Aboard Nightwatch (E-4B National Emergency Airborne Command Post)
1545 Zulu (1145 Local)
The conference room on Nightwatch had not been designed with comfort or handling a large number of people in mind. Unfortunately, the amount of officials now crammed into the somewhat spartan space was considerable. At the head of the table sat the president. Around the rest of the table were the secretaries of defense and state, the national security adviser, two members of the Joint Chiefs and the commanding officer of Nightwatch, a USAF brigadier. The remainder of Reagan’s cabinet, NSC and other senior members of the US government were either moving to or had already arrived at secure locations in different areas of the country.
The status of US strategic forces continued to improve with every passing minute. SAC was generating alert force bombers and tankers at a rapid pace. All ICBM fields were at full readiness. Strike Fleet Atlantic and other US carrier groups around the world were preparing their aircrews for SIOP missions. A number of US attack submarines were also moving into position to conduct SIOP related missions against targets inside the Soviet Union should the order be given. Great Britain and France were taking similar measures with their nuclear forces.
Europe was quiet for the moment. Surrenders of Soviet units continued and seemed to be increasing. Other more coherent enemy regiments and divisions were withdrawing from West German territory as rapidly as possible. SACEUR was not harassing them with air and artillery strikes as the Soviets were no longer demonstrating indications of hostile intent. In that regard an unofficial ceasefire was in effect for the moment.
Then there was Moscow. Reagan and his advisers discussed the next step. Options were laid out. The opposition forces were withdrawing from Moscow so as not to give Romanov justification to make good on his earlier threat. Romanov’s intentions were unclear, and Reagan was all too aware that his Soviet counterpart now had the initiative. Secretary Schultz harkened back to the point he put forward in the Situation Room not very long ago. Romanov had them in a box right now and there was little the US and NATO could do about it without risking a full-scale nuclear war.
“We need more information on what is going on in Moscow,” Reagan decided, “Before we can even think about coming up with a plan.”
Caspar Weinberger spoke next. “Mr.President, before we go further I’d like to clarify something.”
“By all means, Cap.” Reagan nodded his head. “Go ahead.”
“With Romanov’s instability possibly coming into play now, is a pre-emptive option on the table or not?”
“You mean a first strike?” the National Security Adviser wondered.
“Not exactly,” Weinberger replied before hesitating for a moment. “Before I go further, I’d like to bring General Vuono into the discussion. He can explain this in better detail.” Vuono was the US Army Chief of Staff. Weinberger glanced over at the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “Admiral, where is he at right now?”
“NEACP-Alternate,” Crowe responded at once. “With the Vice President.”
“Alright.” SecDef turned his eyes back to the president. “Sir, with your permission I suggest we get in touch with General Vuono at once.”
The Kremlin, Moscow, USSR
1550 Zulu (1950 Local)
As the early evening dragged on, more Soviet military districts were refusing to acknowledge orders transmitted by their general secretary. The same held true for STAVKA and the Defense Ministry. Marshal Akhromeyev had not only chosen a side but also made certain a growing number of general officers ignored or refused the orders coming from the Kremlin. The fear was growing among the remaining members of Romanov’s circle that he was losing control of the military. The general secretary knew this and had already written off the Red Army, as well as many of the Soviet Union’s other service branches and military districts. The troops and officers defending the Kremlin and Lubyanka were loyal to him and the Strategic Rocket Forces was under the command of men handpicked by Romanov himself.
For now, the general secretary had the advantage over both his political enemies and the United States. This was not to a permanent arrangement though and he knew it. The men around him now would follow him to the edge of hell, with the possible exception of the Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. The loyalties of these mostly geriatric dinosaurs all rested on Romanov’s continued defense of the State. The general secretary, who reluctantly included himself in the same category, understood that if he waivered, their support would crumble. Even at this late stage of the game, this was something he could ill afford.
Outside, the fighting around Red Square was over. The traitors and mercenaries had retreated rapidly soon after his threat to unleash a nuclear attack if the Kremlin was breached had been communicated to the US president. Now it was time to follow up on the warning and hopefully this madness to a complete and decisive end swiftly.