He further elaborates: “In the thinking of the Czechoslovak and probably of the Soviet military headquarters of the time, nuclear weapons would determine the speed of war but not its entire character. Since nuclear arms considerably shortened the stages of war, according to the Eastern logic, it became necessary to try to gain the decisive initiative with a powerful strike against enemy forces, making use of the moment of surprise.”
Thus, along with the liberal use of nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw allies planned to launch a massive blitzkrieg aimed at taking over most of Western Europe. The goal was to break through NATO’s frontlines, and “advance swiftly into the depth of his defense and move into operational space.” In order to achieve these rapid initial successes, the Soviet Union aimed to achieve a troop advantage of 5:1 or 6:1 along the main points of attack.
The objectives of the campaigns differed depending on the front. For example, after the nuclear exchange, the Czechoslovak Army was supposed to pierce through NATO frontlines and quickly seize Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Munich, all of which were part of West Germany at the time. By the ninth day of the conflict the Czechoslovak Army, perhaps with some Soviet backing, was supposed to conquer Lyons in southern France. After that, Soviet reinforcements would push on to Pyrenees, the mountain ranges that form the border between Spain and France.
Simultaneously with these operations, Polish and Soviet troops were supposed to conquer most of the northern portion of the continent. Specifically, they intended to invade West Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium. Securing these areas was crucial in order to prevent the United States, Canada and Great Britain from landing reinforcements for NATO on the northern part of the continent. As such, they hoped to have secured Denmark within a week and reach the Atlantic coast within 14 days of the start of the fighting.
This plan was obviously highly ambitious, and many military observers strongly doubt that the Warsaw Pact militaries even had the necessary motorized vehicles to pull off such a quick invasion throughout much of the Cold War.
Petr Lunak goes further in dismissing the plan as a “fairy tale.” Beyond being ambitious in its objectives, the plan is downright crazy because it envisions the Soviet and Warsaw Pact soldiers fighting in territory that had just been destroyed by massive nuclear attacks. These areas would have been highly radioactive. As Lunak points out, “They (the Soviets) really planned to send ground troops out in the field and have them fight for a few days until they died from radiation.”
It’s questionable whether these soldiers would have been willing to conduct these suicide operations. Regardless of their commitment to communism or the Warsaw Pact, the territory they would have been fighting to conquer would have been all but useless, its major economic and military centers destroyed.
Accordingly, these countries would not longer pose any conceivable military threat to what was left of the Soviet Union and its allies. Furthermore, there would be little to gain economically from conquering these lands, given the enormous devastation. In fact, much of it would have been uninhabitable for some time.
As Dwight Eisenhower—who is often mischaracterized as believing that nuclear weapons were just another weapon to be used—realized early on in the atomic age, a nuclear war is unwinnable. At one National Security Council meeting, for example, Eisenhower said that “one thing he was dead sure [of]: No one was going to be the winner in such a nuclear war. The destruction might be such that we might have ultimately to go back to bows and arrows.” By the end of his presidency he had grown so gloomy as to declare that if war occurs, “You might as well go out and shoot everyone you see and then shoot yourself."
The Soviet Union evidently planned to do just that.
This first appeared in 2015.
Image: Creative Commons.