maintained nearly two hundred warships and submarines of all sizes in
these waters, plus four hundred aircraft, and that was just our naval
force. Now we control what you see out there, plus the handful at
Balaklava and Kerch. Less than fifty ships still seaworthy, all told,
and I doubt we have the trained men to man more than two-thirds of
those. Our air arm has been reduced even more, and the Army would be
fortunate to muster two full divisions in all the Crimea. We could
attack the American battle group, perhaps even cause some damage, but
all that would do is bring down the full weight of the West on us …
again, as in the Kola. It is over, Kulagin. Our leaders have betrayed
us, and we can no longer hope to hold back the tide.”
The Rodina was dying.
First had come the collapse of the old Soviet Union after Gorbachev had
withdrawn from Europe and lost control of the reforms he’d tried to put
in place to minimize the damage from a failing economy. Yeltsin had done
little better than Gorbachev, allowing the Soviet Republics to go their
own way, making a series of fatal compromises with the West, letting the
economy continue its relentless slide into the gutter. Hard-liners, old
Communists and right-wing Nationalists united by their visions of
restoring order, had ousted Yeltsin in due course, bringing in a
figurehead ruler in the Gorbachev mold to head the revived Soviet Union.
But that compromise regime hadn’t been able to stabilize things either,
and the real leaders of the new Union had turned to the one sure way of
changing the balance of power. .. war.
Dmitriev wasn’t privy to the machinations inside the Kremlin, but he
suspected that the assassination of the Union’s president in Norway had
been an inside job, planned and executed by the KGB or perhaps the GRU.
Within hours the tanks had started rolling across the frozen border
between Russia’s Kola Peninsula and Norway, supposedly in retaliation
for the plot and to “restore order” in a dangerous neighbor. It might
have worked, too; it had worked as a means of bringing the breakaway
republic of Ukraine back inside the Soviet fold, at least temporarily.
Certainly, the West had been slow to react, unwilling, perhaps, to see
danger in a Soviet Union that everyone believed was already dead. The
Norwegian gambit might have left the new Union poised to dominate a
confused and irresolute Europe. .. until the Americans had thwarted the
plan. Their aircraft carrier Jefferson, the same ship Dmitriev had
cooperated with in the Indian Ocean, had crippled the Soviet naval
forces off Norway and opened the way for a full-scale Western
intervention. In the process both Kreml and Soyuz, two-thirds of the
Union’s available carrier force, had been lost in battle, the most
devastating upset of naval power since the destruction of the Japanese
carrier fleet at Midway.
Dmitriev turned away from the window, more discouraged than ever. That
gamble in Norway had been the final blow to the Motherland. A populist
leader named Leonov had seized control from the discredited hard-liners,
but it was too late for a political solution to Russia’s problems. Soon
Leonov’s Popular Democratic Front, the “Blues,” had been locked in
combat with Marshal Krasilnikov’s hard-line “Reds” in an all-out civil
war. As the revived Union had started to disintegrate, the Americans had
intervened in the far north, seizing key military facilities in the Kola
Peninsula. They’d claimed that Krasilnikov was planning to use
submarine-launched nukes to blackmail Leonov into submission, though
Dmitriev was convinced that their real intent had been to guarantee the
success of Leonov and his anti-Communists. The Americans had a long
history of anti-Communist sentiments.
The Kola Intervention, in fact, was the second time the West had put
their troops on the soil of Holy Mother Russia in this century. The
first had been in 1919, when they and a small international force had
occupied Murmansk, Archanglsk, and Vladivostok in opposition to Lenin
and the Revolution. Few outside of Russia remembered that particular
chapter of history now, but the Russians had long memories.
And now that same American carrier, Jefferson, was leading a battle
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