RogerBW's Blog

Red Army, Ralph Peters 27 June 2014

The invasion of Europe, seen entirely from the Soviet point of view.

That's the most noticeable thing that makes this book different; also, where other authors load the dice towards NATO, Peters throws some luck onto the Warsaw Pact side. More interestingly, commanders are allowed not to get on with each other because of vastly different personalities and command styles, but still to be useful, rather than one of them being clearly Wrong and leading his men into immediate defeat.

While this book gets lumped in with technothrillers because of its subject matter, its style is quite different; yes, it has multiple viewpoints, probably essential to cover events on this scale, but it spends no time at all talking about hardware designations, radar ranges, or any sort of technical detail. I think an enemy F-16 gets named at one point, but otherwise there are just "tanks", "armoured personnel carriers", "anti-tank helicopters", and so on. It's quite refreshing, and I suspect more true to life than the usual style of always making sure every bit of tech has its explanatory label. There's even time to develop some characters who aren't cardboard cut-outs!

This war is mostly on the ground. There's some mention of aerial combat, with one of the many viewpoint characters being a pilot, but it's otherwise the commanders and soldiers of armoured and infantry forces who are described here. The main impression one gets from the men at the sharp end is confusion and speed: things happen far faster, and with even less information, than they had expected. This is a good counter to the clean high-level view of Shock Army A moving into contact with Regiment B.

There's a thesis, of course; I suspect one isn't allowed to write a book like this without one. Peters, at the time of writing an intelligence officer in the US Army, clearly feels that non-US NATO members are the weak links, particularly Germany; here, after the Soviet thrust has been largely blunted, the German government sues for peace rather than contemplate the use of tactical nuclear weapons on its territory. (Which feels a touch implausible even apart from the politics; I doubt that nuclear release would have been being sought unless the Soviets were still advancing strongly.)

Not a cheerful book at all, and perhaps over-long, but a very interesting approach to its ideas (and one that was obsolete before it was published, in 1989).

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  1. Posted by Ashley at 12:57pm on 27 June 2014

    Sounds like it is actually worth reading. I shall keep an eye out for a copy.

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