The Warsaw Pact plan makes clear two things. First, in a surprise attack, the most important forces are the ground forces. The quicker they can advance, the sooner they can overrun NATO—and that includes air bases and naval facilities. The faster they can force West Germany to surrender, the sooner the rest of NATO runs out of reasons to continue fighting and the specter of all-out nuclear war recedes.
Last month in the National Interest we discussed NATO’s plan for World War III in Europe. The scenario, set in the late 1980s, assumed that the forces of the Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact—namely East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary—steamrollered West Germany to defeat NATO. The plan assumed the western alliance would defend as far forward as possible while avoiding the use of tactical nuclear weapons.