While US generals and admirals went to work planning the next phase of military operations in Central Europe, other European theaters and beyond, The leaders of the United States, Great Britain, France and the Federal Republic of Germany discussed what was to come next. Each leader had his or her own concepts and goals. In some instances, the points of one national leader contrasted sharply with those of the others. The West German Chancellor’s initial position brought on the first and most turbulent disagreement. Helmut Kohl openly advocated for NATO forces to adopt an offensive posture designed to eventually carry them beyond the Inner-German Border deep into Warsaw Pact territory. “To Berlin and then to the Oder and beyond,” Kohl explained heatedly.
The other three leaders were staunchly opposed to taking ground operations into East Germany or Czechoslovakia anytime soon. French President Francois Mitterrand and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believed Romanov’s threat was not a bluff given the fate of Madrid and Alert. America’s leader was not entirely convinced of his Soviet counterpart’s willingness to take the conflict in a direction that would all but guarantee future exchanges. His reason for not being in favor of Kohl’s plan was pragmatic, however. “I think we need clear the Russians out of West Germany and get to the border first. And that will not be easy. They still have a lot of tanks and troops on your territory, Helmut,” Reagan pointed out truthfully.
Thatcher pressed for an effort to entice the Soviets to the negotiating table. Reagan then explained that Romanov was open to negotiations but strictly under his terms. He made it clear the Soviet Union would not offer to return the NATO territory its armies had seized by force. The large swaths of West German and Danish ground the Red Army still held was, for all intents and purposes, Soviet soil according to Moscow. Therefore, Reagan concluded, the pre-war boundaries needed to be restored before NATO could negotiate in good faith,
Kohl, Thatcher and Mitterrand saw the logic, yet none of them were inclined to like it. Kohl especially did not want to return to a status quo ante bellum situation. The Federal Republic suffered far too gravely for this to be an acceptable outcome. West Germany cities lay in ruins. Tens of thousands of his citizens were dead, wounded or trapped behind the lines. Kohl was determined on there being a reckoning for the trauma his people and country was put through. That much was evident.
Following thirty more minutes of discussion, a consensus was reached. The next objective for NATO forces in Central Europe was to be restoration of the pre-war frontiers. For this to be completed before Moscow could rattle the nuclear saber and threaten escalation, NATO’s counteroffensive needed to be swift and decisive.
“The four of us cannot consult and debate endlessly on matters once offensive operations start,” Reagan told the other three leaders. “Therefore, I suggest giving SACEUR and his commanders in the field a free hand to conduct operations. Leave the soldiering to the soldiers.” Mitterrand wanted to know when they could realistically expect those offensive operations to start. “Thirty-six to forty-eight hours, according to General Galvin.”
Next it was Thatcher’s turn. “Ron, now that we’ve settled Germany, what are your intentions with regards to the Soviet missile submarines in northern waters?”
“We will leave them alone for now,” the President answered. He chose his next words with great care. “But I don’t think we should lessen the pressure on the Kola Peninsula any longer. Our carrier groups up north will be going back to work in the next twenty-four hours.”