War in the East. The way Americans imagined it

At 3:30 am, Washington time, the French and German air forces launched a series of missile attacks on airports in Poland and the Czech Republic, thus killing and injuring several hundred people…

In the 1990s, when the current order or disorder – if you prefer – of the contemporary world was being shaped, many sensational books appeared, trying to predict what the conflicts and alliances of the coming years would look like. And it was hard to imagine what those years could bring about. At that time, it seemed that the countries of the former Soviet Union were still be a long way from membership of NATO or the EU, which by the way didn’t exist in its current form, the Maastricht Treaty having only just been signed in 1992.

In this situation thriller writers had unlimited possibilities to invent various axes of conflict, while the dissolution of the Soviet Union, full of various turbulences, or the attempted coup d’état in 1991, only fuelled the inventive imagination. The whole of the world that we knew was subject to change. The 1991 coup must have been an inspiration to Russian thriller writers, if they began to explore all sorts of Kremlin-inspired plots that didn’t necessarily have to be hatched in the Russian capital. Tom Clancy, one of the most famous authors of the 80s and 90s, set the headquarters of the conspiracy in a mysterious studio in the basement of the Petersburg Hermitage. More precisely – in the TV studio of the “Art for children” foundation.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE In the novel “Mirror Image” published in 1995 the leader of the conspiracy is general Nikolai Dugin who dreams of restoring the Soviet Union or a Russia as powerful as the former USSR. He wants to take control of Ukraine, which had recently regained independence. Dugin wants to exploit the new country’s social and economic problems. He is supported by the Ukrainian president who is unable to cope with the chaos that has paralysed the country.

One of the elements of Dugin’s plan is an entrapment against Poles and Ukrainians conducted by Russian secret agents. “My special operations assistant has already sent a team from Saint Petersburg to Przemyśl. Its members will plant a bomb under the cathedral, over which Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics, the Ukrainian Church, have been battling for many years. Letters then will be sent to newspaper editors, in which the reborn Ukrainian Insurgent Army will take responsibility for this act of terror. This should cause riots, because the conflict between Poles and Ukrainians is still going on there, sometimes just dying down. Our people will make sure that there is a pogrom against the Ukrainians, then the army will come. It is possible that it will join the pogroms, and even if not, the riots will spread to the border. And in the night, in the confusion, there will be a tragic accident. Ukrainian troops, defending their citizens, will shoot themselves with Polish troops” [transl. from Polish] – said general Dugin in the pages of Tom Clancy’s novel.

The occurrence of shooting between Polish and Ukrainian soldiers meant, according to Dugin, that the fictitious president of Ukraine would call for help from Russia which, in keeping with its tradition, always comes to the rescue where it has provoked a conflict. General Mikhail Anatolyevich Rybakov, one of the leaders of the conspiracy added: “Our people in Poland will see to it that pogroms begin also on the Belarusian border so that Belarusians too can join us when the front stops 100 kilometres from Warsaw”.

“The key to success is to keep Europe and the US from interfering and military intervention. (…) We will influence them through diplomatic channels, explaining to them that this is not imperialism, but only a righteous defence of the Federation and a counter-attack” – added Dugin. However, if these methods did not work, it was intended to intimidate important personalities and make a show of terrorist attack on a civilian target in order to influence public opinion.

In Clancy’s prose a great deal of importance is attached to the intelligence and special services, which, although unable to prevent provocations, they do prevent conflicts from developing or even going global. Of course, potential allies in Russia play an important role. The Americans also have such an ally in Dale Brown’s novel “Chains of Command” (1993). This is the story of a Russian-Ukrainian war with the use of nuclear weapons. But before it happens, there are Russian provocations against Moldova and conflicts on the Dniester.
“The French Air Force launched a series of missile attacks on airfields in Poland...” - wrote Larry Bond in his novel. Photo shows a French Mirage 2000 fighter jet at Mińsk Mazowiecki airfield in 1998. Photo: Piotr Malecki / Forum
In January 1996, the first clash takes place over north-western Ukraine. The Ukrainian air patrol, commanded by Captain Pavel Grigoryevich Tichina, is warned by the Poles that an unidentified group of planes is approaching them. These are Russians. There is a fight in the air. The Russian attack is repelled, but the Ukrainians also suffer heavy losses. Tichina himself is so seriously injured that his face is disfigured. Later, he hides his face under a bandage. He becomes something of a “faceless avenger”, a character typical of American comics. Before that happens, he will be a hero and will receive admiration in Ukraine, interrupted by a great personal and national drama. After treatment in Lviv, he was transferred to the local base.

While he is in the command bunker, a nuclear attack by the Russians occur. At that time, the transport base of the Ukrainian army in Kryvyi Rih was also attacked by conventional means. Kyiv was shelled. Russian paratroopers seized the areas on the borders with Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, cutting off Ukraine from Western aid. The areas dominated by the Russian population and the Donbas were not attacked, because the Russians wanted coal. Ukrainian aviation suffered huge losses. In the attack on Lviv, the Russians used small nuclear charges with increased radiation.

“In motionless cars on the street, he saw dead people leaning against the steering wheel or bent double in their seats. There was frost under their nostrils and around their eyes – their last frozen breaths before death. They must have been sitting here for a long time. There were also dead bodies along the street. You could see that they were carrying some food or medicine before they died, and others tried to help the more irradiated before they died too. Groups of doctors and military personnel walked among the bodies trying to identify them. If they managed to do so, they hung an identification card around their necks, removed the body to the side and covered it with whatever they could. Tichina couldn’t take his eyes off one of the dead, a squadron mate, so that he nearly tripped over a second body across the pavement. The whole scenery is like the nightmare of a science fiction movie about the end of the world” [transl. from Polish] Among the victims is also Captain Tichina’s fiancée, who dies before his eyes.

Of course, the Russian president informs his American counterpart that the “nuclear attack on Ukraine was a mistake that won’t be repeated”. However, the consequence of the attack is a complete weakening of Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force is withdrawn to Turkey with the consent of the USA and from there it fights against Russia. American pilots are also taking part in the fighting, but this does not yet mean an open full-scale war against Russia, although the conflict is becoming more and more dangerous. The American president holds talks with the Russian opponent of the latter’s own president, as a result of which they find out where the bunker of the hiding Russian leader is located.

In this situation, the Americans decide to carry out a preventive, direct nuclear attack on the Russian president. The bomb will be dropped by the Ukrainian hero captain Tichina, who decides to commit suicide during the action for greater effectiveness. As a result of this atomic bombing, Russia withdrew from Ukraine. Moscow is badly damaged, but to a lesser extent than the areas it attacked in Ukraine and Turkey. There are tens of thousands of deaths. The action, however, ended the entire conflict.

From the point of view of political and geostrategic scenarios, the most interesting was the book by Larry Bond, a former American officer, entitled “Cauldron” (1993). It is a story that unfolds on many levels with Poland in the leading role. The year is 1998. There is a solstice in Europe. France and Germany form a strong alliance that begins to dominate Europe. They plan to impose a single common currency on the countries of the Old Continent – the francmark. France plays a leading role in this alliance.

The Germans do not feel strong after the recent reunification with East Germany. The European Confederation established by them exerts strong pressure on other countries. Through violence and pressure, the Confederation dominates many countries. In Hungary, Commissioners from France practically took over power at every level. If someone does not like something, they are excluded from society. Cheap labor is imported from Asia and Africa to replace local workers. In France itself, there are racial and economic riots provoked by the authorities, which become a good opportunity to introduce a state of emergency.

Poland does not want to join the European community dominated by the French and Germans, which ends in a war with the so-called Eurocon, as the European Confederation is called, and in practice to the Polish-German war. Since the governments in France and Germany are dictatorships, they communicate easily with their Russian counterpart. As a result of this agreement, oil and gas flows to Poland are stopped. The country could be completely paralyzed at any moment.

In an Associated Press communiqué created for the purposes of the novel, the author writes: “At 3:30 am, Washington time, the French and German air forces launched a series of missile attacks on airports in Poland and the Czech Republic, thus killing and injuring several hundred people. Particularly tragic is the fact that more than thirty American advisers were among the victims. Like the previous invasion of Hungary, the latest act of French and German aggression proves that both countries intend to subjugate the entire territory of Europe through threats, force and military occupation. The United States does not and will not allow the latest attacks to go unpunished”.

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Poland can count on the support of the Americans and the British, who, with the help of the Norwegians, launch sea convoys with supplies to Poland. They are attacked and decimated by French and German forces. At any time, the aid for Poland, which is far from needed anyway due to large losses, may be interrupted. The more so that one of the ships carrying gas is blown up by French commandos in the roadstead of Gdańsk. There is massive damage and many casualties.

However, Polish resistance pays off. There is an uprising in Hungary. Its society rejects the French dictate. The Czechs and Slovaks are also defending themselves, with the support of Poland. Unable to stop the American aid, the French made an unsuccessful attempt of nuclear attack on the convoys. However, the situation is becoming more and more difficult for Poland. Poland, in order to fight the Germans on the fron,t withdraws its entire army from the east of the country. The eastern border is open, defenseless. The Franco-German Confederation communicates with the Russians. The Russians will attack Poland in the east in exchange for consent to occupy Ukraine.

Also the Americans decide to enter the Polish front with larger forces. Their ground forces arrive on the Coast. Meanwhile, in the diplomatic sphere, together with the British, they decide to break up the Confederacy, and they succeed thanks to Belgium’s breakout. In Russia, on the other hand, they accidentally support an internal rebellion that leads to a change of power. On the Polish front, Germany is defeated. Disputes begin to arise within the Confederation. Eurocon comes to an end, countries regain their freedom and democracy.

Fortunately, these scenarios did not come true. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary joined NATO in 1997 and the European Union in 2004. There will probably be those who can look for similarities between the European Confederation and the European Union, but this literary vision is definitely different from the real one.

Some things, however, were predictable and the authors noticed them. First of all, the lack of loyalty of the “old” Europe to the “new”, or rather regained, in terms of geography being what is known as Central Europe. This loyalty was lacking in various dimensions until the real war between Russia and Ukraine, and even then some of our allies did not inspire confidence.

It is also a matter of the threat of Russian aggression, which the authors of the novel assess most accurately. And, of course, there are the issues of energy security, very aptly presented by Larry Bond. And most characteristically, the Americans see Poland as their loyal ally in these stories.

There are also threats which we all feared then and we fear all the more now. There is to hope that they will remain mere threats.

– Grzegorz Sieczkowski

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki


Tom Clancy, „Zwierciadło” [„Mirror image”], tłum. Leszek Erenfeicht, Wydawnictwo Adamski I Bieliński, Warszawa 1997
Dale Brown, „Droga służbowa” [„Chains of Command”], tłum. Piotr Cieśla, Wydawnictwo Adamski I Bieliński, Warszawa 1994
Larry Bond, „Kocioł” [„Cauldron”], tłum. Piotr Siemion, Wydawnictwo Adamski I Bieliński, Warszawa 1993
SDP 2023

Main photo: Moscow, Aug. 19, 1991. The August attempted coup fuelled the imagination of American writers. Pictured is the parliament building. Photo: PAP / Reproduction
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