0703 Zulu (0903 Local)
The Soviet Mi-17 flared and landed. The pilot powered down the engines. Once they ceased turning, Marshal Snetkov disembarked from the helicopter with three aides in tow. They moved while under the watchful eyes of an Apache helicopter. SACEUR and own two aides walked out from the trees and met the Soviet delegation at the midway point. The generals exchanged salutes, followed by somewhat reluctant handshakes. Then the introductions were made. Snetkov took advantage of the opportunity to explain, in rather good English, that a translator would not be necessary. The group then headed back towards the woods. When they approached the tree line the Soviet and American aides continued on in. Snetkov and Galvin broke off and began to walk along the edge of the tree line.
After a few moments of silence Galvin spoke first. “General, I’m sure you are aware of the reason for this meeting.”
“I am. We are here to bring about a ceasefire between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe quickly.
Galvin nodded his head. “Has your government instructed you to present a definitive outline?”
Now it was Snetkov’s turn to shake his head in the negative. “My superiors in Moscow have given me authority to discuss and reach an acceptable temporary agreement here with you. I assume that you have a proposal to present”
“Yes. It is mine and not that of the United States government or NATO. I have also been granted a high degree of latitude for this discussion. But naturally, whatever agreement we reach here must also be approved by my political leaders. I’m sure you have a similar condition.
Snetkov nodded once again. This time curtly. “Please explain your proposal then, General Galvin.”
“It is quite simple,” SACEUR explained and then laid out the proposal. “Since we are now under an informal ceasefire, I suggest it be made formal until our diplomats meet to negotiate the final terms.”
“All fighting from the North Cape to the Black Sea will end immediately, followed by the withdrawal of all Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces from the Federal Republic and other NATO territories within forty-eight hours. Longer in the case of geographically difficult areas such as Thrace and northern Norway.”
Or irradiated terrain in places that no longer exist, Snetkov thought bitterly. He was silent for a moment as he composed himself. “Soviet army groups remaining in this part of Germany were in the process of withdrawing when this unfortunate escalation began yesterday. They are practically the only remaining Soviet forces in West Germany. Forty-eight hours is sufficient.”
The American general moved on to the next item. “Prisoner exchanges. These will take place at some point down the line. Two weeks’ time at the earliest. Between now and then, I want access to the sites where NATO prisoners are being held. Medical teams will be dispatched to monitor their welfare. The privilege same will be granted to Soviet medical teams and observers, as well as International Red Cross personnel.
“Acceptable as well,” Snetkov confirmed and then raised an eyebrow on second thought. “NATO forces will remain on your side of the border though.”
“Combat units, yes. But along with the medical teams to POW camps, I want to begin sending relief convoys through to West Berlin as soon as possible. The city is running short on essential supplies and needs replenishment.”
CINC-West spread his hands out. “I find it difficult to believe that your political leaders will resist the temptation to order you to push your counteroffensive into the GDR and Czechoslovakia.” His look said it all. If I had you in this position…
Galvin was not thrown off by sharp turn the conversation was taking. “Marshal, I give you my word. President Reagan has no desire for further senseless death and destruction. Neither do the leaders of other NATO countries.”
“Your word means little given what has taken place over the past day,” Snetkov said back sharply. “NATO chemical and nuclear weapons have killed thousands of citizens and soldiers from here to-
“As have Soviet weapons of mass destruction!” SACEUR interjected hotly. “If not more. I did not come here to assess blame, Marshal. But it would benefit you to keep in mind NATO did not I set this chain reaction of events in motion.
“Tell that to the survivors around Wunsdorf,” the Soviet retorted in a voice as black as midnight.
“The weapon that detonated over your headquarters complex was not a NATO weapon. Nor was it launched from a NATO warplane. Your own new government admitted that much.”
Snetkov knew this but did not fully believe NATO’s hands were clean. “I will take the matter up with them after our meeting,” he begrudgingly allowed. “The use of these weapons by both sides was foolish and a terrible mistake. What to do about it now is a political matter”
“Do you have control of the nuclear-capable weapons and warheads under your command?”
“The matter has been handled,” he assured his NATO counterpart.
“Far too much senseless killing,” Galvin said in a faraway voice and shook his head. “Marshal, for what it’s worth, you handled your command quite well. Even in these last days.”
“Not well enough,” Snetkov admitted with a wistful smile. “I thank you for the compliment though. It goes without saying that you are an excellent commander, General Galvin. Modern war comes down to timing. That is the main lessons I take away from this unfortunate conflict. If only we had been faster to reach the Weser, it might have turned out differently.
SACEUR could not argue this point. “The Belgians held the line long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Your 3rd Shock Army was seriously exposed, and it offered me an opening. It was not going to last forever so I jumped on it. Timing, like you said. And airpower,” he added a bit unthoughtfully.
But Snetkov did not take offense. He couldn’t argue this point enither. “Airpower,” he hissed and then looked at his watch. “Time is becoming an issue, unfortunately. I must radio my superiors in Moscow very soon. We are agreed then?
“I believe so. An immediate ceasefire will take affect in Europe. Word will be transmitted to my field commanders at once. By midnight all Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces are expected to be in the process of vacating NATO territory. This is to be completed within forty-eight hours of midnight tonight. Between now and then, our staffs will coordinate in order to establish corridors for relief convoys to West Berlin and lay the groundwork for the prisoner exchange. Though I assume our political leaders will have the final decision on that.”
Another nod. “Acceptable.”
“I also propose that the two of us meet again in two or three days to go over progress and iron out any obstacles that might arise. I suggest Berlin.”
“A good idea. I look forward to seeing you again. And under less stressful circumstances.” He came to attention and saluted the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe smartly. “Goodbye, General Galvin.
SACEUR returned the salute and then extended a hand. “Safe travels back, Marshal Snetkov. See you soon.”