D+23 Primer Part II


By the start of D+23 the Reagan administration’s strategy was centered on candid and accelerated diplomatic efforts to produce a ceasefire that would lead to formal negotiations. But the White House was sensible enough to realize Soviet leadership might not be persuaded by words alone. Therefore, as diplomatic notes were sent east through neutral nations and other third-party sources, preparations accelerated to bring the war directly to Soviet soil if necessary. Reagan and his advisors hoped the continued presence of the powerful Strike Fleet Atlantic and the amphibious task force carrying the bulk of the 2nd Marine Division would be enough to convince Romanov that a ceasefire was in his nation’s best interests. The US buildup in the Norwegian Sea was gunboat diplomacy writ large, with the fate of nations and perhaps even the world hanging in the balance.

In Moscow, the political maneuvering by General Secretary Romanov and certain Politburo members had bought both Romanov and his opponents much needed time to complete their respective preparatory measures. Dissent in the Politburo, and predictably across the Soviet Union was reaching a critical point. Romanov sensed this, however, he was unsure of how deep the malignancy was affecting the Politburo. By reaching a compromise with opposition members, Romanov now had one opportunity remaining to end the war on terms favorable to him and the Soviet Union. During the previous day’s Politburo session, the general secretary demonstrated his readiness to use nuclear weapons again to prevent a NATO victory. Romanov had pressed this point home to the Politburo. The result was uncertainty among full and candidate members alike on whether the general secretary would seek to end the war by diplomatic means or nuclear weapons.

Vladimir Dolgikh, the prime opposition leader to Romanov and his destructive policies, required more time before his opposition was ready to move decisively. However, it remained to be seen if Dolgikh and his supporters would be afforded the additional hours. Wildcards were starting to emerge in the closing hours of D+22. The effect these would have on events was unclear to say the least.


For NATO, the war continued.  In Germany, NORTHAG formations, spearheaded by US III Corps were rapidly approaching the Inner-German Border (IGB) and expected to reach it by the afternoon of D+23 barring an unforeseen delay. Just to the north of NORTHAG’s area, Warsaw Pact forces were on the verge of being permanently pushed from Jutland. Army and corps commanders from Bavaria to Schleswig-Holstein were under orders not to cross the border into Warsaw Pact territory under any circumstances.

By this time, some NATO commanders were becoming hopeful over the prospect of the war ending soon. Once West Germany was cleared of Soviet and other Warsaw Pact military units, they could see little reason for the enemy continuing to fight. At the same time, a cadre of senior NATO officers was concerned that the Soviets might resort to weapons of mass destruction in a final act of desperation. The nuclear genie had already been released from the bottle once already and produced horrifying results in Canada, Spain and the Soviet Union. If unleashed again, the destruction could spread across the world.

Soviet forces in West Germany were trying to prepare a determined defense that would keep NATO’s NORTHAG formations from reaching and subsequently crossing the IGB. Colonel General Ivan Korbutov was pessimistic about continuing to hold West German territory for longer than a day at most. His focus now was defense and keeping NATO forces from rampaging through the GDR. As was the case with his political masters, Korbutov was maneuvering to buy time for reinforcements to arrive and prepare concentrated defenses in the eastern GDR and western Poland.

As Korbutov grappled with keeping NATO on its side of the border, CINC-West, newly promoted Marshal Snetkov was facing the prospect of potentially being ordered to unleash tactical nuclear weapons on NATO forces.

2 Replies to “D+23 Primer Part II”

    1. Things are a little more stable there, but nowhere near safe for Soviet troops by any means. The Pact countries will come back into play on D+23


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