Seven Days to the River Rhine
Seven Days to the River Rhine was a top secret limited war game
Military simulation
Military simulations, also known informally as war games, are simulations in which theories of warfare can be tested and refined without the need for actual hostilities. Many professional contemporary analysts object to the term wargames as this is generally taken to be referring to the civilian...

 exercise developed in 1979 by the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

. It depicted the Soviet bloc's vision of a seven-day atomic war between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.


This possible World War III
World War III
World War III denotes a successor to World War II that would be on a global scale, with common speculation that it would be likely nuclear and devastating in nature....

 scenario was released by the conservative Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 government following their election in 2005, in order to "draw a line under the country's Communist past", and "educate the Polish public about the old regime."

Without further clarification from the Polish government, or the declassification of further documents, it is difficult to move beyond speculation in determining the reasoning behind this very significant decision.

Radosław Sikorski, the Polish defense minister as of 2005, stated that documents associated with the former regime would be declassified and published through the Institute of National Remembrance
Institute of National Remembrance
Institute of National Remembrance — Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation is a Polish government-affiliated research institute with lustration prerogatives and prosecution powers founded by specific legislation. It specialises in the legal and historical sciences and...

, in the coming year.

The files being released would include documents about "Operation Danube", the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

. They also included files on an army massacre of Polish
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 workers in Szczecin
Szczecin , is the capital city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. It is the country's seventh-largest city and the largest seaport in Poland on the Baltic Sea. As of June 2009 the population was 406,427....

 in the 1970s
File:1970s decade montage.png|From left, clockwise: US President Richard Nixon doing the V for Victory sign after his resignation from office after the Watergate scandal in 1974; Refugees aboard a US naval boat after the Fall of Saigon, leading to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975; The 1973 oil...

, and from the martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

 era of the 1980s
File:1980s decade montage.png|thumb|400px|From left, clockwise: The first Space Shuttle, Columbia, lifted off in 1981; American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev eased tensions between the two superpowers, leading to the end of the Cold War; The Fall of the Berlin Wall in...


Description of Battle

The plans predicted that NATO would launch a nuclear attack on the Vistula river valley in a first strike
First strike
In nuclear strategy, a first strike is a preemptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. First strike capability is a country's ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing...

 scenario, which would prevent Soviet bloc commanders from sending reinforcements to East Germany to prevent a NATO invasion of that country.

The plan expected as many as two million Polish civilians would die in such a war, which would essentially destroy the country. With options limited, a Soviet counter-strike against West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 and Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 would take place in an effort to slow an invasion.

Nuclear Response

Maps associated with the released plan show nuclear strikes in many NATO states, but France and the United Kingdom are entirely untouched by nuclear attack. There are several possibilities for the lack of strikes, one of the most significant being that both France and the United Kingdom are Nuclear Weapons States (NWS), and as such retain nuclear arsenals that could be employed in retaliation for nuclear strikes against their nations.

The French forces employed a nuclear strategy known as dissuasion du faible au fort (Weak-to-strong deterrence), which is considered a "counter-value" strategy, which implies that a nuclear attack on France would be responded to by a strike on Russian cities. See Force de Frappe
Force de frappe
The Force de Frappe is the designation of what used to be a triad of air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons intended for dissuasion, and consequential deterrence...

 for more information on the French conceptualization of nuclear warfare.

The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, however, speculates that "France would have escaped attack, possibly because it is not a member of NATO's integrated structure. Britain, which has always been at the heart of NATO, would also have been spared, suggesting Moscow wanted to stop at the Rhine to avoid overstretching its forces." .

There are many high-value targets in Britain (like RAF Fylingdales
RAF Fylingdales
RAF Fylingdales is a Royal Air Force station on Snod Hill in the North York Moors, England. Its motto is "Vigilamus" . It is a radar base and part of the United States-controlled Ballistic Missile Early Warning System...

, RAF Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall is a Royal Air Force station located at Mildenhall in Suffolk, England. Despite its status as an RAF station, it primarily supports United States Air Force operations and is currently the home of the 100th Air Refueling Wing...

 or RAF Lakenheath
RAF Lakenheath
RAF Lakenheath, is a Royal Air Force military airbase near Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. Although an RAF station, it hosts United States Air Force units and personnel...

) that would then have to be struck in a conventional manner in this plan, though a nuclear strike would be far more effective (and as the plans show, a preferable option to the Soviet leadership as shown by their strikes in Western Europe). The plan also indicates that USAF fighter-bombers, primarily the long-ranged F-111 would be employed in nuclear strikes, and that they would launch from those British bases.

See also

  • Fulda Gap
    Fulda Gap
    The Fulda Gap is a region of lower elevation between the former East German border and Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Named for the town of Fulda, the Fulda Gap was strategically important during the Cold War...

  • The U.K.'s Operation Square Leg
    Square Leg
    Square Leg was a 1980 British government home defence exercise that assessed the effects of a Soviet nuclear attack. It was assumed that 131 nuclear weapons would fall on Britain with a total yield of 205 megatons...

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