Jump to content
tanknet.org

How much closer we got to a Soviet rush forward in late Cold War?


Recommended Posts

How close hardliners Communist in Soviet Union got close to try a last ditch attempt to win a military victory - even if partial like taking a part of Western Germany - in Europe   in late 70's 80's?  What Soviet Generals fit this profile?

Also an what if:

imagine if British would have lost the Falklands, the Israelis would not have trashed the Syrian Soviet modeled air defense. How much the odds would have increased.

 

This question isn't the usual how close we got in war by accident but instead by choice.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Not at all close as beyond there being no appetite for it, there were ample opportunities to escalate well short of this and with much less chance of nuclear escalation. Moreover the extant strategy of supporting decolonialisation was seemingly providing solid gains but also considerable commitments.

One option for considerable escalation would have been to invade Iran and install a pro-Soviet government. And it would be difficult for the US to sell a war in defense of Khomeini. Then there is an alternative history without the Iran-Iraq war, or one where it is finished early by Soviet intervention and a decisive Iraqi-Soviet victory. A subsequent escalation not so far from our timeline would be an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and possibly KSA too in the early 1980's, though now with backing by the USSR and even pro-Soviet Iran.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

:D

When Brixmis talked the issues over, man to man, with Soviet officers, and said to them 'Comeon, seriously, you are never going to do this, are you?', they seem to have invariably replied 'If you leave us with no alternatives, sure'.

I still keep coming back to Able Archer. Im in two minds whether it really was the crisis that has latterly been made out by excitable historians, but odd things happened. Fighter bombers fully armed at QRA sights. Deployments of TU22M3's to East Germany. The cancellation of sending troops home to the USSR for the harvest. I even found a report the other day that, the month before the exercise, the Soviets deployed their SS20's on a crash exercise. Perhaps all a complete coincidence, perhaps not.

If they thought we were going to come across, they would have done it first. And this is not as safe as it sounds. With Operation Ryan in operation, with the instituitional inability in the Soviet Military and KGB to think we were not a threat, with an aging leadership, with a bureaucracy with the mindset that any problem could be solved by making another weapon, yes, it was very dangerous.  And if they had convinced themselves we were going to launch an offensive (Banshee presented a document here the other day with a limited Nato offensive warplan), yes, they would have gone first.

What never seemed likely was a failing harvest and the Soviets heading west to gain valuable arable land (yeah, like that was going to be any good after they dumped chemicals and high explosive on it), or 'wanting to destroy NATO as a political force' as Clancy put it. And certainly not to export Communism. Nobody really believed in Communism by the 1980's. They just went through the beliefs by rote, because they couldnt bring themselves to jettison a failed ideology. You only have to read a diary by one of the Soviet Bureaucracy near to the Politburo to gain that impression.

You only have to look at how well the Moscow coup went to realise that the term 'Hardliner' in the Soviet Union did not denote the competence and aggression we thought.

 

7 hours ago, KV7 said:

Not at all close as beyond there being no appetite for it, there were ample opportunities to escalate well short of this and with much less chance of nuclear escalation. Moreover the extant strategy of supporting decolonialisation was seemingly providing solid gains but also considerable commitments.

One option for considerable escalation would have been to invade Iran and install a pro-Soviet government. And it would be difficult for the US to sell a war in defense of Khomeini. Then there is an alternative history without the Iran-Iraq war, or one where it is finished early by Soviet intervention and a decisive Iraqi-Soviet victory. A subsequent escalation not so far from our timeline would be an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and possibly KSA too in the early 1980's, though now with backing by the USSR and even pro-Soviet Iran.

 

There is a really an amusing scenario in the 'Oil Wars' spinoff from the Team Yankee wargame. The Soviets, pissed off at the Iraqi's inability to do anything competently, throw in their lot witht he Iranians to Invade Iraq. It would probably have worked much better than supporting Iraq, but I cant really see the Iranians going for it though. They still thought they were going to win right up to 1988.

There is a CIA study of how the Soviets would have invaded Iran. They had the forces to do it, the problem was likely holding onto it, just as they had the difficulty in Afghanistan. That and the amount of units they would have had to have called up to do it would probably have broke the economy. And they would probably have had to fight the US Rapid Deployment force as they neared the Gulf.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
Link to post
Share on other sites

What is hard to understand for a Westerner is how much Soviet Union lived under constant perceived threat of invasion by imperialist powers over its entire existence. Since we know that in reality there were hardly ever such plans, and over most of that era the West would have been militarily completely unable to undertake that kind of operation, it seems silly, but in reality it is no more silly than the constant expectation than the Guards divisions begin to pour into Fulda Gap any minute.

Able Archer and some of the similar major exercises did scare them, because it's how they would have started a surprise attack. "Nothing to worry about, we're just having a scheduled military exercise, everything is normal..."

Soviets held a big command exercise sometimes in the '70s where the scenario was nuclear first strike by the West. Exercise included top political leadership. First they read out the damage and casualty estimates from the first strike, which made Brezhnev and others nearly faint. Brezhnev's role was to actually make a decision and order a counter-strike and he was provided a 'nuclear button' to press. When time neared for him to play his part in the script, he became ever more nervous and pale, and repeatedly asked assurances that this is just an exercise and in real life, no actual nuclear missiles get off, right? Only then he agreed to press the button. Certainly, Brezhnev at least was not looking forward for an all-out war.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The US intercepted some intelligence mentioning an 'invasion' in August 1980 (actually an exercise near the Iranian border) and apparently freaked for a moment, unsure if it was real:

https://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/15/world/1980-soviet-test-how-to-invade-iran.html

I doubt Carter would have actually deployed US forces into Iran in some last ditch attempt to save some rump Khomeni regime.  Maybe they go to KSA and posture a bit.  

Another interesting timeline is one where Ali Shariati et. al. came to power instead of Khomeini and then allied with the USSR. I think the most that the US would do then is sanctions and regime change efforts.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, KV7 said:

The US intercepted some intelligence mentioning an 'invasion' in August 1980 (actually an exercise near the Iranian border) and apparently freaked for a moment, unsure if it was real:

https://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/15/world/1980-soviet-test-how-to-invade-iran.html

I doubt Carter would have actually deployed US forces into Iran in some last ditch attempt to save some rump Khomeni regime.  Maybe they go to KSA and posture a bit.  

Another interesting timeline is one where Ali Shariati et. al. came to power instead of Khomeini and then allied with the USSR. I think the most that the US would do then is sanctions and regime change efforts.

 

Actually, this area was one of the ignored hot spot on how the Cold War could get hot very fast. The Soviets were not amused with Pakistan and US support of the Mujaheddin, but until 1987 they put up with them because they had the military upper hand, as the Afghans reber had nothing to counter tanks at ranger or helicopters and attack aircraft, and were not a nuissance North of the border, however, the Pakistanis would have gladly took the war to the USSR and the US could just as well provided Stingers, Milans and 120mm mortars earlier, which would have pissed off the Andropov/Gromiko nomenklatura to no end and my have ended in an invasion of Pakistan together with India (which was playing its own games (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Brasstacks). Had the USSR taken over Pakistan, they would have had a balcony seat to the PG oil route, so you can imagine how that would go down... and with nukes on top of everything!

Link to post
Share on other sites

There was a podcast I was listening to the other day with the author of a book called Reaganland IIRC. He said that in 1979 he was told Afghanistan was likely the first step towards taking Iran. So he was handed the outline of a plan to nuke the passes between Afghanistan and Iran to keep the Soviets out. There was also some disturbance in the Joint Chiefs when they discovered there was only 2 airstrips in Iran long enough to fly troops in. Presumably they were thinking of using Galaxy's.

There was one book I have on the SAS training the Mudjeheddin, that suggested there was a plan considered to supply limpet mines to them. The idea was they would sneak over the border, find a major river or Canal that ran though some of the southern Soviet states (I forget which one) and sink a few barges. Not surprisingly it didnt go ahead. What is worrying is the British Foreign Office seemed to think it was a good idea. I know we once bombed what was later to become Stalingrad, but you would think by the 1980's direct attacks on the USSR were beyond consideration.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/11/2020 at 7:01 AM, Stuart Galbraith said:

See 'Operation Unthinkable'

Thank you Stuart. I never heard of this one before. Wonder how it would have turned out?

Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, Rick said:

Thank you Stuart. I never heard of this one before. Wonder how it would have turned out?

Some years ago we run this past Rich, IIRC the conclusion was that the Soviets weren't likely to win as they were bled white and would have been unable to have air superiority which would go to the allies, which would put them in the same situation as the Germans in 1944. But obivously there was no apetite to have WW3 at the end of WW2. Eventually, atomic bombs would go in industrial production and the USSR industries would be wasted by strategic air forces.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was a tourist in Russia in mid 80s. Moscow and Leningrad. I recall saying to other fellow traveller that I would love to have a long long talk with whatever Intel guys who said the west was in danger from these guys. There was fear of the west ..a good shout in leningrad that the Panzers were coming would have cleared the streets.

Was back just after Yeltzin came to power..Whitehouse etc. ..Interesting changes

Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, RETAC21 said:

Some years ago we run this past Rich, IIRC the conclusion was that the Soviets weren't likely to win as they were bled white and would have been unable to have air superiority which would go to the allies, which would put them in the same situation as the Germans in 1944. But obivously there was no apetite to have WW3 at the end of WW2. Eventually, atomic bombs would go in industrial production and the USSR industries would be wasted by strategic air forces.

The only problem I can see with that is the difficulty of mass producing Atomic Bombs. I don't really see that being viable before the late 40's at the earliest. All the early ones were essentially hand crafted.

Would we have won? Probably, which is why the Soviet would never have done it. The nearest they came to facing us down was Persia, where they withdrew, Berlin corridor, where they withdrew, and Korea, where they got the Chinese to do the fighting for them. This all looks a bit risk adverse looking back on it. Ive read the Soviets didnt even  have an offensive warplan before Khrushchev took power, and I could believe that. Although lacking access to the Russian Archives, its taking a lot on faith.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Stuart Galbraith said:

The only problem I can see with that is the difficulty of mass producing Atomic Bombs. I don't really see that being viable before the late 40's at the earliest. All the early ones were essentially hand crafted.

Would we have won? Probably, which is why the Soviet would never have done it. The nearest they came to facing us down was Persia, where they withdrew, Berlin corridor, where they withdrew, and Korea, where they got the Chinese to do the fighting for them. This all looks a bit risk adverse looking back on it. Ive read the Soviets didnt even  have an offensive warplan before Khrushchev took power, and I could believe that. Although lacking access to the Russian Archives, its taking a lot on faith.

 

 

By September 1945, the infrastructure was already there to start mass producing Fat Man type bombs. They would still be unsafe in case of an accident, but Pu-239 was being produced at Hanford regularly and the other components were being stockpiled already. In between, a Little Boy or 2 could also be produced.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well lets say shortly after May, before they drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviets invade Western Europe. They just keep going through Berlin and go for broke. You have the two Japanese bombs, the one they would have used on Bikini atoll, thats what, 3? Then you have enough stockpiled to build two others. So the maximum you could have available would be 7.  If they leave it till after they take the Kuriles, you are down to 5, without any immediate chance to replenish the stockpile. You are essentially going to be using them as you assemble them. And assuming the war drags on till 1947, and my guess is that it would, suddenly the Soviets test theirs and an uncomfortable awareness dawns, and peace breaks out.

I completely agree we would win the air. I would agree we would use them. Im just very uncertain even 7 would be enough to achieve the ends we would want to. Particularly if they were troublesome in places like Persia or making noises about taking the rest of Japan. I mean, where do you use them first? 

Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Well lets say shortly after May, before they drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviets invade Western Europe. They just keep going through Berlin and go for broke. You have the two Japanese bombs, the one they would have used on Bikini atoll, thats what, 3? Then you have enough stockpiled to build two others. So the maximum you could have available would be 7.  If they leave it till after they take the Kuriles, you are down to 5, without any immediate chance to replenish the stockpile. You are essentially going to be using them as you assemble them. And assuming the war drags on till 1947, and my guess is that it would, suddenly the Soviets test theirs and an uncomfortable awareness dawns, and peace breaks out.

I completely agree we would win the air. I would agree we would use them. Im just very uncertain even 7 would be enough to achieve the ends we would want to. Particularly if they were troublesome in places like Persia or making noises about taking the rest of Japan. I mean, where do you use them first? 

May to September you won't have the bombs, but you will have a huge Victory Army standing in the way, with a vast air fleet and rather short logistical routes compared to a large Soviet Army that has suffered massive cassualties taking Berlin and a very long and tenous logistic lifeline back to the Urals

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Soviet's logistic systems were clearly strained. I recall a comment by one German officer captured in Berlin (It may have been General Mohnke) and he said looking at the Soviet areas, it was like looking at something out of the hundred year war. It was all horse drawn.

Equally I cant see we could have made it work either. We had only just got Antwerp into any kind of shape, our equipment was worn out, in the case of Britain we had reached the end of our manpower also. We were disbanding units in Italy to free up manpower there. The RAF seems, if closterman was any guide, to have had a very bad time over the Ardennes. Cant speak for the Americans, but I cant imagine their rapid advance had really left them much time for deep maintenance of their tanks. And we were under gunned compared to JS2 and JS3 anyway. Even T34/85 was going to be a handful for Comet and M4A3E8.

Its a war nobody could easily fight, and clearly nobody wanted. I think looking back on it, the Soviets had more than enough to digest absorbing Eastern Europe at that time. Of course, if we had walked out and left West Germany to its fate as a demilitarized nation, it would have been a different matter.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Im not saying I dont believe it, but the distinct jist of one historian talking about the subject on youtube, is all the early bombs were essentially bespoke and could not be mass produced.

Ill see if I can find it, it was a while since I listened to it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Im not saying I dont believe it, but the distinct jist of one historian talking about the subject on youtube, is all the early bombs were essentially bespoke and could not be mass produced.

Ill see if I can find it, it was a while since I listened to it.

I think we have done this before:

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...