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Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it turns into a general war?

 
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Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it turn... - 10/22/2014 5:34:04 PM   
Mgellis


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Okay, I'd like feedback on some Cold War scenario ideas...

By the mid-1960s, a full scale nuclear war would have been cataclysmic. Earlier than this, the relatively small number of ballistic missiles--the first ones show up around 1960--means that bombs have to be delivered by bomber, which means there is at least a chance of stopping some or most of them. So it is possible one side might "win" (or, at least not be damaged so badly that survival as a nation was no longer possible). By the mid-1960s and after, however, a full-scale nuclear war can only mean mutually assured destruction.

I'm also assuming that once nuclear weapons are used in Europe that things would rapidly escalate to a full scale exchange.

But what if there was fighting, nuclear or not, elsewhere in the world? Korea did not trigger a full-scale war, after all, even though it was no secret that Soviets were helping the North Koreans fly jets that were shooting down Americans.

So, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "no chance of escalation to full-scale nuclear exchange" and 10 is "escalation to full-scale exchange is certain and unavoidable," what do think would happen if...

Scenario A: Soviet ships ignore the 1962 blockade of Cuba and try to run it; American ships fire on Soviet vessels, but do NOT engage Soviet forces anywhere else in the world (e.g., Europe) and do not even try to attack Cuba.

Scenario B: Similar, but elsewhere in the world and perhaps with other powers involved. For example, what if Soviet forces were aiding communist insurgents in Colombia and the Colombian navy went after the convoy bringing the rebels tanks, artillery, etc. as it got close to Colombian waters? The escorts would fight, of course, but what would happen after the battle was over?

Scenario C: A Soviet submarine is found near American waters, possibly in international waters (depending on whose definition you are using) and close enough to get America upset, but then refuses to surrender. American forces sink the Soviet submarine (or at least try to). Two Soviet destroyers are nearby...will they start shooting on their own once they know the sub is being attacked, wait for orders, or what? And if some general battle between Soviet and American forces does break out in the Atlantic, but nowhere near Europe itself, and it does not look like either side is planning an actual invasion, is that the end of it or does it escalate?

Scenario D: One task force tries to force another task force out of an area (military exercises are going on, secrets missile tests are going on, etc.) and fighting starts. For example, a Japanese task force (three destroyers) enters the Sea of Okhotsk, doing training, showing the flag, etc., the Soviets try to force them out for some reason, and fighting starts. The Japanese sink two Soviet missile corvettes and then withdraw, but the Soviets sink a Japanese destroyer with aircraft as they make their way back to Japan. Does this lead to a global war or do the superpowers just yell at each other for a while in Pravda and the New York Times?

Scenario E: During the Vietnam war it becomes obvious that the Soviets are not just selling planes to North Vietnam but flying and fighting alongside them--the very newest Soviet fighters have been spotted and they have Soviet markings. How would American respond? Would America try to sink any Soviet ships in the area to prevent them from bringing in more supplies? Would Soviet subs go after American carrier groups? A "state of war" would exist if any of those things happened, but as long as the Soviets did not suddenly attack West Germany, etc., would the situation remain contained in the region of the South China Sea?

I look forward to your comments. Thanks.

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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/22/2014 6:12:32 PM   
Randomizer

 

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I think that how a naval incident escalates depends upon whether it happens before or after 25 May 1972. After this date the Incident At Sea Agreement between the USA and the USSR went into effect, an effective bilateral treaty designed to prevent the automatic escalation of violence should an incident between American and Soviet ships occurs. Both sides recognized the very real danger of confrontation at sea and in the air and talks in this direction started as early as 1968.

INCSEA Text

So if you want a realism check after 1968 you might want to place your trigger incident, any of the above scenarios will do, into the context of the final Agreement and then generate a reasonable sequence of events to disregard the provision of it.

I would be careful using the Korean War as a model since the situation that allowed UN intervention was unique and unlikely to be repeated even while Stalin was royally P.O.'ed that Kim Il Sung started the war in the first place. The vast majority of aid to the DPRK came from Mao's China rather than the Soviet Union and Russian "technical advisors" were comparatively few on the ground or in the air compared to those from the PRC. If anything the Korean War demonstrates the very real desire on both sides of the Cold War to avoid escalating local crisis' into a major war. One can model the military actions in any triggering crisis quite nicely in CMANO and then terminate the scenario for the diplomats to sort out in the Player's imagination.

However in my opinion for all of the above situations, escalation probably means nukes at some point if no diplomatic quid pro quo was forthcoming or there was no measures taken to end the crisis through cease fire and negotiation. Both of these are beyond modelling in CMANO but the event editor can be handy to end a scenario at the point of escalation, which can simulate a diplomatically imposed cease fire.

That said, in the realm of fiction one can abandon "realism" as necessary for the sake of the story line.

-C

< Message edited by Randomizer -- 10/22/2014 7:16:41 PM >

(in reply to Mgellis)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/22/2014 10:19:10 PM   
SSN754planker


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Scenario A: Historically this would have started WWIII..At that point in the crisis, Kennedy was barely hanging on to the hawks.

Scenario B: This is an interesting one. I like this maybe applied to the Nicaragua/contra era.

Scenario C: My favorite out of the bunch. This could be a two parter. (one being the actual sub sinking) and a second scenario of meeting a general Soviet surge into the atlantic to find their submarine. Or even could tie into The Hunt For Red October where what if things went hot when the two fleets were in the Atlantic in close proximity. (The book covers this in a lot more detail than the movie does)

Scenario D: Another good premise. The Kurile situation has been on the burner a LONG time now, and could be a fun scenario. Modern day this could be implemented involving the Chinese and Vietnam with the Chinese trying to force out a Vietnamese force from around Hainan Island.

Scenario E: The Battle of Haiphong! Soviet submarines are now "escorting" the soviet resupply freighters into Haiphong. Yankee Station must respond.

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(in reply to Mgellis)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/23/2014 1:45:44 AM   
Mgellis


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quote:

ORIGINAL: SSN754planker

Scenario A: Historically this would have started WWIII..At that point in the crisis, Kennedy was barely hanging on to the hawks.

Scenario B: This is an interesting one. I like this maybe applied to the Nicaragua/contra era.

Scenario C: My favorite out of the bunch. This could be a two parter. (one being the actual sub sinking) and a second scenario of meeting a general Soviet surge into the atlantic to find their submarine. Or even could tie into The Hunt For Red October where what if things went hot when the two fleets were in the Atlantic in close proximity. (The book covers this in a lot more detail than the movie does)

Scenario D: Another good premise. The Kurile situation has been on the burner a LONG time now, and could be a fun scenario. Modern day this could be implemented involving the Chinese and Vietnam with the Chinese trying to force out a Vietnamese force from around Hainan Island.

Scenario E: The Battle of Haiphong! Soviet submarines are now "escorting" the soviet resupply freighters into Haiphong. Yankee Station must respond.


Okay, so scenario A is a 9 or a 10. Eeek! :) But would America have automatically gone from "stop the convoy" to "oh, heck, while we're at it, let's just blow up the Soviet Union" as long as the Soviets did not initiate a global strike? If it looked like the American navy was going to win, would that have satisfied the hawks?

I'm guessing you think scenarios B through E are a lot more like a 5? That is, they might escalate into a global war, but there's an equally good chance that since neither side is actually trying to start a war that the superpowers would talk to each other and settle things down before they got out of hand.

(in reply to SSN754planker)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/23/2014 2:19:17 AM   
Mgellis


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Randomizer

I think that how a naval incident escalates depends upon whether it happens before or after 25 May 1972. After this date the Incident At Sea Agreement between the USA and the USSR went into effect, an effective bilateral treaty designed to prevent the automatic escalation of violence should an incident between American and Soviet ships occurs. Both sides recognized the very real danger of confrontation at sea and in the air and talks in this direction started as early as 1968.

INCSEA Text

So if you want a realism check after 1968 you might want to place your trigger incident, any of the above scenarios will do, into the context of the final Agreement and then generate a reasonable sequence of events to disregard the provision of it.




This is really interesting. I see some interesting possibilities...

Scenario F: A task force from Orange enters waters near Green, but does not tell them (technically a violation of the treaty mentioned above). Green sends a task force to investigate and then to chase the Orange task force away, but the Orange task force refuses to move, reminding Green that these are international waters. Green decides do a bit of "tough talking" by painting an Orange ship with a targeting radar (also a violation of the treaty as I understand it). Orange thinks they're really going to shoot and...well, that's how these things happen, I guess.





(in reply to Randomizer)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/24/2014 7:11:48 AM   
gbethel

 

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There are a couple of ways that a nuclear exchange could occur.

1. Someone violates Rules of Engagement. For example, some hotshot commander or terrorist takes it upon himself to harass, threaten, or otherwise attack a facility/ship that has nukes. Maybe they don't even realize the facility has nuclear warheads.

2. There is a breakdown in Chain of Command or at least communications within Chain of Command. Everyone has seen Dr. Strangelove.

3. There is breakdown in launch sequence or weapons control/handling protocol. An example would be the warheads that sat on the tarmac unaccounted for at Barksdale a few years ago.

4. Changing geopolitical situations may cause a power to consider a nuclear gambit. The first half of 1989, Reagan left office and the Warsaw pact was beginning to crumble internally. If ever there was a time when the Soviets may have decided to risk a limited nuclear strike it might have been then.

(in reply to Mgellis)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/24/2014 9:22:44 PM   
Mgellis


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quote:

ORIGINAL: gbethel

There are a couple of ways that a nuclear exchange could occur.

1. Someone violates Rules of Engagement. For example, some hotshot commander or terrorist takes it upon himself to harass, threaten, or otherwise attack a facility/ship that has nukes. Maybe they don't even realize the facility has nuclear warheads.

2. There is a breakdown in Chain of Command or at least communications within Chain of Command. Everyone has seen Dr. Strangelove.

3. There is breakdown in launch sequence or weapons control/handling protocol. An example would be the warheads that sat on the tarmac unaccounted for at Barksdale a few years ago.

4. Changing geopolitical situations may cause a power to consider a nuclear gambit. The first half of 1989, Reagan left office and the Warsaw pact was beginning to crumble internally. If ever there was a time when the Soviets may have decided to risk a limited nuclear strike it might have been then.


These are all interesting, although what I'm really looking for is situations where there is an actual battle, but it does NOT escalate after that. For example, if the Swedes sunk a Soviet submarine they found in their territorial waters, would that trigger a) lots of angry screaming from diplomats, b) some kind of "proportional retaliation"--e.g., the Soviets go after a Swedish sub the next time they think they can get away with it, etc., or c) the end of the world?


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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/25/2014 3:04:18 AM   
gbethel

 

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Ok. There was a T-AGOS trolling in international waters off the shore of China a couple years ago. A Chinese vessel attempted to cut the SURTASS cable. What if a US warship had been in escort at the time with orders to defend and protect?

These kind of things happen in real world all the time but they seldom lead to shooting. All it take is a local commander to push the envelope or to break the ROE and shooting will result. In most instances leaders will attempt to brush over these events but some will attempt to exploit them for other goals.

(in reply to Mgellis)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/25/2014 11:22:31 AM   
Triode

 

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About scenario A situations

telegram Soviet Defense Minister Rodion Malinowski to commander of Soviet forces in Cuba General Pliev
citation:

"Only in the case of the landing of the enemy on the island of Cuba or the concentration of enemy ships off the coast of Cuba, in its territorial waters and if it is impossible to obtain orders from the Ministry of Defense, you personally are allowed, in exceptional cases, to decide on the use of tactical missiles "Luna"(aka FROG-1) as a means to defeat the enemy on the local ground and on the coast with a view to complete the crushing defeat of the troops on the territory of Cuba and the protection of the Cuban Revolution."

This is about ROE for the Soviet forces on Cuba, as you can see the use of nuclear weapons is allowed in certain circumstances even for local commanders.

(in reply to gbethel)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/25/2014 4:04:08 PM   
JAS Gripen


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quote:



This is about ROE for the Soviet forces on Cuba, as you can see the use of nuclear weapons is allowed in certain circumstances even for local commanders.



Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov (Russian: Василий Александрович Архипов) (30 January 1926 – 19 August 1998) was a Soviet Navy officer. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he prevented the launch of a nuclear torpedo and thereby prevented a nuclear war. Thomas Blanton (then director of the National Security Archive) said in 2002 that "a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world".[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasili_Arkhipov

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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/28/2014 7:35:08 AM   
lowchi


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a more "recent" account of a possible nuclear escalation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_rocket_incident

(in reply to JAS Gripen)
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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/29/2014 12:45:42 AM   
Mgellis


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What do you think of this idea?

Assume that, around 1985, fighting starts between India and Pakistan. The Soviet Union is already very annoyed with Pakistan for helping rebels in Afghanistan and decides to help its ally India; it sends a battle group and/or a squadron of submarines to go after Pakistani merchant shipping and the Pakistani navy. The United States says, "No, that is not acceptable" and moves its own battle group into the region to intervene.

Unlike Cuba, this time, neither side backs down. So you end up with an American battle group and a Soviet battle group in direct conflict. No other conflict is going on--the Soviets are not invading West Germany or anything like that. But shots are fired. Ships get sunk. And so on.

Now, because I do not want the scenario to supposedly lead to the end of the world, mostly because I think that is kind of depressing, is it plausible that the battle would be fought, one side would win, one side would lose, and that's where it stops. I know that it could escalate, and I know that as the scenario designer that I can say whatever I want, but I'm interested in being as realistic as I can in this scenario. Is it plausible that it would not escalate? For example, if the Soviets lose three submarines out of four, and the fourth one is able to sneak away, and the Americans lose a frigate, but are clearly the overall winners of the battle because the carrier and the two cruisers are fine, is this the point where people go "Okay...that was a little more intense than we thought it would be" and the diplomats start talking to each other or is this the point where five thousand ICBMs start flying?

What do you guys think? What do you think would have really happened? I look forward to your answers. Thanks!


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RE: Realism check--how far could a crisis go before it ... - 10/29/2014 2:43:58 AM   
AbuM

 

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Just as a general principle, wars are inherently escalatory in nature. If fighting starts in one place, it is very possible for it to spread. WW1 is a great example of that.

In scenario A I think that could very well turn into a general war, with both sides starting with tactical weapons and the moving on up from there (say the Soviets hit a major HQ in a NATO city, its technically a tactical strike, but it is also hitting a population center). I could see the Soviets reacting to hostilities around Cuba with an attack in Turkey for example.

In scenario B that could turn out many different ways, dependent on how both sides react. If the crisis continues it could easily lead to something bigger.

In scenario C the Soviets could try returning the favor at a later date. How that plays out is anyone's guess.

I think the basic thing to take away from this is that great power confrontations are inherently unpredictable. Thats why both sides tried to avoid them when possible. Add in what I stated in the above, wars escalate.

Lets say in situation A, the Soviets respond by attacking American warships in the Atlantic. The Americans use nuclear depth charges for example to combat Soviet subs, because the subs are causing alot of damage and the nuclear weapons are more effective than non-nuclear weapons at the task. Lets say the Soviets are losing the conflict because of this, what do they do? Tactical nuclear weapons have been used already, perhaps they use a nuclear torpedo to attack American ships in an American navy base. That might have strategic repercussions, how much damage was done to the civilians living near the base? Perhaps that just opens up attacks on military bases, in which case the US attacks a Soviet port, Sevastopol maybe? Thats going to have strategic significance no matter what. So now we go from breaching the threshold on tactical nuclear weapons, to the threshold on strategic nuclear weapons. You see where this is going. The Soviets respond with a strategic strike on an American base, which hits a city in the process, the Americans respond by hitting a Soviet city, etc.

You have the dynamic of
A. Both sides wanting to win.
B. Both sides having to retaliate for an escalation or perceived escalation. You see that with the start of The Blitz, when some German bombers accidentally bombed London instead of airfields, which lead to the Brits bombing Berlin and then the retaliation by the Germans.

Hope this helps.

(in reply to Mgellis)
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