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#61 HBoersma

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Posted 03 May 2018 - 0254 AM

Thanks for posting that, Stuart. I didn't hear anything new, except that the Soviets "had a plan to attack the West in the guise of military exercises" (±18:20), something that I would like to see some evidence for. Also remarkable: the author was apparently present to see Soviet fingers "hovering over the nuclear button" (±26:30). There's a whiff of sensationalism here — but I'm curious enough to have ordered the book. 


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#62 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 03 May 2018 - 0317 AM

Yeah, I think its almost certainly sensationalism. Still, he did write the accompanying book to the CNN 'Cold War' series, and that was pretty good, so Ill certainly get it. I have to admit Id be surprised if he has found anything that hasnt already been flagged up here.

 

https://nsarchive.gw...r-83-sourcebook

 

Do lets us know what you make of it, id be interested to find out.


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#63 HBoersma

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 1032 AM

Well, I've finally read Taylor Downing's "1983". It took me a while as I didn't find it to be the page-turner I had hoped for. The book is clearly intended for a general audience and as such it is a good introduction; the only one at present if I'm not mistaken (but another one is on its way). Unfortunately the author is not always razor sharp in his phrasing (about Hiroshima, 1945: "No one near the centre of the city survived to give an account" — those in the centre apparently did [p.1]; or "To Gorbachev, agreeing to abolish the SS-20s was final acceptance of the flawed policy that had brought about their deployment" [p.321] — I assume the author means that Gorbachov accepted that the policy was flawed.) On the other hand the Prologue gives an overview of the nuclear arms race in the 1950s and 60s that is almost hilarious. It also promises an "accessible" narrative, and on this promise the book delivers. More or less between the lines the author argues that the 1983 War Scare was a key factor in bringing Gorbachev to seek negotiations with the West, and he appears to have a strong case there.

 

The claim that Soviet fingers were "hovering over the nuclear button" is not substantiated, or not enough to my taste. The other thing that interested me, about the Soviets having "plans to attack the West under the guise of military exercises" [p.251] is source-referenced to Andrew/Gordievsky's "KGB: The Inside Story", p.502. Perhaps anyone here has this book and can provide a quote? If indeed such plans existed this sheds a somewhat different light on the common opinion that the strategic intentions of the Soviet Union during the Cold War were purely defensive — with the caveat that they would attack with all they got if they believed that war was inevitable. Attacking under the guise of exercises seems an overly elaborate course of action if one believes that war has become unavoidable.

 

The book also claims that the Andrew/Gordievsky book (1990) provided "the first limited revelations in public about the Soviet war scare of 1983" (p.338). Recently however I was surprised to see what the Washington Post was able to piece together as early as August 1986: "Defector Told of Soviet Alert".


Edited by HBoersma, 24 June 2018 - 1037 AM.

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#64 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 0756 AM

Thanks for that Hans. Yeah, since I wrote that ive also got a copy of it, and its interesting in setting the scene as far as it goes. I have to admit I would like a few  citations for his sources for the events of the highpoint of the crisis, because im not convinced there is any evidence for the events portrayed in the institute Andropov was staying. I wouldnt accuse him of lying, but he perhaps is gilding the lily a bit.

 

He DID cite some interesting bits about Tu22M's visiting East Germany, and this seemingly being borne out in his sources. Id never heard that before, not even in the USMLM report for 1983.

 

I think there is a case for saying the Soviet Union was strategically defensive in the 1980's. But that did not mean war, if it came to it,  it would be fought defensively. Its pretty clear under Gorbachev that he envisaged a purely defensive Warsaw Pact, but the Soviet General staff was not exactly cooperative on that point.


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#65 HBoersma

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Posted 26 June 2018 - 1257 PM

It's a bit problematic that part of the source material (interviews) was only used in a television production ("1983: The Brink of Apocalypse"): a Discovery channel-style documentary in which it is sometimes hard to discern videoclip and reenactment from factual account. But it'll be no punishment to watch it again, to scout for witness accounts to the synthy beats of the '80s...

 

Regarding the switch to a defensive tactical doctrine by the Soviet Army, I remember reading that this happened in 1987 or 1988, when Gorbachev had solidified his position. Interestingly, Siegfried Lautsch, a former NVA staff officer, claims that the East Germans switched to defensive tactics as early as 1985. Which is remarkable, especially since the DDR leadership was less than enthusiastic about the reforms in the Soviet Union, to put it mildly (at some point certain Soviet publications were actually forbidden in the DDR). Lautsch' article appears to be a pre-publication from this book; perhaps that offers an explanation.


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#66 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 28 June 2018 - 0237 AM

It's a bit problematic that part of the source material (interviews) was only used in a television production ("1983: The Brink of Apocalypse"): a Discovery channel-style documentary in which it is sometimes hard to discern videoclip and reenactment from factual account. But it'll be no punishment to watch it again, to scout for witness accounts to the synthy beats of the '80s...

 

Regarding the switch to a defensive tactical doctrine by the Soviet Army, I remember reading that this happened in 1987 or 1988, when Gorbachev had solidified his position. Interestingly, Siegfried Lautsch, a former NVA staff officer, claims that the East Germans switched to defensive tactics as early as 1985. Which is remarkable, especially since the DDR leadership was less than enthusiastic about the reforms in the Soviet Union, to put it mildly (at some point certain Soviet publications were actually forbidden in the DDR). Lautsch' article appears to be a pre-publication from this book; perhaps that offers an explanation.

 

Yes, that would be right. William Odom in 'Collapse of the Soviet Military' relates that period. He claims that Gorbachev used the aftermath of the Mathias Rust flight to purge several uncooperative senior officers. It would also have been about the time the USSR moved from offensive to defensive operations in Afghanistan and started to think about withdrawing.

 

Thats interesting about the East German's. I shall have to have a look at 'A Cardboard Castle' and see if they note any changes in that period.


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#67 HBoersma

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Posted 29 June 2018 - 1441 PM

Cardboard Castle: not as far as I can see.

 

Lautsch writes about "Defensive Operation 1985": "The changes in strategic and operational planning which started in 1985 were probably the result of deliberations of the political and military leadership in Moscow, aiming to reduce tensions and reduce the danger of a possible war. These [deliberations] became the basis for a new, primarily defensive military doctrine, which was subsequently accepted officially by the members of the Warsaw Pact in 1987" (quick translation by me). With Gorbachev entering the stage in March 1985 that is quick, very quick.

 

Update: know thou bookcase... In "NVA: Anspruch und Wirklichkeit "(1993!) the author Klaus Naumann writes that in "1985/1987" intensive deliberations about a defensive doctrine took place, which were a follow-up of Czechoslovakian considerations from as early as 1981/1982. In 1984 the Czechoslovakian Army apparently held the first truly defensive field exercise in WP ("Shield-84"). Within the Soviet military leadership this was all very controversial, and in 1987/1988 offensive operations were again exercised. [p. 209 and further].  


Edited by HBoersma, 29 June 2018 - 1502 PM.

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#68 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 30 June 2018 - 0206 AM

I seem to recall a book I have somewhere that lists pact exercises, and I think a good number of them in the late 70's at least started with defensive operations, at least in the scenario. I mean it kinda makes sense, we would try and start a war of capitalist enslavement, and they would launch the glorious liberation of the proletariat. I think there may even be a map in Carboard Castle (or at least, I seem to recall seeing somewhere) that showed the limits of the envisaged NATO offensive. I think that was from a Polish source, does that ring any bells, or am I mixing it up with a fallout map?

 

What I cant remember without going to look is how many actually went beyond the scenario, and actually practiced defensive operations only. And I suspect that may have been the key difference in the mid 1980's, it may have been the first time since the early 50s they practiced it. Im not sure the East German's (certainly not the Soviets) ever planned a defence only exercise before the dates described.

 

To be absolutely fair to the Soviets, I know by the late 1980's in NORTHAG, the British commander was practicing counter offensive operations. Which to Soviet eyes must have looked suspiciously like planning an invasion I guess. I dont believe we did it before that, but presumably the Americans did.


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#69 HBoersma

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Posted 30 June 2018 - 1616 PM

The Lautsch article (see link above) contains such a map (p. 25) — here actually showing 4 (NL) Division advancing towards Berlin (Oranienburg)! Which is of course hard to take seriously from our side of the fence. The Naumann book has similar maps, but not in such detail. I've seen Polish maps too (with lots of mushrooms), but from the 1960s I think. Yes, as I understand it prior WP war scenarios all started with NATO aggression, but the WP preliminary defensive phase was never seriously exercised in the field — it was more or less a token item, for the record.

 

Counter offensive operations are a normal part of defence, but of course the scale matters. 1 (NL) Corps had a plan for a counter attack to restore the FEBA (± IGB), but in field exercises the emphasis was very much on defensive operations (a fighting retreat really). With a maldeployed conscription force and peacetime limitations this was challenging enough, never mind exercising an invasion of WP territory. I think the line between defensive and offensive plans became blurry, for the Soviets in any case, with the (US) AirLand Battle and the (NATO, but US-inspired) FOFA concepts of the 1980s.

 

Regarding the claim that the Soviets had plans to attack the West under the guise of field exercises, I gave this some more thought. I suppose it might fit in the Soviet "attacking is the best defence"-mindset and provide some tactical advantage in a scenario where NATO would be seen as building up to an attack.   


Edited by HBoersma, 30 June 2018 - 1622 PM.

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#70 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 01 July 2018 - 0208 AM

The Lautsch article (see link above) contains such a map (p. 25) — here actually showing 4 (NL) Division advancing towards Berlin (Oranienburg)! Which is of course hard to take seriously from our side of the fence. The Naumann book has similar maps, but not in such detail. I've seen Polish maps too (with lots of mushrooms), but from the 1960s I think. Yes, as I understand it prior WP war scenarios all started with NATO aggression, but the WP preliminary defensive phase was never seriously exercised in the field — it was more or less a token item, for the record.

 

Counter offensive operations are a normal part of defence, but of course the scale matters. 1 (NL) Corps had a plan for a counter attack to restore the FEBA (± IGB), but in field exercises the emphasis was very much on defensive operations (a fighting retreat really). With a maldeployed conscription force and peacetime limitations this was challenging enough, never mind exercising an invasion of WP territory. I think the line between defensive and offensive plans became blurry, for the Soviets in any case, with the (US) AirLand Battle and the (NATO, but US-inspired) FOFA concepts of the 1980s.

 

Regarding the claim that the Soviets had plans to attack the West under the guise of field exercises, I gave this some more thought. I suppose it might fit in the Soviet "attacking is the best defence"-mindset and provide some tactical advantage in a scenario where NATO would be seen as building up to an attack.   

 

Yes, I think you are right. I might have read something somewhere about Bulgaria doing so, but I would have to check. No disrespect to them, but it was hardly a leading light among Pact nations.

 

Re Field Exercises, I remember reading in the Tony Gerraghty book on Brixmis, that whilst out on patrol they witnessed a major warsaw pact exercise. When they got back to Berlin after it was over and reported it in, GCHQ apparently had difficulty believing it. It was unaccompanied by any of the usual signal traffic they were expecting.....

 

Lets face it, in 1983 we would have lost. Though I dont think there would have been many people left to make a tally.


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#71 Pavel Novak

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 0858 AM

Some notes:

 

The Shield '84 exercise has standard offensive scenario with only start of exercise included defence against hostile attack and even that was pretty simple. Interesting is that "the enemy" have waited with the attack as long as was necessary for Warsaw Pact mobilization and deployment.

 

Czechoslovak army have its own large staff exercise in 1982 which simulated true NATO invasion to Czechoslovakia. This exercise was without Soviet attendance and CGF was not calculated in it.

 

Czechoslovak 1986 plan literally speaks that there will be cover mobilization to bring forces to full strength and then attack. The army was training cover mobilization of its divisions. So the "plans to attack the West under the guise of military exercises" is what was planned and trained.

 

The big issue with researching this is that so far there are minimum information about what Soviets thought on strategic level. Czechoslovak and Polish plans were simply operational plans for their armies in case of war but only Russians know what would have to happen to activate these plans. The only thing which can these plans confirm on strategic level is that significant change from "attack West" to "defend what we have" at the end of 1980s.


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#72 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 1026 AM

Thanks Pavel, thats really interesting.

 

Its a very great pity the Russians never opened their archives on this kind of thing. I dont suppose they ever will now.


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#73 Paul Lakowski

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 2158 PM

Never have any luck on this forum . in post above the Lautsch article is in German. It looks important is there any English translation?


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#74 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 0158 AM

It is possible to copy and paste from the PDF into Google Translate, but Id be the to admit its not exactly refined when talking about things from the military sphere.


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#75 Tim Sielbeck

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 0533 AM

It's what I did.

 

 


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#76 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 08 November 2018 - 1417 PM

https://nsarchive.gw...-1983-war-scare

 

Washington, D.C.,  November 5,  2018 – Beginning in 1981, the KGB’s “main objective” became “not to miss the military preparations of the enemy, its preparations for a nuclear strike, and not to miss the real risk of the outbreak of war,” according to the text of a previously secret speech by then-KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov  found in the Ukrainian KGB archives and published today by the National Security Archive.

The Andropov speech, Politburo-level warnings about the war risks from NATO exercises in the fall of 1983, and other previously secret Soviet documents and declassified U.S. sources included in today’s posting, confirm that ranking members of Soviet intelligence, military, and the Politburo, to varying degrees, were fearful of a Western first strike in 1983 under the cover of the NATO exercises Autumn Forge 83 and Able Archer 83. 

Also published today is a previously confidential February 1984 Soviet General Staff Journal Voennaya mysl’ [Military Thought] article analyzing NATO military exercises including Autumn Forge 83 and Able Archer 83.  The article opens with a warning from Soviet Politburo member and Minister of Defense Dmitry Ustinov just after the conclusion of Able Archer 83 in November 1983. Ustinov warned that NATO’s military exercises “are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from a real deployment of armed forces for aggression.”  The article goes on to state that, due to the large scale and realistic nature of NATO’s military exercises in 1983, “it was difficult to catch the difference between working out training questions and actual preparation of large-scale aggression.”

Today’s posting addresses a key historiographical problem faced by researchers working on the 1983 war scare, namely the paucity of primary source evidence from the Soviet side beyond the material provided by KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky.  The documents published today support Gordievsky’s descriptions of KGB efforts in Operation RYaN starting in 1981 to detect signs of a potential Western first strike, and show that concerns over war risks in the fall of 1983 reached as high as the Politburo and the General Staff.

The evidence published in this posting includes:

  • Text of Andropov’s 1981 speeches to KGB officers announcing the impetus behind Operation RYaN (Raketno-Yadernoye Napadenie, “nuclear missile attack”) – the Soviet human intelligence effort to detect, with the aim of preempting, a Western first strike.
  • Text of a 1983 meeting between General Secretary Andropov and West German politician Hans-Jochen Vogel, in which Andropov warned of nuclear miscalculation, stating “After all, at the button that activates the nuclear weapon could be a drunken American sergeant or a drug addict.”
  • U.S. State Department deliberations confirming that a U.S. Navy aircraft “probably did pass over” Soviet-claimed territory in the Kuril Island chain while conducting simulated bombing runs in April and May 1983.  After the State Department rejected the démarche, the Soviet chargé d’affaires warned the United States “would bear responsibilities for the consequences.”
  • Ukrainian KGB summaries of public sentiment, including after the KAL 007 aircraft shootdown on September 1, 1983, confirming Western intelligence reports of a “fear of war [that] seemed to affect the elite as well as the man on the street.”
  • An October 1983 letter to all Soviet first secretaries in all regions and territories and the heads of all military districts and departments instructing them to increase border protection and internal preventative activities.
  • Minister of Defense Ustinov’s November 19, 1983 announcement in Pravda publicly acknowledging the Soviets' inability to tell a NATO exercise from an actual attack.
  • A February 1984 Voennaya mysl’ [Military Thought] analysis of NATO’s 1983 exercises, echoing Ustinov’s warning of the difficulty of distinguishing exercise from attack.
  • A previously secret September 1984 letter from KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov reiterating that the “most important” KGB activity was “not to miss the real threat of a nuclear strike.”
  • A 1989 update to a 1984 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate entitled “Warning of War In Europe,” stating “we cannot rule out the possibility nevertheless, that during a crisis the Soviets might choose to launch a preemptive attack on NATO.”
  • A previously unpublished interview with Colonel General Victor Ivanovich Yesin in which he recounts his  time serving in the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces during Able Archer 83.  Although he never got close to launching his weapons, he states that his and other nuclear forces went on “combat alert” and that Chief of the General Staff of the USSR Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov and head of Strategic Rocket Forces Marshal Vladimir Tolubko were constantly monitoring the exercise.

Combined with previously published British and American intelligence depictions of an “unparalleled in scale” Soviet military reaction, including transporting nuclear weapons to delivery units, suspension of flight operations other than intelligence flights, and “round the clock” military preparedness, these Soviet sources further confirm the increased nuclear risk which was present during the 1983 War Scare and Able Archer 83. 

While there is no evidence of an “imminent” Soviet launch of nuclear weapons in response to Able Archer 83, there is ample documentation that the East-West military-political confrontation and introduction of intermediate-range nuclear weapons by both superpowers into Europe decreased stability and increased the risk of war through miscalculation during the War Scare. 

The 1983 War Scare, including the Soviet proclamations about fear of war, military reactions to NATO exercises, and introduction of a KGB program named “Nuclear Missile Attack,” which required intelligence agents’ to make their “main objective” reporting on Western plans for a first strike, should therefore be a topic of concern and study for nuclear, political, military, and intelligence historians. 

Far from being a “non crisis” or a “war scare that wasn’t,” the 1983 US-Soviet confrontation is a profound representation of the “hair trigger” mindset toward which the nuclear arms race can push humanity.  As the delegation of U.S. Senators that met Andropov in August 1983 wrote to their colleagues, “despite all its sophistication, modern military power can be used rashly and in an entirely self-defeating way.”

 

 

As one SS20 commander they cited there said, the tensions were not as high as in 1962. But you can argue that despite that it was potentially more dangerous, because only one side understood (or thought it understood) the stakes.


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#77 jakec

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 0417 AM

Some useful new sources there.  I'm not sure I agree with all the conclusions the NSArchive comes to, however.  One of the problems with the conclusion the NSA reach, is that their own evidence shows that RYAN was ordered well before the "destabilising" NATO missile deployments they seek to blame for the War Scare.  In fact, Andropov seems to have gone off the deep end on the basis of very little in 1981.  You'd have to wonder whether, in fact, a more likely driver was him seeking to solidify his internal powerbase by drumming up a "besieged fortress" mentality.  If you're head of the KGB and angling to be head of the CPSU then a massive project that only the KGB can lead to protect the USSR seems like a very astute political move.  

 

Some of the other evidence cited, such as "Soviet fears of encirclement" could have been written at any time in the past century.  It is hardly compelling or diagnostic.  Nor is the Andropov - Vogel conversation, which is clearly an effort by Andropov to seed various thoughts in the mind of a Western politician, and not just anyone, someone who might have become Chancellor of West Germany in March 1983.

 

The evidence of Ustinov complaining publicly about NATO military exercises again could come from a Russian defence minister at any time in the last century.  In fact, just this week we have heard almost identical tone from the Russian Defence Ministry re NATO exercises.  There is nothing in the words of Ustinov quoted to indicate any particularly dramatic change at that moment.

 

The "world on the brink of war" thesis still requires some compelling evidence to support the claims made.


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#78 RETAC21

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 0422 AM

Let's not overlook that Andropov wasn't a chekist but a diplomat so he knew full well how the world game was played.


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#79 RETAC21

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 0425 AM

The NSA captioning of this photo is... interesting:

 

A tank and an armored personnel carrier, just two of the 3,500 vehicles used in Autumn Forge, rumble through a small village. From Air Man.

 

 

13_a_tank_and_an_armored_personnel_carri


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#80 BansheeOne

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 0446 AM

  • Text of a 1983 meeting between General Secretary Andropov and West German politician Hans-Jochen Vogel, in which Andropov warned of nuclear miscalculation, stating “After all, at the button that activates the nuclear weapon could be a drunken American sergeant or a drug addict.”

 

The obvious reply to that would have been "Comrade, when it comes to drunken troops and nuclear buttons, it's not the Americans I'm worried about". :D

 

Of course after Helmut Schmidt, the SPD was pretty much on the anti-Doubletrack-train already anyway. What Vogel would have done in the (unlikely) case he became chancellor in the 1983 snap election provoked by Helmut Kohl in light of favorable poll numbers after the Liberals switched allegiance to CDU/CSU the previous year remains conjecture; actual national responsibilities in office tend to refocus the mind. However, as opposition leader his chief aim was reuniting the SPD after the controversy over the basing of Pershing II, and the party's special convention in November that year pretty unanimously decided to be against, voting thusly in parliament three days later. So Andropov was probably preaching to the choir two months ahead of the election anyway.


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