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Old 04-16-2009, 02:39 PM
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Default The Longer Version Part 8

Apr-Jun 1997
The Longer Version Part 8

The Third World War moved into a distinctly different phase in April 1997. Until late February, the Clinton Administration had held onto some hope that battlefield reverses around the world might bring the Sauronski regime to terms without further major efforts by the West. The Soviet offensive in Norway had failed completely, while the Northern Fleet had been shattered in the Norwegian Sea. Mopping up in Norway would take some time, but there could be no doubt that NATO was firmly in control. Some Soviet submarines had broken out into the North Atlantic, but Western anti-sub forces dramatically reduced the effect the Soviet raiders had on Transatlantic convoys. In Central Europe, NATO forces held firm control along the Oder River and along the border of East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Pact losses in Germany had been quite high—more than 200,000 killed, wounded, or captured. Tank, artillery, and aircraft losses were proportionately higher. With three US corps, as many West German corps, two British corps (one containing a Canadian brigade group that could be counted as a division), and two former East German corps in East Germany, there appeared to be no way for the Kremlin to reverse its fortunes in Germany by conventional means.

In the first two months of the year the Soviets were hard-pressed elsewhere, too. Romania had backed out of the Warsaw Pact in December, prompting a Pact invasion. Soviet, Bulgarian, and Hungarian forces were involved in the fighting to conquer rebellious Romania. The Romanians were proving themselves far more capable at defending their country in the Third World War than they had at conquering the USSR in the Second World War. The maneuver war had ended within ten days of the Pact offensive. Throughout January and February, the Pact introduced increasing numbers of low-quality reservists into a fight that had become a war of attrition.

In December, the Soviets had launched an offensive into Iran in an effort to secure Iranian oil and warm-water ports along the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Iranian resistance was ferocious, despite liberal Soviet use of chemical weapons. Encouraged by his Soviet allies and smarting over the humiliation of Operation Desert Storm six years prior, Saddam Hussein unleashed his rebuilt Republican Guard on Kuwait. Gulf Coalition forces, including US 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), had been surrounded in Kuwait City but were sustained by a determined effort by light naval assets and airlift. Gulf Coalition forces and advanced elements of US XVIII Corps were assembling in northeastern Saudi Arabia for the counterstroke.

In the Far East, the Pact had switched to the strategic defensive. While refusing to abandon the prospect of forcing a favorable settlement on the Chinese, the Kremlin clearly had other fish to fry. The Chinese, for their part, seemed willing to bide their time and build for a massive counterstroke. (Some felt that the Chinese had decided to let the Soviets and the West wear each other out for while. Beijing stoutly resisted Western calls for a major counteroffensive, claiming that “the correlation of forces does not yet permit large-scale offensive operations”. In fairness, they had lost tremendous numbers of men. They did continue to mount tactical and operational actions to keep the Pact off-balance.)

The North Korean offensive into South Korea had stalled by early January. For the rest of the month, ROK and US forces slowly drove the Communists back to the 38th Parallel. The DPRK was screaming for Soviet arms and assistance, five decades of effort towards “self-reliance” notwithstanding.

Overall, it appeared to the Clinton White House that Sauronski’s Kremlin might have good reason to come to terms. The economic and manpower situation had been quite serious in mid-1996. Since then, war had spread to Europe, Southwest Asia, and Korea. The USSR had lost hundreds of thousands of troops, vast quantities of materiel, and dozens of warships. The call-up of literally millions of reservists had brought production in many key industries nearly to a standstill. The command economy appeared to be on the ropes. East Germany was lost, and the entirety of Norway soon would be back in NATO hands. Sauronski’s puppet Hussein still held most of Kuwait, but the forthcoming Coalition offensive would soon clear that problem up; and this time the US would make certain a more desirable character came to power in Iraq. True, Soviet troops were making gains in Iran. However, once the Coalition was done with Iraq they would be able to offer assistance to Iran. At best, the Soviets would be stuck occupying the northern half of Iran. The Korean diversion had not achieved decisive results. Western navies were in control of the oceans. And there still was the Sino-Soviet War. Surely the Soviets would come to terms and save what could be saved.

Sauronski had different ideas. He had come to power to win a world war with Russia’s enemies. Anything less would cost him his life. Anything less would be to allow the Soviet Union to wane and perhaps disintegrate. Even had Sauronski not been constitutionally opposed to anything less than an all-put effort at victory, he would have seen that there was no way back for the USSR now. Peace with the West after the Germans had captured the DDR would be an admission that the Soviet Union was not all-powerful—even where its dearest interests were at stake. The loss of East Germany could only encourage the rest of the Eastern European satellites to attempt to abandon ship. A united Germany and an independent Poland would put the USSR more-or-less in the same position she had occupied in 1941. This was intolerable.

Even if the loss of the Eastern European satellites was acceptable, however, there would be other, more dangerous aftershocks. The Central Asian Republics, increasingly restive, might decide that the Soviets no longer possessed the will or the muscle to forcibly incorporate them into the USSR. The resources of Central Asia might then be lost to Russia. Were the Central Asiatics to go their way, who could say that the Transcaucasus, the Baltics, or even White Russia and the Ukraine might not want to go their own way? After that, some of the non-Russian parts of Russia might also decide that self-governance was preferable to Muscovite suzerainty. No, Sauronski realized, the first domino was in East Germany. Norway, Iran, and Romania were all supporting efforts. The most important piece to keep in place was a Communist, Soviet-controlled East Germany. There could be no peace until every effort had been made and failed to keep Germany divided and Mother Russia safe behind walls of other nations.

The Soviets had observed that the vast majority of NATO’s combat power in Europe had been pushed forward into East Germany. The southern FRG, which had been garrisoned by American, French, and West German forces prior to the war, now was occupied by the forces of weaker NATO members. In a major coup for the Soviets, France had pulled out of the Atlantic Alliance. French forces promptly had pulled back from Germany. The Netherlands opted against direct support of the American involvement in the DDR, but the Dutch had stayed in NATO. I Ne and II Ne Corps had been moved to the southern FRG to provide security in the absence of the Americans. The Soviets therefore decided upon an attack into the Dutch-held zone using Soviet and Czechoslovak forces in western Czechoslovakia. There were two objectives. Firstly, the Soviets hoped to compel NATO to move two or three corps out of the DDR and to the southern FRG, thereby facilitating the inevitable Pact counteroffensive in the DDR. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Soviets hoped to inflict such crushing losses on a minor NATO partner that the smaller ally would drop out of the war. NATO had lost enormous combat power when France, Belgium, Italy, and Greece had left the alliance. If the Soviets could compel the Netherlands to sue for a separate peace, Dutch manpower and economic potential would be lost to the Western Allies, as well as Dutch ports and airspace.

In late February, Pact forces attacked into West Germany in the area of the Fulda Gap and points southward. Three Soviet armies and one Czech army moved in with orders to crush I Ne and II Ne Corps. The Dutch put up a surprisingly spirited and capable defense. The terrain was not well-suited to a large-scale mechanized offensive. German territorial units, recently-arrived US formations, and powerful Anglo-American air action provided critical support to the Dutch. The Dutch halted the Pact advance after penetrations averaging 50km, then pushed the Pact troops nearly back to the border. The Dutch populace, though distressed by the high loss rate, nevertheless felt enormous pride at the fighting prowess shown by their troops. If anything, Dutch membership in NATO was solidified.

The Clinton Administration realized that the Soviets would require further persuasion. The decision was made to knock the USSR out of the war with forces on-hand by driving to the line of the Dvina and Dnepr Rivers. In early April, NATO forced crossings of the Oder River and began slogging through very extensive fixed fortifications put in place by the Warsaw Pact over the past several months.

At Fort Huachuca, the upshot of these strategic developments was a continued growth in training requirements. Although most Army casualties were infantry, MI troops were taking losses, too. Long-range artillery had ensured that rear-echelon duty was not as safe as it had once been. In Korea, determined infiltration attacks by North Korea Special Forces caused heavy losses among headquarters units and support troops. All of these losses would have to be replaced. Losses during the drive to the Dvina-Dnepr Line were anticipated to be quite heavy. Given the long lead time of some of the MI special training, it was critical that Huachuca continue to expand its capacity as quickly as possible.

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