D+18 0801-1200 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 Part I

Moscow, USSR  0830 Zulu 1130 Local

The first Politburo meeting of the day concluded at 10 AM. Afterwards, the Defense Council reconvened immediately. Before this morning, the overall mood of the Politburo hinted at growing apprehension over the state of the war. The briefing given by CINC-West at the morning session confirmed that operations on the Central Front were falling short of the primary objective. This fact, coupled with the worsening situation in the Eastern Bloc, pushed these concerns into the open and solidified them, producing the desired effect. At least in the General Secretary’s view.

The air had been cleared and the Politburo now realized the gravity of the present situation. The members were in agreement that the war could not be permitted to move east of the Inner-German Border. Poland was in open revolt and the German Democratic Republic was on the verge of abandoning its socialist roots as two opportunistic factions continued their battle for control of the government. Measures needed to be put into effect immediately to dissuade the West from taking full advantage of the moment. Specifically, a definitive message that would provide time for the new Western TVD commander to prepare a plan to prevent NATO from advancing farther and enable the Soviet government to negotiate from a position of strength.

The Politburo had agreed with this without dissent. The warning needed to be effective and leave no question about Soviet resolve. It would be a strong show of force, yet not overwhelmingly so. Otherwise, the risk of it leading to a limited exchange would dangerously overshadow the purpose behind the message.

For the past ninety minutes the Defense Council debated various options and plans. By this point deadlock had set in. The final decision would be Romanov’s, however, he was reluctant to go forward with a plan unless the majority of council members were in agreement. They were nowhere near one yet. The Defense Council had agreed back in May that operations against NATO would be fully conventional. Nuclear weapons would not be considered unless there was a major setback in operations on the Central Front. If victory was in doubt, the topic would be reopened. This point appeared to be rapidly approaching, therefore it was critical that this warning be crafted and delivered flawlessly.

Marshal Akhromeyev was all too aware that time was not an ally. When he realized there was minimal chance of the issue being resolved anytime soon, he requested permission to summon a handful of experts from the General Staff to provide insight on potential targeting choices and timing issues. This was allowed and Akhromeyev immediately left the room to place a call.

 Author’s Note: Short entry today. It has been an inconveniently busy week so far. I’ll try to extend this Friday’s entry to catch up. – Mike

18 Replies to “D+18 0801-1200 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 Part I”

  1. A short but gripping post.

    Your posts for D+18 have me thinking about the mentality of the average Soviet army officer in 1987.

    Let’s take someone like Snetkov. At this point, how many years of service? 25? 30? He’s too young to be part of the Great Patriotic War generation. Maybe a tour or two in Afghanistan? He is a child of the Cold War.

    Now, let me repeat again that I’m not a SME on Warsaw Pact ground forces, or anything. Just a guy who reads a lot.

    On the one hand, weren’t Sov officers trained that tac nukes would be used early and often? That this was just an inevitable part of the battlefield? Only late in this period is the idea of conventional- only conflict and precision weapons coming along. With that indoctrination and mindset, how much are senior officers going to drag their heels about popping nukes?

    On the other hand, the USSR was actively supporting the anti-nuclear movements in Europe. They did this to weaken the West, not out of any high-minded principle. BUT, Soviet propaganda always painted the US and NATO as warmongers who were willing to destroy the world.

    Wasn’t “The Day After” shown on Soviet TV? I’m not sure how much anti nuclear propaganda was strictly for foreign consumption. How much was aimed at USSR citizens, or filtered back to them?

    In other words, when the Soviet chain of command starts looking at the possibility of a nuclear exchange, are they citizens, who are horrified? Or are they so indoctrinated that the reaction is “it was always inevitable, let’s get down to business!”

    Put another way, you wrote that Snetkov didn’t want to tell the leadership the truth. Why? With his decades of training, wouldn’t he be chomping at the bit to use the Sov nukes?

    Just playing devil’s advocate. Not sure if this makes any sense, but that’s what I’ve been wondering about. Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for bringing these points up. I’m running a bit late now but will respond by the weekend. For now, I’ll say that Snetkov was reluctant to tell leadership the truth because he believed the Politburo or General Secretary would blame him for the failures. Common fear and not only in Soviet Russia.


  2. Will the target be a frontline target, a behind-the-lines target (Birmingham seems to always get the short end of this stick, though a Spanish target would seem to serve the Soviet interests more), or a high-altitude target?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what they’re trying to determine. Not easy, to say the least. Each potential target type has a lot of inherent risk built in.


  3. Why do I have a feeling the “targeting experts” are going to get guidance to ignore politburo guidance. Followed by the dispatch of troops to “ensure the safety” of said politburo!

    If the Soviets sue for peace by presenting a status quo antebellum to NATO possibly along with some form of reparations in raw materials/energy and maybe a people’s trial and punishment of the “guilty” as an alternative to escalation? NATO wins a defensive war without the thorny problem of NATO troops (The Germans) invading the east. The Soviets are no doubt losers, but they can focus on regaining control of the satellites or making an orderly withdrawal.

    Or demonstrate a weapon on “friendly” territory- find a Czech, polish, or DDR formation that is in mutiny and use the weapon on them. Or pick a non-strategic city in rebellion. That would complicate NATO the political decision to retaliate- trade New York for Paris, yes; trade New York for the 12th CSLA Tank Division, probably not.

    Communicate the demonstration with the offer of peace.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think using a tactical nuclear weapon platform like an SS-20 is just not possible. NATO’s response will likely be automatic. As for busting a city, that turns into an eye-for-an-eye type contest. They have to think really carefully about the message they’re looking to send. Dangerous territory indeed


    1. Yep, West Berlin is blockaded but hasn’t been touched. I did a few posts on the city earlier on. They’re in the Central Front section


  4. They won’t go countervalue. You bust Bonn and even Vatican City will send troops into the Central Front to get some vengeance on those Red bastards for arbitrarily killing 2-3 million people in a single whack. There’s a POMCUS site SE of Bremerhaven (IIRC) they could nuke, it’s close enough to the city to induce a panic in civilians and a CD (or the German equivalent thereof) disaster that would occupy NATO *and* it would disrupt NATO movement around a vital area. If they get stupid, yeah, it’s going to be counterforce. As densely populated as the Fulda is there’s scant difference between the two but there’s a world of difference between an SS20 with a 4 warhead spread of 250mt ea. hitting Brussels and popping Narfenaur with a single 100kt.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And that’s what scares the hell out of me.

        Look, Bama plays Ole Miss tomorrow and I got enough trouble being paranoid about my beloved Crimson Tide not taking them seriously 😀

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I just think they’re victims of their own success this year, and it definitely showed in the first two games and a LOT in the Florida/Bama game: terrible play after the 1st half. Embarrassing. Looks like they got their minds right by the So.Miss game, but…it’s SoMiss. We’ll see. I’m sticking with Bama @ -8.5, altho. Vegas is saying -14.5. I think they’ll harry us the entire way, all afternoon.

            (Sorry for getting off topic all.)

            Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s not quite original (the Soviet demonstration in the movie “World War 3” had this one), but a North Sea demonstration using a bomber would seem to be the lowest risk…assuming the bomber doesn’t stumble across Strike Fleet Atlantic. Whether it is truly just a demonstration or an attack on an economic target in the form of an oil rig (or a group thereof), there wouldn’t be a lot of casualties, but it certainly would get NATO’s attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A detonation over open ocean is the safest message, in my view. Unless the weapon exploded directly over a NATO carrier group 🙂 But yeah, minimal casualties and an unmistakable message.


      1. They’d have to be super duper careful playing with fire that way though: if it’s not a surface burst, it could EMP blanket a region and be interpreted by NATO as a precursor to larger attacks, and set into motion events that couldn’t be stopped once started.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True, but keep in mind EMP is a line-of-site event. So if a detonation is at a lower altitude it won’t effect such a large area. Set it off at the edge of space though, and we’re talking problems.

          Liked by 1 person

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