I know there were many strategic and theoretical preparations around the Fulda Gap. There were several serious crises between the USA and the USSR in the Cold War, and I have not been able to find out if in any of them (for example, the Cuban crisis) the Soviet divisions made real preparations to cross the border.

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    – MCW
    Mar 13, 2019 at 22:40
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    any answer would be highly speculative. some people may know of the seriousness of the actual intent at any point in time, as opposed to merely planning/simulating. but that group would be limited to the need-to-knows at a very high level in the USSR. most of them, except for liaison officers, would have been pretty senior (i.e. old) in the late 80s/before Gorbachev. and for those that are still around they might very well want to keep quiet about it. after all, both Cold War blocs liked to present themselves as the defending, rather than attacking party. Mar 14, 2019 at 3:52

3 Answers 3


The Soviet Union had devised a plan called “Seven days to the river Rhine” to invade West Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark and The Benelux nations.

Wikipedia says:

The scenario for the war was NATO launching a nuclear attack on Polish cities in the Vistula river valley area in a first-strike scenario, as well as Czech cities, which would prevent Soviet bloc commanders from sending reinforcements to East Germany to forestall a possible NATO invasion of that country.The plan expected that as many as two million Polish civilians would die in such a war and Polish operational strength would be completely destroyed. A Soviet nuclear counter-strike would be launched against West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

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    The Soviets had plans but I think the question is about whether they seriously considered implementing those plans at any point.
    – Steve Bird
    Mar 13, 2019 at 10:31
  • Well, this plan is a military exercise for the Soviets according to Wikipedia but is a war plan in case of World War 3 according to the YouTube video by Real Life Lore on the same topic. Moreover, the Red army would have to move across the whole of Germany’s countryside to get to the Rhine in 7 days which was probably not Smart and wouldn’t be implemented in case of World War 3
    – Rohit Hari
    Mar 13, 2019 at 10:51
  • It would be especially not smart if they had just nuked said countryside.
    – C Monsour
    Mar 13, 2019 at 14:03
  • @SteveBird NATO took those plans very seriously and defined their strategy for defending Germany based on those assumptions. What would have happened had NATO not done so is pure speculation, my guess is the Soviets would indeed have put those plans into effect.
    – jwenting
    Mar 15, 2019 at 5:36

Yes, of course they did

However, there is a big difference between planning and factually invading.

I'm pretty certain that both parties considered on a regular basis invading the other. None of them ever did. Planning to invade/defend something is the favorite pastime of officers, called war gaming. It's a fun hobby (I was a war gamer myself), and even better for officers: they get paid handsomely for it.

I served myself in the army, very often in West Germany smack on the border with East Germany. At that time we worried very much about a possible red invasion. With 'we' I mean most of the population and us serving military in particular.

During my army days I have been often in military war gaming rooms. They war gamed mainly how to defend, but for variety's sake an occasional attack against 'green land' was sometimes played as well. (Never 'red land', as not to offend anyone.) I've never been on the other side of the Iron curtain, but it must have been the same there. Frankly, I would be amazed if they didn't do the same thing.

Looking back with hindsight I doubt very much if the Warsaw-pact could do it. First of all their logistics were pretty bad, to say the least. Another very good reason why no invasion ever came is mutual assured destruction. Okay, so they can conquer large parts of West Germany. The response would be nuclear and even worse: chemical. (I've done the chemical warfare school, believe me: a nuclear attack is a walk in the park compared to a chemical or biological attack.)

What the USSR would have conquered is a poisoned radioactive waste land with many millions of decomposing corpses. (Tom Clancy describes this in vivid detail in his book 'Red Storm Rising')

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    Its more than just a fun hobby of course. Its part of the military's job to develop attack plans ahead of time, so that if the politicians abruptly decide to declare war on Elbonia they have a plan ready to go, and don't have to ask the enemy for a 3-month "time-out" to come up with one.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 14, 2019 at 13:07
  • I personally think the Soviets could have pulled it off, despite their poor logistical situation. The European NATO allies (well, most of them) were woefully ill prepared, and with their large fleet of nuclear attack submarines the Soviets could quite possibly have closed the Atlantic long enough to prevent REFORGER from being implemented quickly enough to matter. Sure, they'd have to turn parts of Europe into a chemical and nuclear wasteland for decades, but in Soviet war plans that was a small price to pay for access to German raw materials.
    – jwenting
    Mar 15, 2019 at 5:39
  • @jwenting That's a what-if scenario. It's not impossible. But if Nato sees it's clearly going to loose nuclear would have been their answer. Not sure if chemical weapons would be used, that depends mostly on who starts with it.
    – Jos
    Mar 15, 2019 at 6:03
  • @Jos The Soviet war plans relied heavily on a massive chemical and nuclear bombardment at the onset of their campaign, which was aimed in part at destroying NATO's tactical nuclear arsenal in theater. That'd leave only a strategic nuclear response to NATO, something Soviet planners were hoping the US wouldn't be willing to commit to as a response to a regional nuclear conflict in Europe. Whether they were right in that assumption we luckily never found out.
    – jwenting
    Mar 15, 2019 at 6:22
  • @jwenting Nato did not separate tactical and strategic nukes. An attack with tactical nukes would have triggered a strategic response. Supposing the Americans would hesitate, the French and the Brits would almost certainly vaporize Moscow in response. But again, that's what-if.
    – Jos
    Mar 15, 2019 at 6:27

Yes, they took the possibility into account and yes, they could actually do it long before any US support could of arrived.

But what to do it for ? There was no practical reason to attempt such a thing. It would be illogical to cause heavy losses all across Europe and even affect long-term live sustainability in Europe if everything would end up nuclear.

So they did not made actual preparations/exercises because such an ample action would only come as a possible response to a NATO attack, which they made sure they were ready for.

  • There were 2 potentially logical reasons: access to raw materials (German coal, Dutch natural gas, etc.) and preventing NATO from using western Europe as a staging area for an attack against the USSR (which the Soviets were very afraid of, in their institutional paranoia).
    – jwenting
    Mar 15, 2019 at 5:41
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    Raw materials ? They had and have them enough to supply the whole Europe for hundreds of years. As for the fear part, I doubt it was any. Maybe some paranoia, yes, but that can also be named begin ready. Tactically, NATO was standing bad without US support and that is why Soviet planned countermeasures were planned so that they could terminate NATO forces long before US could intervene.
    – Overmind
    Mar 15, 2019 at 6:58

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