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Red Storm Rising

Red Storm Rising is a techno-thriller novel by Tom Clancy about a third world war in Europe between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.

Table of contents

slight spoilers follow

Afghani terrorists destroy a new oil-production facility in the Soviet Union, severely crippling Soviet oil production and threatening to wreck the Soviet economy. Facing a perceived need to make crippling concessions to the West to survive the crisis, the Politburo chooses a different path: war. The Politburo decides to seize the Middle East[?] by force to secure a new source of oil; to prevent NATO's combined reaction, they launch a KGB operation to split NATO by making it appear as if Germany launched an unprovoked terrorist attack on the U.S.S.R.

more serious spoilers

Unfortunately, the KGB operation has limited success: the coming Soviet attack on Germany is detected a few days in advance, giving NATO time to start mobilization, and providing sufficient evidence to prevent the fracturing of NATO (only Turkey states its intention to stay out of any coming war, which is a partial success: with Turkey abstaining, the Soviet Union's southern flank is safe, and military forces can be sent from there to Europe). The war quickly becomes a meat-grinder in Germany: NATO forces slowly give ground while inflicting terrible losses on Warsaw pact armies.

gives the whole damn game away

One of the strategic masterstrokes of the Soviet Union's opening moves in the war is their seizure of Iceland, destroying the American air base at Keflavik. This destroy the GIUK line of sonar buoys[?], expected to prevent the Soviet Navy[?] from operating effectively in the Atlantic by making it impossible for their ships and submarines to enter the Atlantic undetected. The Soviet Navy becomes an offensive weapon, and the Warsaw Pact seriously damages NATO's war effort by damaging resupply convoys coming from North America.

In Germany, the battle becomes a war of attrition[?] that the Soviets expect to win, having greater reserves of men and material. NATO holds the Warsaw Pact forces to small but continual advances only through the profligate expenditure of every weapon at hand.

As the Warsaw Pact advance fails to achieve its planned breakthrough, the Politburo considers the use of tactical nuclear weapons. The general (eventually) in charge of the Western European theatre (the Politburo keeps releaving and shooting unsuccessful generals) recognizes the slippery slope, and stages a coup, replacing most of the Politburo with three junior members who opposed the war at the beginning.


An important part of this techno-thriller is the examination of a conventional ground war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Clancy suggests that several conventional doctrines about a modern ground conflict between modern armies are wrong or underestimated. For example, Clancy plausibly suggests that munitions expenditures would be far higher than projected; that combat helicopters like the Apache and the Hind[?] are not nearly as survivable as projected; that the mobility granted by modern armor means that the Soviet doctrine of a massed thrust achieving a breakthrough of the enemy lines is a fiction--the enemy can withdraw and reform its lines too easily to break; also, modern air power can only dominate a battlefield in the absence of an opposing modern air force.

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