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Training Exercise "Seven Days to the River Rhine"
Part of Cold War
Date 1979
Location NATO/Warsaw Pact border in Germany
Result Unknown; never attempted.
West Germany east of River Rhine to the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
N/A January-June: Gen. Alexander M Haig, Jr, June- December: General Bernard B. Rogers, (SACEUR)
Casualties and losses
If carried out, most of the Polish population (a estimated 2,000,000 immediate Polish deaths near the Vistula river) and possibly many East Germans. If carried out, heavy losses in West Germany, amongst others.

Seven Days to the River Rhine was a top secret limited war game exercise developed in 1979 by the Warsaw Pact. It depicted the Soviet bloc's vision of a seven-day atomic war between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces. This possible World War III scenario was released by the conservative Polish government following their election in 2005, in order to "draw a line under the country's Communist past", and "educate the Polish public about the old regime."


Description of Battle

The plans predicted that NATO would launch a nuclear attack on the Vistula river valley in a first strike scenario, which would prevent Soviet bloc commanders from sending reinforcements to East Germany to prevent a NATO invasion of that country.

The plan expected as many as two million Polish civilians would die in such a war, which would essentially destroy the country. With options limited, a Soviet counter-strike against West Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Denmark would take place in an effort to slow an invasion.

Nuclear Response

Maps associated with the released plan show nuclear strikes in many NATO states, but France and the United Kingdom are entirely untouched by nuclear attack. There are several possibilities for the lack of strikes, one of the most significant being that both France and the United Kingdom are Nuclear Weapons States "NWS", and as such retain nuclear arsenals that could be employed in retaliation for nuclear strikes against their nations.

The French forces employed a nuclear strategy known as Stratégie du faible au fort, which is considered a "counter-value" strategy, which implies that a nuclear attack on France would be responded to by a strike on Russian cities. See Force de Frappe for more information on the French conceptualization of nuclear warfare.

The Guardian, however, speculates that "France would have escaped attack, possibly because it is not a member of NATO's integrated structure. Britain, which has always been at the heart of NATO, would also have been spared, suggesting Moscow wanted to stop at the Rhine to avoid overstretching its forces." [1].

There are many high-value targets in Britain (like RAF Fylingdales, RAF Mildenhall or RAF Lakenheath) that would then have to be struck in a conventional manner in this plan, though a nuclear strike would be far more effective (and as the plans show, a preferable option to the Soviet leadership as shown by their strikes in Western Europe). The plan also indicates that USAF fighter-bombers, primarily the long-ranged F-111 would be employed in nuclear strikes, and that they would launch from those British bases.

Without further clarification from the Polish government, or the declassification of further documents, it is difficult to move beyond speculation in determining the reasoning behind this very significant decision.

Radek Sikorski, the Polish defense minister as of 2005, stated that documents associated with the former regime would be declassified and published through the Institute of National Remembrance, in the coming year.

The files being released would include documents about "Operation Danube", the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. They also included files on an army massacre of Polish workers in Szczecin in the 1970s, and from the martial law era of the 1980s.


See also



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