0240 (0640 Local)
General Secretary Romanov’s day started with an informal meeting of the Defense Council members in his Kremlin personal residence. The attendees were gathered in his quite comfortable study awaiting Romanov’s arrival. As they waited, the men exchanged news on the status of the war or relief and recovery operations in Gorki. Inquiries were made about the wellbeing of comrades and relatives serving in various ministries or military commands. Yet not far beneath the thin blanket of civility and friendly talk, concern and worry over the future of the State was simmering.
By now it was clear that the war was not going how Romanov and these men had envisioned. Of course, wars never go the way generals intend, or politicians wish. For the most part, the Defense Council members understood the extent of the danger they faced. The consensus was that the situation remained recoverable. Much would depend upon the decisions made by Romanov over the coming hours and days. Those decisions would be largely sculpted from the information and advice given to him by the Defense Council.
Romanov arrived and the meeting started. At his direction, Viktor Chebrikov told his comrades of the message received by a KGB asset in Washington, as well as its significance. The news blindsided everyone in the study with the exception of Romanov. The lack of further communication from the operative was alarming. Uncertainty breeds speculation and in times of crisis, the conjecture can become reckless. The debate went back and forth. The military men present pushed Romanov to deliver a strong message to the United States in hopes of deterring Washington from attacking the bastion. The civilians, Chebrikov included, wanted a more measured approach that would minimize the risk of errant escalation. Until the KGB’s source in Washington could verify his previous report, there was no proof the US Navy was preparing to move against the ballistic missile submarine bastions.
After a thirty minute-long debate, the official recommendation of the Defense Council to General Secretary Romanov was to deliver a strong message to the US through military means while waiting to hear from the intelligence operative. At the same time, further preparations had to begin at once should the message be disregarded by Washington outright.
Romanov concurred and issued the necessary orders. The morning Politburo meeting would start at 10:00 AM and he wanted results by then.
0335 Zulu (0535 Local)
Marshal Snetkov was in the operations center of the Western TVD’s wartime headquarters complex. A properly constructed series of underground connected bunkers and multipurpose rooms. It was not perfect. Given the circumstances, however, it suited the needs of both Western TVD and its commander-in-chief. The first battles were materializing in Germany, incubating as skirmishes at the moment. As the morning went on this would change, he was certain, as fighting expanded and pushed east. The American armor would again be the centerpiece of the enemy’s offensive for the coming day. Professionally, he admired the American heavy divisions and the way they fought. First rate equipment and weapons manned by well-trained and highly motivated soldiers and officers. Well, he would have a few unpleasant surprises to unleash on the Americans by the end of the day to keep them from crossing the Inner-German Border in force.
North of the US Corps, the Dutch attack in 20th Guards Army sector was concerning him. He needed the army group’s depleted combat formations to keep the Dutch at bay for at least eighteen hours to allow the orderly movement of Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces near the Danish border back into the GDR. Snetkov had plans for the Northern Group of Forces now that their usefulness in Denmark appeared to be at an end. If the Dutch could not be held it would prove to be a potentially dangerous problem.
The message from the Defense Ministry arrived twenty minutes later. Snetkov was informed and followed his communications officer to a quiet room where the much younger officer decoded the message form and wordlessly handed it to his commander. Snetkov read the contents slowly, absorbing each detail and making certain he did not misinterpret any part of the message. Finished, Snetkov took a deep breath, folded the message up and placed it in his pocket. Before returning to the operations center, he ordered the communications officer to have the theater commanders of artillery troops and chemical troops be there in ten minutes.