WHY WE WON THE COLD WAR or T-80’s vs. ILL-FITTING BULGARIAN SHOES

From Bill The POG
Musings of Origins

I often hear from the hand-wringing, knee biting class how wonderful Mikhail Gorbachev, man that’s a hard name to spell, because he ended the cold war.  The following is my theory on why the Commies soiled their collective underwear and surrendered to the will of Ronaldus Maximus.

WHY WE WON THE COLD WAR or T-80’s vs. ILL-FITTING BULGARIAN SHOES

I.Introduction

After personally witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and watching the total destruction of the Iraqi army on CNN in 1991, I began to develop a theory to make sense of what had transpired over the last few decades.  Based upon experiences, tactical knowledge, conversations, events, complete conjecture on my part, and unsupported correlation, my theory about the demise of the Soviet Union has developed into what I believe are real the reasons for the fall of the “Evil Empire.”

I always wanted to do the necessary research, e.g. ascertaining the percentages of gross national production spent on military, Soviet strategic battle planning, Soviet tactical battle plans, the costs of military hardware, and Soviet officer morale, to back up my theory.  I hoped to publish a definitive work on the subject, but the need to provide an income for my family was first and foremost, so I went to law school instead. Therefore, all I have is this theory, with no solid information to back it up.  Meanwhile, Mikhail Gorbachev gets most of the credit for ending oppression in the region formerly known as the United Soviet Socialist Republics.

Experiences, Tactical Knowledge, Conversations, Et. Al. Or, Why are we Here?

In the spring of 1987, the newest soldiers of the 2ndArmored Division (Fwd), which included me, were required to attend a briefing held by the Division S-3 officer. This operations officer, an overweight major whose name I cannot recall, explained to us the answer to the question – “Why are we here?” He explained the anticipated order of battle of the Red Army as it marched across the North German Plain.

I did not pay that much attention to the entire briefing as I had several things on my mind at the time.  For instance, is this briefing going to cut into my chow time, why was this major still in the army when it is obvious he couldn’t pass a PT test, and when is the paperwork for my leave going to be approved so I can go home and get married.  It was at this moment when the major singled out the Field Artillery soldiers and explained how, thanks to us, the Red Army would be stopped dead in its tracks. My ears perked up and I sat a little more straight in my seat, as any soldier would when praise is being heaped upon him in front of other soldiers, especially the armor and infantry boys sitting around us.  

The major explained that the Soviet model of battle and logistics made their army susceptible to attack by our Pershing missile system and our “special weapons” (Nuclear, Chemical and Biological artillery rounds).  He explained further that the Red Army would probably fight its way across Europe much the same way as it did in 1945, and in so doing, we would know which tactical reserves would be tasked with pouring through a breach in our defensive line.  After ascertaining which of these reserves would be used, NATO would then turn these assembly areas into “glowing parking lots of radio-active debris.”  We sounded off with the requisite “HOOO-AAH” and the briefing was over.

That briefing, specifically the “special weapons” aspect of it, stayed with me for some time.  If some S-3 officer had figured out how we would incinerate the Red Army, I was pretty sure the Soviet General Staff would figure it out as well and do something about it.  I now believe they may have tried.  

Every Easter, my post, and I believe several others facilities,  went to a higher level of alert because of the protests surrounding the deployment of the Pershing missile system and other “special weapons”.  Everyone from Green Peace to Scottish soccer hooligans would show up and announce their displeasure at having “nukes” on European soil.  Also, later, I became aware of the contention surrounding President Reagan’s decision to deploy these weapons.  As I was in high school at the time of this monumental decision, it wasn’t as a significant event for me as was trying to get into my girlfriend’s pants.  

Someday I would like to find out whether the Soviets actively recruited some of Stalin’s “useful fools” (peace activists), environmentalists, and some soccer hooligans to stop our best chance of keeping Europe free, if not a little radio-active.

“Go for the Antennas”

As I stated before, I was in the Field Artillery.  I wasn’t a “cannon-cocker” or a “gun-bunny.”  I was a forward observer. My military occupational specialty (MOS) was 13 Foxtrot.  I was a member of a Fire Support Team or FIST.  It was my job to prepare target lists for whatever maneuver commander I was assigned to.  I would prepare a fire plan and if necessary call in fire (artillery, close air support, or naval gunfire) on targets of opportunity. Our battalion S-2 officer made damn sure to inform us that as far as we were concerned, any vehicle, wheeled, tracked or otherwise that had more than one antenna was the target of opportunity.

Our S-2 explained to us that the Red Army had no confidence in the individual soldier, and, that in any given company of the Red Army, you could expect that the Russian language was not spoken and understood by most of the troops. I understand that there were 120 official languages within the former Soviet Union.  This meant that command and control was held by a select few within a Soviet division (usually the ethnic Great Russians).  If we killed these maneuver commanders, or disabled their ability to communicate, the fighting capability of their unit would be reduced to an unruly mob that couldn’t even speak to each other without the benefit of a translator.

Again, if our battalion S-2 officer knew this, wouldn’t the General Secretary of the Communist Party know it as well.  

Priority Targeting

 As a FIST team member, I was invited to attend the TACFIRE school in Graffenwoer, West Germany.  The school instructs students in fire-planning, and the optimal use of fire support.  Also, the school teaches the targeting and use of special weapons: their yields; rate of fire; and capabilities.  Much of this curriculum is probably still classified, but I’m sure the Red Army was aware of which of their assets would receive our “special” attention.

After attending these above-mentioned briefings, gaining a little knowledge of Soviet capabilities, and becoming aware of our armed forces capabilities,  I, a lowly enlisted man in the Field Artillery, felt confident that we would annihilate the Red Army and restore cave-dwelling as an accepted way of life in the former communist region.  How much of this was true and how much was sheer bravado I didn’t know until Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Bulgarian Shoes for the Masses

In the mid to late 1980’s Mikhail Gorbachev formulated the policies of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (economic restructuring).   I believe the motives behind these policies were more sinister than the Nobel committee gives Mr. Gorbachev credit.  The largest consumer in the Soviet economy, by far, was its armed forces and I believe it is safe to assume the Soviet economy was in shambles.  I believe “Gorby’s” attempt to liberalize the economy was not based upon some benevolent concern for the Russian citizenry.  As I will state more fully in my conclusion, I believe Gorbachev’s  economic policy was employed to service the Soviet military machine.  Whether the masses had serviceable footwear was secondary to whether his Generals had T-80 main battle tanks and an effective Theater counter-battery missile system.

Another aspect of the new openness of the Soviet regime was to allow the satellite countries to run their system of governance “their way.”  I have heard this policy referred to as the “Sinatra Policy.”  Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, letting each satellite run the country “their way” led to thousands of Trabant automobiles being abandoned in Western European countries as a result of the flight of their best and brightest citizens.  I witnessed the flight of these citizens and the resulting parking lots of automotive debris while in Berlin.  

Its Hard to make a White Flag out of Soiled Underwear

The United States of America, Great Britain, the rest of NATO and other allies, completely destroyed the Iraqi Army’s ability to do…well… anything, even retreat in good fashion.  The allies did this after several years of training in Graffenwoer, Munster, Wildflicken, Hohenfels, NTC, and REFORGER.   We undertook these field exercises with an eye toward expecting a Soviet attack.  The Iraqi Army had Soviet equipment, technology, tactics and a few advisors.  In a few short months and a mere one hundred hours we reduced the Iraqi Army, who were utilizing Soviet military machinery, training and doctrine, to molten metal, burning tires, misplaced limbs, and roving bands of men surrendering to the first news camera that came along.  

Someone must have briefed the Soviet General staff on NATO’s performance.  I would have loved to been a fly on the wall during that meeting.  I imagine the meeting went something like this, 

Yuri: Comrades, did you see what the Imperialist Running Dog’s Air Force did?
Ivan: Da!! What about the Capitalist swine’s MLRS and that thingy called ICM, those poor bastards didn’t even know what hit them.
Oleg: Not to mention the new 120mm gun on the reactionaries main battle tank, why can’t our tanks shoot on the move.
Yuri: Now Oleg, you know our tanks can shoot on the move.
Oleg: Da, but they can’t hit a Bulgarian shoe factory unless it is standing still.
Yuri: (while nodding his head)    Da.
Ivan: (while looking at his feet)  Da.

 — or words to that effect.

 Complete Conjecture And Unsupported Correlation (Otherwise Known as my Conclusion).

 With the above named experiences, tactical knowledge, conversations, and otherwise unrelated events overwhelming the analytical part of my brain, there is bound to be a defection into the creative and whimsical part of my brain.  As I stated above, this defection probably occurred when I saw what remained of the Iraqi Army on CNN in 1991.

 I believe the Soviet military knew their tactics, equipment and leadership principles were somewhat obsolete after the deployment of a reliable theater nuclear missile system by NATO.  In addition, they must have known of our advancing technologies in defense.  I believe, after ascertaining our capabilities, resolve, and willingness to use “special weapons,” the Soviets went back to the drawing board and determined that their program was out of date.  To fix their “outdated” program, Mr. Gorbachev decided to expand the weak Soviet economy for the principle benefit of it primary consumer— the Red Army. There may have been some promise in expanding their economy, however, witnessing the destruction of the Iraqi Army probably demonstrated just how “outdated” their program really was, and any attempt at a fix would be cost prohibitive for the bankrupt system of a command economy.  

Thank you Ronaldus Maximus.

With regard to the new “openness” of the Soviet system, Gorbachev learned that you cannot give  people a “little” freedom.  It’s not such a monumental leap from wanting a good pair of shoes or a reliable automobile to wanting some Nikes and an S-Class Mercedes.

I believe the combination of trying to finance a new Soviet battle plan with a new economic plan (Perestroika),  the resulting brain drain and unrest in the buffer countries in reaction to this new program and a NATO battle machine with its capabilities being shown on CNN every day, led to the demise of the U.S.S.R.

I know this theory is a bit simplistic, but this is a favorite topic of mine and I am the author.  

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