The year the Cold War ends. Across Europe, communist governments topple in response to pro-democracy demonstrations. In Poland, German ethnic clubs form in response to West Germany’s policy of accepting anyone who can prove himself of Germanic descent as a German citizen.
The Soviet Union’s new policy of encouraging political pluralism in Europe makes the end of bureaucratic communism certain. The only European communist governments which survive the revolution of 1989 are those outside the Warsaw Pact – Yugoslavia and Albania.
The long-awaited reunification of Germany occurs as a result of unlawful and illegitimate elections. The four major powers: the United States, United Kingdom, USSR and France, guarantee Poland’s territorial integrity in the event of German aggression. As part of their commitment, NATO and Warsaw Pact troops maintain a presence in the newly unified republic of Germany.
By the end of the year, Soviet troops begin to withdraw from Czechoslovakia, but the governments of Poland and Hungary request continued Soviet troop presence and reaffirm their commitment to the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet military begins to reorganize along defensive lines and many divisions upgrade their existing weaponry.
Low-level armed violence spreads throughout Central Asia, although most of it fails to come to the attention to the rest of the world, which is distracted by events in Germany.
Germany opts for continued membership in NATO, but at a greatly reduced level of commitment. Germany also places increasing pressure on NATO to reduce troops in proportion to the Soviet withdrawal. The Germans pledge to station troops only in the western part of its territory in return for a complete Soviet troop pullout from Eastern Germany.
Hungary protests that the Romanian government is withholding medical relief for the AIDS epidemic. The Romanian government denies the charges and French medical investigators accuse the Romanian government of concealing the size and severity of the AIDS infestation in rural portions of the country.
German ethnic groups demonstrate in Poland, protesting their alleged mistreatment by the Polish government.
Civil war in Albania results in the fall of the communist leadership, which is replaced by a military govemment. Albanian nationalists demonstrate throughout Yugoslavia .The Yugoslavian governent’s response is careful and low-key, but firm.
Fighting in Central Asia escalates and continues for most of the year, but the Soviet military gradually begins to gain the upper hand and regains control of most of the region.
Peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations take place in China, but soon erupt into violence, forcing military intervention. The pro-democracy factions hold out for months before the military manages to restore order.
After several years of intensive investment in the eastern third of the country, Germany is finally showing signs of emerging as a world class economic superpower. East Germany has successfully integrated with the west. As Europe shows signs of increasing instability, Germany quietly increases its military force structure to full strength.
China presses the Soviet Union for border adjustments. Talks produce no tangible results and fighting erupts along the Chinese-Soviet border.
After a period of increasing tension, full scale war erupts between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese surpass the expectations of most military analysts; they mobilize reserves from the interior and shift them to the fighting front. While the Soviets continue to make impressive gains, their losses also mount, and the tempo of their advance slows.
The Soviet Union had already been mobilizing additional troops from the western military districts; this action is now an emergency priority. As a stop-gap, a half dozen combat-ready divisions withdraw from Hungary and Poland and venture to the Far East. But the Far Eastern front quickly becomes a region of death that devours Soviet divisions as quickly as they can be committed.
As factory output switches more and more to wartime production, the flow of consumer goods dwindles to a trickle: The economic recovery that had begun in the early 1990s is wiped out, causing standards of living in the Soviet Union to plummet.
As the first snows of winter fall, the Soviets solicit the remaining members of the Warsaw Pact to serve on the Far Eastern front. Only two members respond: Poland and Bulgaria. Anxious to maintain strong defense ties with the Soviet Union as a bulwark against Germany, the Poles send a motorized rifle division to fight in the Far East.
In response to increasing regional instability, Germany declares its agreement of 1991 on size and location of armed forces “obsolete in relation to the current European situation.” Poland protests and begins bringing several divisions in western Poland to higher states of readiness.
Their ranks swollen with newly mobilized troops, Soviet forces launch a spring offensive against the Chinese. Despite initial gains, the drive soon stalls and horrendous casualties are suffered. Winter witnesses a flood of new, modern military equipment through Chinese ports from NATO nations, particularly the United States.
In response to its obligations under the Warsaw Pact, Poland prepares to send an additional division to the Far East. However, several ethnic German soldiers in the division announce their intention to resist transfer out of the country. A wave of demonstration in western Poland, by
ethnic Germans who support the soldiers, is violently suppressed by riot police, resulting in many deaths and numerous injuries. Germany protests and moves several divisions closer to the border.
In mid-July there are several border incidents between units of the Polish and German armies and frequent exchanges of artillery fire. On July 27, elements of the German III Corps cross the frontier in retaliation for what they describe as a “full-scale attack” by the Polish 4th
Mechanized Division. Within two days, Poland and Germany are officially at war.
The Poles are supported by three Soviet divisions still stationed in Poland as part of the Warsaw Pact, but are still outnumbered by the German troops. What tips the balance against the Germans is the surprising entry of the Czech Army into the war on the side of the Warsaw Pact.
By the end of November, the Czech Army finally cracks the line of German reservists holding the southern flank and cuts north into Germany, closing in on Berlin.
Claiming its actions were justified by the military provocations of Poland, and that they are now faced with dismemberment as a state, Germany turns to its NATO partners for assistance. While the political leadership of the European members of NATO debate the prudence of intervention, the U.S. Army crosses the frontier to aid Germany.
Within a week, France, Belgium, Italy and Greece demand that U.S. troops withdraw to their start line. When these demands are not met, these countries withdraw from NATO in protest. British and Canadian forces cross the border, standing behind the U.S. and German position. However, Denmark and Holland remain uncommitted, still partners in NATO, but not a party to war.
In an attempt to restore the situation in Germany, Soviet and Czech troops return to the offensive in southern Germany, but do not have the strength to make any significant gains. With the coming of spring, the NATO offensive gains momentum, and in April, the first German troops cross the frontier into Poland. By June 17, Warsaw is surrounded and Polish Army units and the citizens of the city prepare for a siege.
Meanwhile, Indonesia launches a surprise attack on the northern coast of Australia. While the ADF is focused on the north, Indonesian naval and air force elements attack the east coast. Darwin and Sydney are both taken and Indonesian forces establish many bases in the Northern Territory and in hidden locations in the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales.
By early July, NATO advance elements close in on the Polish-Soviet frontier in the centra1 region, while continuing the siege on Warsaw. The Polish government, in exile, establishes its temporary capital in the city of Poznan.
On July 9, with advance elements of the 1st German Army on Soviet soil, the Soviets begin to use tactical nuclear weapons sparingly. In the Far East, however, they are used on a massive scale. Chinese mechanized columns are vaporized, caught in the open in imagined pursuit of the Soviet army.
The Chinese response is immediate, but Soviet forward troop units are dispersed and well prepared. Within a week, the Chinese riposte is spent, but the Soviet attack continues. The roads are choked with refugees fleeing from the cities, all of them potential targets. China begins the rapid slide into anarchy and civil disorder.
On the western front, the forward elements of both armies on the Soviet-Polish frontier are hit hard by tactical nuclear strikes, as NATO matches the Warsaw pact warhead for warhead. On September 15, the siege of Warsaw is lifted, and a week later, Czech and Italian troops begin a renewed offensive in southern Germany. The southern offensive gains momentum, and NATO forces in Poland increase the rate of their withdrawal, practicing a scorched earth policy as they fall back.
Fearful of a general strategic exchange, neither side targets the land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles of the other or launches enough warheads at once to risk convincing the other side that an all-out attack is in progress. Neither side wishes to cross the threshold to nuclear oblivion in one bold step, so they inch across it, never quite knowing they have done so until after the fact.
The exchanges continue, fitfully and irregularly, through November and then gradually begin to diminish.
Sydney is taken back thanks to the efforts of the Australian Defense Force and locals turned to guerrilla warfare. Darwin is reinforced from Indonesia and remains occupied. From here, invading troops funnel into Australia. Camps and bases are reinforced and the invasion force begins mining operations.
The winter of 1997-98 is particularly cold. Civilian war casualties in the industrialized nations have reached almost 15% by the turn of the year, but the worst is yet to come. Communication and transportation systems are nonexistent, and food distribution is impossible. In the wake of nuclear war comes famine on a scale previously undreamed of. Only the exceptionally cold winter delays simultaneous epidemics. With the spring thaw, the unburied dead finally bring on the epidemics that few remaining medical professionals had dreaded, but were powerless to prevent. By the time the epidemics have run their course, the global casualty rate is 50%.
Indonesia has taken almost the entire northern half of Australia. Internment camps are created to hold civilians and there are rumors of executions and mass graves. Through attrition, the Indonesian advance further. Australian guerrilla forces work with the ADF to slow the advance, but are ultimately unsuccessful.
The average strength of NATO combat divisions at the front falls to 8000. Warsaw Pact divisions now vary widely in strength, running from 500 to 10,000 effectives, but mostly in the 2000-4000 range. Lack of fuel, spare parts and ammunition temporarily paralyze the armies. Though peace loomed on the horizon, no governments survive to negotiate it. Only military command structures remain intact, and they are faithful to the final orders of their governments.
In late June, the Pact forces in southern Germany renew their offensive in an attempt to seize the scattered surviving industrial sites in central Germany. Actually, the most intact parts of Germany are those areas in the south, which had been under Warsaw Pact occupation. Galvanized into renewed action, NATO forces expend a maximum effort to reform a coherent front, and the Pact offensive finally stalls.
As the autumnal rains begin, NATO and the Pact initiate a short and weak second nuclear exchange, directed primarily at surviving industrial centers in the United Kingdom and Italy. Fighting diminishes to minor skirmishes as both sides prepare for winter.
In Europe, the fronts are static for most of the year. Low troop densities mean that infiltration raids become the most common form of warfare. The “front” ceases to be a line and becomes a deep occupied zone as troops settle into areas and begin farming and small scale manufacturing to meet their supply requirements.
Many units stationed in barren areas drift apart or turn to marauding when supplies fail to arrive. Although most attacks, by large bodies of marauders, are directed at areas held by “theenemy,” they are soon directed at “allied” units as well; although this seldom occurs against units of the same nationality.
The effects of the chaos, ensuing from the destruction of world trade and the death of a sizeable portion of the population, are felt across the globe. No territory, however remote, remains untouched by the war. Even scientific stations in the antarctic and orbiting space laboratories are abandoned as the war drags on.
By the spring of the year 2000, the armies of Europe have settled into new “cantonment” systems. Civil authority has virtually ceased to exist. Most military units are practicing extensive recruiting in an attempt to maintain their strength, and stragglers are often incorporated into units, regardless of their nationality.