Really, could they have?

#62
blue_sophist said:
ugly ... grateful for the links, which I shall peruse at leisure. Fascinating stuff.

However, are we really talking about Morecambe Bay being the focal point of the proposed attack?
Why? How? Bizarre!
Did they have plans to invade Ireland first?

Quick - I see a Jack Higgins book coming... the return of Liam Devlin! :D
 
#63
Schleswig-Holstein said:
blue_sophist said:
ugly ... grateful for the links, which I shall peruse at leisure. Fascinating stuff.
However, are we really talking about Morecambe Bay being the focal point of the proposed attack?
Why? How? Bizarre!
Did they have plans to invade Ireland first?
Quick - I see a Jack Higgins book coming... the return of Liam Devlin! :D
Unless, of course, The Republic was actually a secret member of the WP ...

God, the ramifications of that idea could rumble on for decades.

Anyone for a big conspiracy theory? 8O
 
#64
Is it the case that, unlike in major conflicts of the past, modern warfare favours the attacker?

It is the attacker who chooses the battlefield, knowing in advance which relatively static defences to attack and able to plan for alternate actions.

The defender can only react at short notice, losing not only initiative but also the ability to position assets to provide their most effective use.

In the Cold War scenario, BAOR had only one direction of movement - backwards at a rate determined by the aggression and whim of the advancing forces. Even if Soviet equipment suffered drastically from mechanical failure, the outcome would only be delayed. Ultimately, assuming non-nuclear exchanges, 1940 would repeat, with British forces congregating at the narrowest part of the English Channel. Once more, there would be a call for small boats to assist with the transfer of troops across the water while the defensive perimeter shrinks, providing a denser target for Soviet aircraft.

Meanwhile, the Soviets would be spreading out across Europe, rendering RAF reprisals less effective as they would be engaging targets of opportunity, rather than conducting concerted, planned retaliatory actions.

Once back on home shores, the remnants of BAOR would be required to defend some 18,000km of coastline against possible amphibious assault. A front that would need some (correct me if I'm wrong) 18,000 infantry battalions or close on 10 million troops to defend. Plus a quarter of a million artillerymen with a few hundred thousand guns. And while all these troops are deployed, who would be defending against heliborne or airborne assault. Better mobilise another 10 million troops, then.

The only thing going for the defence is the length of the sea crossing and the flexibility of the defending troops to rally at appropriate locations. Even here, though, the situation favours the attackers.

In the event of an amphibious assault by numerically superior forces, it would be natural to expect the defenders to draw in to the area of battle to bolster the defence. At which point the assailants divert their following waves 20 or 30 miles to one side. For the defenders, shifting troops this distance along coastal roads would be a major upheaval, taking many hours to effect and leaving them prone to air attack, while the attackers would be inconvenienced by an hour or two at most.

Does 1066 ring a bell? The dastardly enemy not playing at the preferred venue?

Could NATO have turned the tables by advancing in force on Moscow, taking a generally coastal route to allow for relatively easy resupply? Keeping the battle front narrow to provide local numerical superiority and with only one side and the rear to defend? With no intent to retain captured ground, merely to pass over it?

And at the gates of Moscow, negotiate peace and a return to pre-conflict borders?

It would take one hell of an amount of balls, though. Having negotiated peace, the NATO forces would be surrounded on their way to return to their home countries and would be ripe for massacre.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the Soviets were amazingly restrained and, just possibly, were (as they claimed) the side with the genuinely defensive stance.

Thoughts?
 
C

cloudbuster

Guest
#65
It's an interesting question, whether or not the Soviet Army had sufficient amphibious capability to invade the UK, but why bother? As has been pointed out, the UK would have little to offer, and much be too much of an embuggerance to occupy. Far easier to nuke the naval infrastructure and airfields to discourage reinforcement from across the pond, and concentrate on having control of industrial complexes (Ruhr, Rotterdam) and seaports on the Atlantic seaboard (Europoort, Hamburg, Bremen).

I do recall having a chat with a senior Bundswehr panzer chap, who held the belief that the Brits and US component in West Germany were there mainly to stop the Bundswehr having another crack at Moscow.
 
#66
Lots of the assumptions here concern what would have happened at an operational level - the campaign to defend Western Europe, or to defend against an amphibious invasion. I think we need to consider what is happening at the military strategic level. To be honest I think the grand strategic level would be of little consequence for this war - a state's economy and civil population is not mobilised overnight and this is one crisis that would be over before those factors came into play.

But the military strategic level holds the most interest here. The armed forces of the Soviet Union, France, Britain and the United States had invested heavily in nuclear capability. Both NATO and the WP had mutually exclusive goals, that would lead to war - not some limited fracas, but a war of survival.

Each side had the capacity to destroy the other in something close to 30 minutes. The nuclear tripwire WOULD be crossed at some stage in this hypothetical European war, and to use your nuclear forces late is to allow the other side the opportunity to destroy your nuclear forces. A very bad place to be.

Look at it from the eyes of the Soviets. You know that the nuclear option is something that must be resorted to - it might happen when NATO forces are too attrited to continue to resist conventionally, it might happen when you cross into France (did the French not retain a significant amount of autonomy from NATO command structures particularly in nuclear doctrine?), or it might just come out of the blue.

Every moment that goes by increases the possibility of your nuclear forces being destroyed, leaving you and your population open to all-out attack.

With such stock set by investment in nuclear forces, it seems inevitable that they must be used.

Your deterrent is only credible if you are ready and capable of deploying it.

If you were Russian would you really have any confidence in leaders of European countries not exercising their last remaining option as their nations and peoples fell? Would you really have any confidence in the retraint of the American political leadership?

In this way I can see how it is entirely likely that the opening, and probably only, round of this war would be a devastating pre-emptive nuclear strike. And to me, that amount of firepower being lobbed around makes armoured brigades or rearguard actions or resupply convoys or air raids pretty meaningless.

After all, with that amount of megatonnage allocated to us all, who needs to resort to conventional forces, and how could you use them to impose your will on the enemy when little of the enemy exists still? The likelihood of conventional forces surviving strategic nuclear action in a state ready to continue signigicant operations is also dubious.
 
#67
TheHatsRevenge said:
WhiteHorse said:
ugly said:
It only needs enough of them to deposit apc's and troops on a vulnerable KP or LZ and away you go!
What would we have in the UK to stop them?
3 Yorks (V) and Home Volunteer Force?
weren't they the 80's equivelent of Dads Army?
OK what would stop them NOW. Lets say an airborne Bde lands at Gatwick followed by a couple of extra Regts via civi airliners once the place is taken, what are we going to do about it?
 
#68
Voltiguer said:
In this way I can see how it is entirely likely that the opening, and probably only, round of this war would be a devastating pre-emptive nuclear strike. And to me, that amount of firepower being lobbed around makes armoured brigades or rearguard actions or resupply convoys or air raids pretty meaningless.
I've got to disagree.

One of the main aims of war must surely be to acquire land and the resources that it contains. Otherwise, there'd be no point in setting foot beyond your own borders.

Nuking the territory defeats the object.

With regard to first use, I'd doubt that it would have been the Soviets, other than for limited tactical gains. Even then, I'd doubt it. First, because it would send fall-out heading in the general direction of the Motherland. Second, because it would risk an escalating exchange. Not only would there be even more fall-out over the Motherland, but it would negate any invasion. (See, the propaganda's still working - I'm assuming it's the Soviets invading).

In a European war, I'd suspect it more likely that the US would initiate nuclear conflict, probably with tactical battlefield weapons, though more as a tool to encourage political debate rather than for any real military advantage. An therein lies the danger of escalation.

Nuclear weapons, because of their indiscriminate nature (indiscriminate in terms of eventually biting the side that launches them) must necessarily be weapons of deterrence. Their effectiveness relies heavily on making the other side believe that they could be used. The term "Mutually Assured Destruction" was probably coined from its acronym, rather than the other way round, and for good reason. So, they're peace-time defensive weapons because if you fire one, you're either denying yourself the ground that you intended to capture or you're rendering uninhabitable the ground that you're supposed to be defending. Thus the possibility that either the Soviets or Europeans would ever consider initiating an exchange must remain remote. The US may not hold European territory in such high regard.
 
#69
Didn't some plans come to light in the '90s about Soviet tactics being to soften up defenders with short-lived chemical weapons just as the tanks rolled through? While a nuclear option would be a very last ditch effort massive stocks of blister agent, chlorine and mustard gas would prove a huge temptation. Give it 48 hours and the area is pretty much as it was, just quiter than before.

Puttees, as for 18,000 miles of costto protect you can cut out lots of that due to it being inpossable to land on. Whos going to try and invade through Beach Head, or most of the North East cost? Any obvious places would have just been mined to buggery. That will all cut down on the number of troops needed to guard the coast.
 
#70
A very interesting discussion, but one that only takes into account a non-nuclear ww2 type of war. In Russian mentality, nuclear weapons were there to be used, not just to be displayed. Think of it this way: you have a sword and a pistol, and you want to attack someone else who has a sword and a pistol. If you attack with the sword, he will shoot you with the pistol. So, in order to maximize your chances of success, you attack with the most powerful weapon that you and your enemy both have, namely the pistol. Following this logic, I think that if the Russians would have attacked Western Europe, they would have used nuclear weapons first. Also, what reasons could have pushed the Russians to start a world war by invading Europe? One good reason would have been if they believed in an imminent first strike attack towards Russia, and then they would have responded with nuclear weapons. In the early 80's, the Russians strongly believed that the Reagan administration was preparing a nuclear first strike, because of Reagan's "Evil Empire" rhetoric, and they were looking for proof. They had made up their mind, and were just looking for proof. However, it's much more entertaining to speculate about a conventional attack scenario, because the alternative "is too bitter to contemplate".
 
#71
bobath said:
Didn't some plans come to light in the '90s about Soviet tactics being to soften up defenders with short-lived chemical weapons just as the tanks rolled through? While a nuclear option would be a very last ditch effort massive stocks of blister agent, chlorine and mustard gas would prove a huge temptation. Give it 48 hours and the area is pretty much as it was, just quiter than before.

....
But then doesn't that just allow the defenders the moral right to go Nuclear? The enemy has deployed a weapon of mass destruction so we are justified in retaliating with our only weapon of mass destruction allowed under the Geneva Convention - Nuclear.

Was this not the focus of a mass of behind the scenes diplomacy prior to Op Granby/Desert Storm to make sure Saddam didn't lob in the gas as we crossed the border?
 
#72
Good point Humphrey, maybe the Soviets gambled on us not having the chops to go Nuclear after a limited attack with chimical weapons. The effects bot immidiate and long term are considerably worse with even small tactical nuclear weapons then with chemical ones.

Given that the Govenments of both the US and the UK are hamstrung by the populare press going nuc would have been a major issue at any time other than seeing launchs from Russian soil.
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#73
An amphibious assault direct from the Northern Fleet on the North East of the UK? Or one directly on the East of England (or Thames estuary) from the Black Sea? More possible I think. Surely an assault on British shores is such a task it'd take a dedicated formation and flotilla to carry it out. I dont think you could carry it out as an afterthought for Russian tankies once they'd got as far as they could, and expect the assault to work...


An assult on the North-eastern coast would have found the evile empire met by hordes of blue coloured limbs holding up tottering totty in minimal clothing, all crying out 'Eeeh hinny, by us a pint and I'll shag you' which would have been ahuge deterrent.
As for East Angular, by the time they had fought their way through the web footed felsh eating inbred, and deciphered the strange dialect, they would be swallowed up by the road system - or lack of it - in Cambridgeshire, deterred by the notice on city limots instructing that it is a non-nuclear area, and anyone detonating nuclear weapons may be fined up to £1000, then fought the remaining hordes into Essex and the
predatory tribes there, who would have nicked their transport and sold it back to them loaded with bling, then the Russians would have had enough.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#74
Having watched the thing about Able Archer 83 on telly a couple of years and read this thread, I have come to the conclusion that the entire Cold War can be boiled down to two paranoid giants, each holding a rock and waiting for the other to blink so he could throw it.

It seems to me with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight that, whereas we have always known the Commies were totally paranoid and spoiling for a fight while all we wanted to do was preserve the status quo, in fact the Commies saw us as exactly the same.

Each side bigged up the enemy in his own mind and then built up his own pathetic forces to counter it, when in fact, each side was as incapable of winning a war at any level from section assault through to global nuclear release and for 50 years we all lived a total waste of time. (Mind it was a bliddy good waste of time and I am glad I was there.)

I am reminded of The Zap Gun by Philip F Dick. The two blocs face off for so long that they become comfortable. Knowing that it is never going to happen, each side looks at ways to reduce the total cost of ownership of all these weapons of war and comes up with the bright idea of building ever bigger and better weapons which are designed to be converted into ploughshares once they have become obsolete, which takes ever less time.

Then an alien fleet invades and neither side has any weapon that actually works because all they were designed for was to be reused for peaceful purposes.

Something like that.
 
#75
But then doesn't that just allow the defenders the moral right to go Nuclear? The enemy has deployed a weapon of mass destruction so we are justified in retaliating with our only weapon of mass destruction allowed under the Geneva Convention - Nuclear.

I am probably mistaken, but is the classification of chemical weapons as WMDs not a handy get out for no first use? By having the use of battlefield chemical weapons fall under the heading of WMD whilst, say carpet bombing does not allows NATO to respond to likely Warsaw Pact opening assaults with nuclear weapons. It seems less a moral right, repugnant as chemical weapons are, and more a handy legal excuse.
 

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