Baltic Approaches D+17 (26 July, 1987) Part I

The Soviets controlled Gdansk. The shipyard was secure, as were other key areas of the port city. The outskirts though, remained unsettled. Pockets of Solidarity members and rebellious Polish military and police, who’d been ejected from the city, fight on into the morning. As the day carries on, the plight of the city becomes a rallying cry for anti-Soviet sentiment across Poland. Fighting there was expected to flare up again in the afternoon, prompting the Red Banner Baltic Fleet’s commander to worry about Gdansk’s accessibility by sea should NATO decide to intervene and take advantage of the situation while Soviet attention was elsewhere.

The eastern Baltic Sea remained very much up for grabs. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact knew it. For COMBALTAP, its primary maritime mission of the war had already been achieved. A Soviet/Pact breakout from the Baltic had been prevented. Even if Denmark fell in the immediate future by some unforeseen circumstance, breaching the Kattegat and Skagerrak would be impossible for the enemy. With the approaches sealed, containment held a practical appeal for NATO’s Baltic commanders until the battle in Germany concluded and a potential counteroffensive materialized.

Western TVD was agreeable to containment but for its own reasons of course. Germany was the key, and thus its attention was fixed upon the Central Front. Soviet commanders in the Baltic region were aware of this even before the new day began. Their NATO counterparts, however, had required additional time to reach the same realization. As far as the Baltic went, Western TVD’s commander Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov was content to adopt a defensive air and sea posture and maintain it for the time being. The battle on the ground in Jutland was a different matter, however, the theater commander’s concern laid with the larger picture.

Finland no longer had anything of value for the Soviets. The advance through Lapland was halted, likely permanently. In the far eastern Baltic, clashes between Finnish and Soviet air and naval units had diminished to the infrequent encounter. Neither nation was enthusiastic about rekindling the fight unless provoked.

Sweden was another matter entirely. The Swedes seemed to be straining at the leash and eager to engage the Soviets. Stockholm recognized the opportunity brewing in eastern Baltic and wanted to take advantage. The Swedish naval and air forces could tip the scales in favor of the Soviet Union’s enemies, if allowed. More ominous was the prospect of a Swedish move bringing about inadvertent escalation. NATO likely understood the danger of this too. But it remained unknown just how much leverage the alliance held with the Stockholm government. Sweden was a partner in the war and an ally, but not a full member of the alliance. It was not susceptible to the restrictions and doctrines that member-nations were.

In the early hours of the morning, unusual movements by Swedish ships and aircraft were detected, raising alarms from Poland to Moscow. Just as the walls appeared to be closing in, the Kremlin was monitoring the Swedes closely. As was Ogarkov, and after 1800 hours Moscow time, his successor as well.

10 Replies to “Baltic Approaches D+17 (26 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. I’m reminded of the lyric from the Pink Floyd song “Not Now John”:

    “Well maybe not the Russian bear, maybe the Swedes.”

    (The Final Cut was really a Waters solo project with David Gilmour and Nick Mason as session musicians, and despite what my 14 year old self thought of it, it is a screechy polemic that practically begs the USSR to please take over everything from Kamchatka to Glasgow because Thatcher and Reagan are meanies.)

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It really is. I bag on the album (as I did above) but taken as a series of (mostly) individual tracks, it’s got some pretty good ones. “Not Now John”, “The Gunner’s Dream”…”Southampton Docks” is a tear-jerker for sure. Oh, and the title track as well.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. A lot of music from the early 80s had a political bent to it. Proper, given what was happening at the time. Not much of that these days, unfortunately. But then again, there’s not much good music either.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. hmmm…

    Fighting flaring up in the late afternoon does not bode well for the Soviet hold on Gdansk. Given they had only taken the port at midnight, I would not call the city “taken” by any stretch of the imagination…. but then, at this point the Soviets need something resembling good news.

    Even if its kinda dodgy.

    Finland…. was always going to be a bad place for the Soviets forces. I mentioned that before… and well, its not that there isn’t anything for the Soviets there- its just that in order to reinforce a failing Nordic Adventure, they would have to fight for their damn lives to get there.

    Too much energy and equipment expended for a route that would be fraught with ambush for anything other than gun-trucks for days. If the Soviets had less problems in their backfield, maybe they would be that stubborn and do it.

    However, reality says its a fool’s errand. As is a number of “sub-adventures” launched after the start of the war.

    I can see the Swedes harassing the Soviet Baltic elements… harassment of the Bear in Finland… or even assisting the Danes in kicking the Pact forces off Mons. Which is the best option of all of them but egos as well as emotions oft times make for bad influences on decisions.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hoping that all of this possible escalation doesn’t end with all of us gaining the ability to green glow in the dark.

    Among other things, it’s nice to see that you too like Pink Floyd! : )

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, that wouldn’t be a good thing. 🙂

      Growing up, I wasn’t a big fan. But as I get older and appreciate the 80s and the music from back then, I’m definitely a fan

      Liked by 1 person

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