A military aircraft ostensibly designated and marked as a medical evacuation flight transported General Snetkov back to the Western Theater of Operations. The plane landed at a military airfield southeast of Berlin. From there he was transported amid heavy security to the Group Soviet Forces Germany peacetime headquarters complex at Wünsdorf. The buildings and surrounding area had been visited multiple times by NATO aircraft since 9 July. Damage in some areas of the headquarters was heavy. The site was little more than symbolic at this point. Most of the commanders and staff officers who operated from Wünsdorf in peacetime were now either in West Germany or spread out in alternate command bunkers across Poland and the GDR. Or they were wounded, missing or dead, Snetkov reminded himself grimly.
His successor at GSFG, Colonel-General Ivan Korbutov, arrived a short time after 2000 hours. Snetkov wasted no time in leading Korbutov to a command vehicle. He dismissed the crew and one of his staff officers used an electronic device to scan for listening devices. Satisfied there were none in the track, the officer departed. When the junior officer was gone, the Western TVD commander wasted no time getting down to the purpose of this meeting.
In short, the war was not going well for the Soviet Union at this time and Moscow was increasingly concerned. NATO, in the eyes of the Politburo, appeared to be moving closer to targeting the missile submarine bastion in northern waters, despite Soviet warnings. If an attack on the submarines occurred, the use of battlefield and tactical nuclear weapons would instantly be authorized in the Northwestern, and perhaps the Western TVD as well. The Politburo was also wary of the situation in Germany. If NATO pushed beyond the border and into the GDR, Snetkov was told to expect a similar release order. If NATO forces are prevented from reaching the Inner-German Border, release authority will depend on the progress of NATO ground forces in West Germany and Denmark, as well as whether US Marines land on the Kola Peninsula. The factors, variables and potentials were infinite.
Korbutov already received orders from STAVKA to remove army level artillery and missile units from West German territory shortly. Snetkov explained the reasons behind this order and then laid out the procedures and logistics behind preparing for a battlefield nuclear exchange. Although no final decision was reached on the release by Moscow, Snetkov reminded the younger general officer that time would not be on their side. Therefore, it was critical for all Soviet nuclear capable artillery, missile and fighter-bomber units to be ready to execute their missions in minimal time.
The next fifteen minutes of the conversation centered on the fighting in West Germany. Korbutov presented a straight assessment of the situation on the North German Plain. Barring an unforeseen event, he expected the leading units of US III Corps to reach the border within the next thirty hours. In all probability, sooner. Snetkov accepted the estimate with a nod of the head, and then instructed Korbutov to keep a corridor open from Schleswig-Holstein to East German territory to allow for the exit of Soviet units in Jutland. “At the rate things are developing,” he admitted. “I expect I will have to order the Northern Group of Forces to withdraw by dawn.”
Korbutov nodded somberly and pushed all thoughts of his former command out of his mind. He had more than enough to concern himself with at the present time.
Meanwhile, south of the city of Wolfsburg in the Federal Republic of Germany a major battle was raging….