Islamic terrorists from Azerbaijan destroy a Soviet oil-production facility at Nizhnevartovsk, Russia, crippling the USSR's oil production and threatening to wreck the nation's economy. Contemplating concessions to the West to survive the crisis, the Politburo instead decides to seize the oil fields in the Persian Gulf by military force.
According to the Carter Doctrine, any attack on the Gulf is an attack on strategic interests to the United States, necessitating a military response. To prevent a combined reaction by NATO, the Soviets launch a KGB operation to carry out a false flag operation framing West Germany for an unprovoked attack on the USSR; afterwards, the Soviets plan to invade Western Europe in response to that“attack”. With West Germany occupied, and NATO defeated, the Soviets hope that the U.S. will not rescue the Arab oil states when it attacks them, as it can meet its oil needs with Western sources. The Politburo arranges a bomb blast in the Kremlin that kills some visiting schoolchildren, blaminga West German exile for the attack.
The KGB operation has limited success: the planned attack on West Germany is detected when a Spetsnaz infiltrator, Soviet-Afghan War veteran Major Andrei Illych Chernyavin, happens to be hit by a car in Aachen, is found to be carrying incriminating documents, and is questioned under narcoanalysis. This advance knowledge gives NATO time to mobilize its forces, destroy numerous Spetznaz direct action strike groups, and preserve the alliance. Mention is made of a completely successful Spetznaz sabotage mission against the Kiel Canal. The Soviet advance operations do achieve some success, since several governments—notably those of Greece and Japan—publicly claim that this “German-Russian dispute” does not warrant outside involvement. The Soviets face no opposition in either the Pacific theater or the Mediterranean region.
NATO aircraft manage to sharply reduce Soviet ground superiority on the first night of the war by using first-generation stealth planes and tactical fighter-bombers to eliminate Soviet Mainstay airborne early warning aircraft and tactical fighters. The NATO forces achieve air superiority and destroy many key bridges over which much of the Soviet Army had yet to cross. Soviet strategic assumptions have been severely skewed by politically motivated best-case projections from the KGB, and this has lulled their logisticians to fail to give sufficient attention to NATO's defensive firepower. Warsaw Pact forces advance at a tremendous cost. Germany becomes the epicentre of the conflict; here, NATO forces are slowly driven west while inflicting significant damage to the encroaching Soviet Army.
Simultaneously, the Soviets seize Iceland in a covert surprise attack with the Soviet merchant ship Julius Fucik disguised as a Lykes Lines American LASH ship, capturing the NATO air station at Keflavík and eliminating the GIUK-SOSUS line to allow the Soviet Navy to surge its submarines into the Atlantic Ocean without being detected. In addition, the Soviet Navy takes steps to protect its ballistic missile submarine fleet in coastal waters behind minefields and ASW assets, freeing up its attacksubmarines to engage and destroy NATO shipping. Thus, the Soviet Navy is able to act as an offensive weapon contrary to prewar NATO expectations, becoming a major strategic threat against resupply convoys coming from North America with both aircraft and submarines. This advantage is put to immediate use as a NATO carrier battle group, led byUSS Nimitz
USS Saratoga and the French carrier Foch , is successfully attacked by Soviet Badger and Backfire bombers, the latter firing Kingfish missiles. The Soviet Badgers fire modified Kelt missiles as decoys whose radar transmitters make them appear to be Backfires on the predicted attack vector, far out from the main air fleet. The American carriers' F-14 interceptors are committed against the decoys, leaving an insufficient number of Crusaders from the Foch and the ships' surface-to-air missiles to defend against the 'real' Backfires approaching from another direction. A few of the Backfires and most of their Kingfish missiles are shot down by the F-8 Crusaders, the Aegis missile cruisers, the destroyers whose surface-to-air missiles can guide on the AEGIS radar signals, and the Phalanx antimissile gun systems, but some of the Kingfish get through. The Foch is sunk, the amphibious assault carrier Saipan explodes, taking 2,500 Marines with her, and the two American carriers are forced to spend several weeks under repair, Nimitz at Southampton, England and Saratoga at Norfolk, Virginia.
In West Germany, the battle becomes a war of attrition that the Soviets expect to win through slow and sustained advances. A NATO air attack on the Soviet lines kills the Soviet CinC-West (a Moscow favorite); first Alekseyev's boss and then Alekseyev himself assume overall command. The second-in-command of the attacking Soviet army group, General-Colonel Pavel Leonidovich Alekseyev, temporarily takes over a decapitated tank division and leads a successful attack on the town of Alfeld, finally giving the Red Army the breakthrough it needs. As the Operational Manoeuvre Group forces start to deploy, NATO looks likely to lose all of Germany east of the Weser River.
When a brilliantly timed naval attack on Soviet bomber bases with submarine-launched cruise missiles cripples the Soviet bomber force, the Soviets lose their most effective convoy and fleet-killing weapon. The U.S. Marines take this opportunity to stage an amphibious assault on Iceland backed by the NATO navies, retaking the island and closing the Atlantic to Soviet forces. A failed bomber raid on the NATO naval forces attacking Iceland (in which the remaining Soviet naval cruise missile bomber fleets are nearly wiped out) essentially means victory in the Atlantic, opening the USSR to direct attacks from carrier strike groups against its northern strategic areas and the free flow of convoys across the Atlantic. Simultaneously with the reversal in the Atlantic, the SACEUR, a renowned poker player, makes an audacious gamble in the face of a final Soviet offensive that pushes NATO ground forces to the breaking point, launching an unexpected flanking manoeuvre that places heavy NATO forces in the rear of the Soviet spearhead, cutting their last Category A regular army units off behind two different rivers and interdicting their supplies. Intelligence gained from a prisoner on Iceland finally reveals the dire fuel situation in the USSR to NATO, which changes bombing priorities to wipe out the Red Army's forward fuel depots, essentially immobilizing the Soviet formations. With the Soviet advance decisively halted, NATO catches its breath and prepares to move into a general offensive against the increasingly ineffective Soviet Category C reserves now being moved forward.
With the conventional war situation in Europe turning against them and their strategic situation increasingly bleak due to the drawdown on national oil reserves resulting in a crippled economy, the Politburo are moved to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons at the front to regain the initiative. Alekseyev, realizing that a tactical nuclear exchange would almost certainly lead to a strategic nuclear exchange, seeks and obtains control of his theatre's nuclear weapons as part of their planning, ostensibly for practical matters of tactical targeting but in reality to ensure they are never used. In the face of this nightmare scenario, the general joins forces with Energy Minister Mikhail Eduardovich Sergetov and the KGB Chairman Boris Georgiyevich Kosov, in staging a coup d'état , replacing the Politburo with a troika consisting of Sergetov, Agriculture Minister Filip Moiseyevich Krylov, and longtime Politburo member Pyotr Bromkovskiy (an elderly and respected World War II veteran). KGB Chairman Kosov is summarily executed by Major Arkady Semyonovich Sorokin, Alekseyev's aide, whose daughter Svetlana was one of the children killed in the Kremlin bombing.
With the government back under control, Alekseyev flies back to Germany and personally negotiates with the SACEUR to bring an end to the war, forestalling the launching of NATO's counter-offensive with an agreement of a cease-fire and withdrawal to prewar lines. The aftermath of the conflict is left untold.