyond his control. The focus of the Soviet Union’s efforts had slipped away from Germany and all attempts to remedy this were failing. To help ameliorate this roadblock, Akhromeyev suggested bringing the theater commanders to Moscow individually and have them present their plans for future operations. Those without viable plans will be dismissed and replaced immediately. Romanov and the rest of the Defense Council were in favor of this move and approved it unanimously.
“Finally,” Akhromeyev sighed, recognizing the importance of the next topic. “That brings us to the Northwestern TVD, and the troubles we’re experiencing there.”
Author’s Note: Part III will be up Monday evening.