Seven Days to the River Rhine

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Training Exercise "Seven Days to the River Rhine"
Part of Cold War
Probable Axes of Attack.jpg
A 1976 map of probable axes of attack for the Warsaw Pact forces into Western Europe
Central Iron Curtain
Result Unknown; never attempted. SALT II treaty.
Austria, Denmark, Germany Luxembourg Belgium and the Netherlands east of River Rhine to the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
Group of Soviet Forces in Germany
Soviet Army Northern Group of Forces
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
Commanders and leaders
Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev
Soviet Union Col. Gen. Yuri Zarudin
Soviet Union Gen. Yevgeni F. Ivanovski
Soviet Union Dmitriy Ustinov
Wojciech Jaruzelski
Poland Florian Siwicki
East Germany Erich Honecker
East Germany Heinz Hoffmann

United States Jimmy Carter
United States Harold Brown

West Germany Helmut Schmidt
West Germany Hans Apel
Belgium King Baudouin
Netherlands Queen Juliana
Denmark Anker Jørgensen
Austria Rudolf Kirchschläger
Austria Bruno Kreisky
Casualties and losses
Would be carried out in response to a NATO first strike on Poland. Such a strike was estimated to cause 2 million immediate Polish deaths near the Vistula If carried out, heavy losses in West Germany
The Rhine is one of the most important rivers in Europe.

Seven Days to the River Rhine (Russian: «Семь дней до реки Рейн», Sem' dney do reki Reyn) was a top-secret military simulation exercise developed in 1979 by the Warsaw Pact. It depicted the Soviet bloc's vision of a seven-day nuclear war between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.[1][2][3]


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."[2][4][3]

Radosław Sikorski, the Polish defense minister at the time the documents were released,[4] stated that documents associated with the former regime would be declassified and published through the Institute of National Remembrance in the coming year.[2][4]

The files released included documents about "Operation Danube", the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.[2][3] They also included files on the 1970 Polish protests, and from the martial law era of the 1980s.[2][4][3]

The Czechs[5] and Hungarians[6] had declassified related documents in the 1990s.

Battle outline[edit]

The scenario for the war was NATO launching a nuclear attack on Polish cities in the Vistula river valley area in a first-strike scenario, as well as Czech cities, which would prevent Soviet bloc commanders from sending reinforcements to East Germany to forestall a possible NATO invasion of that country.[2][4][3] The plan expected that as many as two million Polish civilians would die in such a war and Polish operational strength would be completely destroyed.[2][4][3]

A Soviet nuclear counter-strike would be launched against West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and North-East Italy.[2][3]

Nuclear response[edit]

Maps associated with the released plan show nuclear strikes in many NATO states, but exclude both France and the United Kingdom. There are several possibilities for this lack of strikes, the most probable being that both France and the United Kingdom are nuclear weapons states, and as such retain nuclear arsenals that could be employed in retaliation for nuclear strikes against their nations.[2][3][7][5][8]

The French forces employed a nuclear strategy known as dissuasion du faible au fort (weak-to-strong deterrence); this is considered a "counter-value" strategy, which implies that a nuclear attack on France would be responded to by a strike on Soviet-bloc cities. See Force de frappe for more information on the French conceptualization of nuclear warfare.[2][3]

The Guardian newspaper, 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."[9][2][3]

There are many high-value targets in Britain (like RAF Fylingdales, RAF Mildenhall, and 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 for 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.[2][3]

The Soviets planned to use about 7.5 megatons of atomic weaponry in all during such a conflict.[6]

Known targets[edit]

Vienna was to be hit by two 500-kiloton bombs, while Vicenza, Verona, Padova, and several bases in Italy were to be hit by single 500-kiloton bombs.[6] Hungary was to capture Vienna.[5]

Stuttgart, Munich, and Nuremberg in West Germany were to be destroyed by nuclear weapons and then captured by the Czechoslovaks and Hungarians.[5]

In Denmark, the first nuclear targets were Roskilde and Esbjerg. Roskilde, while having no military significance, is the second-largest city on Zealand and located close to the Danish capital Copenhagen (the distance from central Copenhagen to Roskilde is only 35 km or 22 mi). It would also be targeted for its cultural and historical significance to break the morale of the Danish population and army. Esbjerg, the fifth-largest city in the country, would be targeted for its large harbour capable of facilitating delivery of large NATO reinforcements. If there was Danish resistance after the two initial strikes, other targets would be bombed.[10]

Additional plans[edit]

The Soviets planned to have reached Lyon by day nine and to press on to a final position at the Pyrenees.[5] The Czechoslovaks thought it to be too optimistic at the time, and some present-day Western planners believe that such a goal was difficult or even unattainable.[5] There were also plans of a naval operation in the North Atlantic against NATO shipping.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ISN Editors. "Poland reveals Warsaw Pact war plans". International Relations And Security Network. Retrieved 23 December 2014.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Nicholas Watt in Warsaw (2005-11-26). "Poland risks Russia's wrath with Soviet nuclear attack map | World news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rennie, David (2005-11-26). "World War Three seen through Soviet eyes". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Poland Opens Secret Warsaw Pact Files". Rferl.org. 2005-11-25. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Samuel, Henry (2007-09-20). "Soviet plan for WW3 nuclear attack unearthed". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  6. ^ a b c Tweedie, Neil (2001-12-01). "Vienna was top of Soviet nuclear targets list". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  7. ^ "Moscow's blueprint resembles thriller's plot". Telegraph.co.uk. 26 November 2005.
  8. ^ Nicholas Watt. "Poland risks Russia's wrath with Soviet nuclear attack map". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Nicholas Watt in Warsaw (2005-11-26). "Poland risks Russia's wrath with Soviet nuclear attack map | World news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  10. ^ Niels Lillelund; Jette Elbæk Maressa (18 January 2003). "Atomplaner mod Danmark under Den Kolde Krig" [Nuclear plans against Denmark during the Cold War] (in Danish). Jyllands Posten. Retrieved 18 July 2019.