Russian soldiers raise Soviet’s ‘victory flag’ in occupied city Kherson
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More than three decades may have passed, but some things never change. Today’s grim relationship between Moscow and Washington continues to be at its lowest point since the Cold War, with despot Vladimir Putin’s incessant push to take over Ukraine sending the West into despair. Much of the bad blood with Russia in recent history has been played out with the US. While many near clashes were faced during the second half of the 20th century, one, in 1988, saw the American missile cruiser USS Yorktown purposefully rammed by its Soviet rival, in the form of a frigate called Bezzavetnyy, on the Black Sea.
The exchange took place on Soviet territory, which Yorktown countered by claiming it was on an innocent passage through the sea, something Moscow claimed was in its waters.
Amid the years of tense standoffs, one encounter could have left the US and the West engaged in a full-blown war, as a terrifying Soviet plot to conquer Europe was unearthed.
The plan was released by Poland after the conclusion of its elections in 2005 and was viewed as being a possible World War 3 scenario.
Drawn-up in 1979, the document showed how Moscow wanted to “draw a line under the country’s Communist past” and “educate the Polish public about the old regime”.
The Seven Days to the River Rhine exercise, as it was called, was a military simulation that demonstrated how the Soviets believed a week-long nuclear war between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces would play out.
The document showed how in the event of such a conflict, most of Europe would become a desolate wasteland. It noted how Pact forces would have responded if NATO attacked.
Soviet Russia’s main aim was reaching the River Rhine, one of Europe’s longest rivers that flows through Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Austria, taking in the idyllic cities of Basel, Strasbourg, Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam.
As well as hitting the river, the Soviets hoped to venture as far out as the Pyrenees mountain range, located between France and Spain.
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For the Soviets, the scheme was vital in their vision to take on the West, as it would make nations such as the US, Canada, and Britain struggle to send reinforcements to their NATO colleagues in Europe.
Within a week of the plot being launched, Denmark would fall to the Soviets, the document claimed, and a week later, Europe’s Atlantic Ocean coastline would be Moscow’s.
In a chilling nod to the destruction, the plan would likely cause, “red mushroom clouds”, which were drawn over much of western Europe, where Soviet nukes would strike.
Cities like Bonn, the capital of former West Germany, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Munich were all under the red clouds, as was the German port of Hamburg.
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Elsewhere, “blue mushroom clouds” demonstrated where NATO was likely to strike with its nuclear weapons. Moscow believed among the targets would be Warsaw and the Czechoslovakian capital, Prague.
When the document was released, Radosław Sikorski, who was then-Polish defence minister and is now a member of the European Parliament, said: “The objective of the exercise on this map is to take over most of western Europe ‒ all of Germany, Belgium and Denmark.”
He added: “This is crucial to educating the country on the way Poland was an unwilling ally of the USSR in the Cold War.
“The map shows a classic Warsaw Pact exercise ‒ it was a ‘counter-attack to defend itself by going all the way to the Atlantic.”
The map was particularly poignant for Poland as insiders believed Moscow was willing to sacrifice Warsaw in order to protect the Soviet Union.
Mr Sikorski concluded: “This map is a moving and shattering personal experience. It shows that the Polish army was being used to participate in an operation that would have resulted in the nuclear annihilation of our country.”
In total, two million Polish civilians would have lost their lives if the plans went ahead.
That scheme could be seen as similar to Putin’s own ambitions in his Ukraine war, with many claiming that the Russian leader hopes to reestablish Moscow’s former glory and secure a number of former Soviet states.
Among those Putin is said to have his eye on include Georgia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
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