Red Storm Rising

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Red Storm Rising
Red storm rising.jpg
Cover of 1986 first edition
AuthorTom Clancy
CountryUnited States
GenreTechno-thriller, war novel
PublisherPutnam Publishing
Publication date
August 1986
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages656 p. (hardback edition)
ISBN0-399-13149-3 (hardback edition)
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3553.L245 R4 1986

Red Storm Rising is a 1986 techno-thriller novel by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond about a Third World War between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Warsaw Pact forces, set around the mid-1980s. Though other novels deal with a fictional World War III, this one is notable for the way in which numerous settings for the action—from Atlantic convoy duty to shooting down reconnaissance satellites to an amphibious assault on Iceland to tank battles in Germany—all have an integral part to play on the outcome. It was also unusual in its depiction of a World War III fought exclusively with conventional weapons, rather than escalating to the use of weapons of mass destruction or nuclear warfare.

It is one of two Clancy novels (including SSN) not associated with the Jack Ryan universe.

The novel eventually lent its name to a game development company called Red Storm Entertainment, which Clancy co-founded in 1997.


In 1988, Islamic terrorists from Soviet Azerbaijan destroy an important Soviet oil-production facility at Nizhnevartovsk, Russian SFSR, crippling the Soviet Union's oil production and threatening to wreck the nation's economy due to oil shortages. Energy Minister Mikhail Sergetov, a non-voting candidate member of the Politburo, suggests making concessions with the West to survive the crisis. He is overruled by the Defense Minister, KGB Chairman Boris Georgiyevich Kosov and the Foreign Minister, who, fearing that the west would take advantage of the Soviet Union's weakened state to permanently cripple it, instead approve a plan to seize the oil fields in the Persian Gulf by military force. Sergetov reluctantly agrees, claiming that the Soviet Union has sufficient oil reserves for the war in order to gain political favor. The mobilization is tasked to Marshal of the Soviet Union Shavyrin and Commander-in-Chief of Ground Forces Rozhkov.

Knowing that the United States had pledged to defend the oil-producing kingdoms in the Persian Gulf according to the Carter Doctrine, primarily to ensure oil supplies to Europe, not its homeland, the Soviets decide that eliminating NATO is a necessary first step before its Persian Gulf operation can take place. It launches a KGB operation to carry out a false flag operation framing a West German for a terrorist attack on civilians in the Soviet Union. It would then launch a "limited" campaign to overthrow the government of West Germany. With Germany neutralized and occupied, the Soviets believe that the United States would not move to rescue the Arab states, since it could meet its oil needs from the Western Hemisphere alone.

The Soviets begin the political maskirovka with an arms reduction proposal offering to scrap obsolete submarines. Robert Toland, a naval reserve analyst at Fort Meade, soon becomes suspicious of the Soviets. Over a bridge game with Captain Daniel McCafferty of the submarine USS Chicago and Commander Edward Morris of the frigate USS Pharris, Toland deduces that the Soviets are actually preparing for war. He is then stationed to Intentions, an intelligence unit who is tasked to assess intentions of the Soviets, under the command of Marine Colonel Chuck Lowe, who supports Toland's conclusions. Impressed by Toland's findings, the Commander of the United States Fleet Forces Command promotes Toland and transfers him to active duty aboard the USS Nimitz.

Meanwhile, the Politburo arranges a bomb blast in the Kremlin that destroys the Council of Ministers Building and kills seven visiting Young Octobrists from Pskov. The Soviet government claims that the bombing was a terrorist attack by Gerhardt Falken, a West German spy. (Toland speculates that Falken is actually a KGB sleeper agent.) The Soviets demand the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Germany at a press conference. Despite optimism from the Politburo, the military leaders of the Soviet Armed Forces quickly realize that the plan could fail despite the Party's military doctrine of surprise. Sergetov, who has been disillusioned by the Kremlin attack, shares his concerns with General-Colonel Pavel Leonidovich Alekseyev, deputy to the commander of the Kiev Military District. Although Alekseyev refuses to share his full concerns out of a mistrust for politicians, Sergetov volunteers his son Ivan, an Arabic language specialist in the Soviet Army, to Alekseyev's command. Ivan confides that his father was not involved in the bombing to gain Alekseyev's trust.

The KGB operation has limited success: the planned attack on West Germany is detected when a Spetsnaz infiltrator, Soviet-Afghan War veteran Major Andrei Illych Chernyavin, happens to be hit by a car in Aachen, is found to be carrying incriminating documents, and is questioned under narcoanalysis. This advance knowledge gives NATO time to mobilize its forces, destroy numerous Spetsnaz direct action strike groups, and preserve the alliance. The East German government also refuses to allow the Soviets to use their chemical weapons arsenal in the war, fearful that the move would lead to the complete destruction of Germany and Western nuclear retaliation. Mention is made of a successful Spetsnaz sabotage mission against the Kiel Canal and the Port of Hamburg, and an unsuccessful one in Bremen. The Soviet advance operations do achieve some success, since several governments —notably those of Greece and Iceland— publicly claim that this "German-Russian dispute" does not warrant outside involvement, declaring their neutrality. Additionally, the Soviets offer to return Sakhalin to Japan in exchange for their neutrality. The Soviets face no opposition in either the Pacific or the Mediterranean region.

NATO aircraft manage to sharply reduce Soviet ground superiority on the first night of the war by using first-generation stealth planes and tactical fighter-bombers to eliminate Soviet Mainstay airborne early warning aircraft and tactical fighters. The NATO forces achieve air superiority and destroy many key bridges over which much of the Soviet Army had yet to cross, especially over the Elbe River including bombing of bridges on Bundesautobahn 2, the primary road between Berlin and Braunschweig. Soviet strategic assumptions have been severely skewed by politically motivated best-case projections from the KGB, and this has lulled their logisticians to fail to give sufficient attention to NATO's defensive firepower. Warsaw Pact forces advance at a tremendous cost. Germany becomes the focus of the conflict; here, NATO forces are slowly driven west while inflicting significant damage to the encroaching Soviet Army.

Simultaneously, the Soviet Navy seizes Iceland in a covert surprise attack with an air raid disabling the NATO air base at Keflavík and a landing of amphibious forces from the Soviet merchant ship Julius Fucik disguised as a Lykes Lines American LASH ship, capturing Keflavík and eliminating the GIUK-SOSUS line to allow the Soviet Navy to surge its submarines into the Atlantic Ocean without being detected. Supported by KGB personnel hidden in the Soviet Embassy in Iceland, the Soviets rapidly disband the Althing and occupy the island without resistance, although they impose a brutal administration. Realizing the futility of the situation, USAF Lieutenant Mike Edwards escapes from Keflavik with several Marines, and makes radio contact with a British station in Scotland. With the military unable to withdraw him, he is ordered to remain on the island for reconnaissance work. Although the first NATO air raid on Iceland has only limited success due to their decision to ignore Edwards' advice about the presence of MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, later raids are more successful. Although Edwards is initially nervous and inexperienced, he soon breaks protocol by rescuing a 20-year old Icelandic girl, Vigdis Agustdottir, from being raped by Soviet looters, summarily executing the rapists after discovering that they have already killed her family and due to experiencing a similar incident with his former girlfriend Sandy. The men dispose of the bodies by faking a car accident, destroy the Agustdottir family's house, and take a visibly traumatized Vigdis with them. They are soon accompanied by a group of Royal Marines.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Navy takes steps to protect its ballistic missile submarine fleet in coastal waters behind minefields and ASW assets, freeing up its attack submarines to engage and destroy NATO shipping. Thus, the Soviet Navy is able to act as an offensive weapon contrary to pre-war NATO expectations, becoming a major strategic threat against resupply convoys coming from North America with both aircraft and submarines. This advantage is put to immediate use as a NATO carrier battle group, led by USS Nimitz, USS Saratoga and the French carrier Foch, is successfully attacked by Soviet Badger and Backfire bombers, the latter firing Kingfish missiles. The Soviet Badgers fire modified Kelt missiles as decoys whose radar transmitters make them appear to be Backfires on the predicted attack vector, far out from the main air fleet. The American carriers' F-14 interceptors are committed against the decoys, leaving an insufficient number of Crusaders from Foch and the ships' surface-to-air missiles to defend against the 'real' Backfires approaching from another direction. A few of the Backfires and most of their Kingfish missiles are shot down by the F-8 Crusaders, the Aegis missile cruisers, the destroyers whose surface-to-air missiles can guide on the AEGIS radar signals, and the Phalanx antimissile gun systems, but some of the Kingfish get through. Foch is sunk, the amphibious assault carrier USS Saipan explodes, taking 2,500 Marines with her, and the USS Nimitz damaged, with the two American carriers forced to spend several weeks under repair, Nimitz at Southampton, England and Saratoga at Norfolk, Virginia. Toland, who narrowly survived the bombing of the USS Nimitz, is reassigned to Stornoway. Meanwhile, the Soviets engage in an aerial battle over northern Norway, depleting the Royal Norwegian Air Force. They eventually capture the Andøya Rocket Range, bringing strategically key NATO radar and air stations in Scotland within range of sustained air attack. At Toland's advice, NATO decides to use air force for an offensive rather than defence of Scotland, using Soviet radio communications to their advantage. Meanwhile, Edward Morris is aboard the USS Pharris, when it is severely damaged with massive casualties after a hit from a Soviet torpedo. This leaves Morris struggling to cope with nightmares and intense stress, but he is nonetheless reassigned to the frigate USS Reuben James.

In West Germany, the battle becomes a war of attrition that the Soviets expect to win through slow and sustained advances. The Soviets refuse to acknowledge NATO air superiority, and many West German towns are destroyed by artillery fire during the advance. A NATO air attack on the Soviet lines kills CINC-West (a Moscow favourite); Alekseyev's superior is assigned to replace him. Alekseyev becomes second-in-command of the attacking Soviet army group based in Stendal, and is angered to see the Soviet Army's failure to achieve a rapid victory, witnessing a failed advance towards the village of Bieben. He temporarily takes over command of a decapitated tank division and leads a successful attack on the town of Alfeld, finally giving the Soviet Army the breakthrough it needs. Eventually, Sergetov, after a meeting with his father, presents Alekseyev with documents that suggest that West Germany has been negotiating with the Soviets for a ceasefire under relatively favourable terms in neutral India, although he suspects it to be a trap. Alekseyev is promoted to CINC-West himself. As the Operational Manoeuvre Group forces start to deploy, NATO looks likely to lose all of Germany east of the Weser River.

When a brilliantly timed naval attack on Soviet bomber bases with submarine-launched cruise missiles, with a strike force that includes the USS Chicago, cripples the Soviet bomber force, the Soviets lose their most effective convoy and fleet-killing weapon. The U.S. Marines take this opportunity to stage an amphibious assault on Iceland backed by the NATO navies, retaking the island and closing the Atlantic to Soviet forces. A failed bomber raid on the NATO naval forces attacking Iceland (in which the remaining Soviet naval cruise missile bomber fleets are nearly wiped out) essentially means victory in the Atlantic, opening the Soviet Union to direct attacks from carrier strike groups against its northern strategic areas and the free flow of convoys across the Atlantic. The Soviet occupation force is soon forced to unconditionally surrender, ending the threat of air raids on convoys. Simultaneously with the reversal in the Atlantic, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, a renowned poker player, makes an audacious gamble in the face of a final Soviet offensive that pushes NATO ground forces to the breaking point, launching an unexpected flanking manoeuvre that places heavy NATO forces in the rear of the Soviet spearhead, cutting off their last Category A regular army units behind the Leine River and interdicting their supplies. Intelligence gained from a prisoner on Iceland finally reveals the dire fuel situation in the Soviet Union to NATO, which changes bombing priorities to wipe out the Soviet Army's forward fuel depots, essentially immobilizing the Soviet formations. Due to intense political pressure from Moscow to maintain an offensive into the Ruhr, the CINC-West refuses to allow Alekseyev to transfer his Category A troops east to close the salient. With the Soviet advance decisively halted, NATO catches its breath and prepares to move into a general offensive against the increasingly ineffective Soviet Category C reserves now being moved forward. At this time, Chairman Kosov confronts Minister Sergetov, and informs him that a power struggle is underway at the KGB between himself and a faction lead by the younger Jozef Larionov that has been favoured by the Politburo. At the next meeting, Sergetov pressures the Politburo into promoting Alekseyev to CINC-West, while his former superior is executed at Lefortovo Prison. Now forced to take direct orders from the Politburo, Alekseyev finds himself unable to secure a victory, and the NATO counteroffensive begins.

The conventional war situation in Europe turning against them and their strategic situation increasingly bleak due to the drawdown on national oil reserves resulting in a crippled economy, Alekseyev sends Major Sergetov to inform his father that the war has been lost, and that one final offensive could allow the Soviets to negotiate a ceasefire on favorable terms. Knowing that the situation would force the Politburo to execute Alekseyev, Minister Sergetov refuses, and agrees to support a coup d'etat planned by Kosov. Major Sergetov convinces Alekseyev to lead the coup after convincing him that the Politburo has become inept and corrupt. Meanwhile, the Politburo is moved to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons at the front to regain the initiative. Alekseyev, realizing that a tactical nuclear exchange would almost certainly lead to a strategic nuclear exchange, seeks and obtains control of his theatre's nuclear weapons as part of their planning, ostensibly for practical matters of tactical targeting but in reality to ensure they are never used. The decision is met with opposition from Bromkovskiy and Agriculture Minister Filip Moiseyevich Krylov, who gains Sergetov's trust after informing him that grain production has drastically increased due to the implementation of private plots in the kolkhoz system. In the face of impending mutually assured destruction, the coup plot advances with the aid of the 77th Motor-Guards Division under the command of Major Arkady Semyonovich Sorokin and Alekseyev. The troops easily overcome resistance from the poorly trained Taman Guards and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and arrest the Politburo. After the victory, Kosov is summarily executed by Major Sorokin, whose daughter Svetlana was one of the children killed in the Kremlin bombing. A troika is formed under Krylov, the new Defense Minister Bromkovskiy, and the new General Secretary Sergetov.

With the government under control of the troika, Alekseyev flies to Potsdam and personally negotiates with the SACEUR to bring an end to the war, forestalling the launching of NATO's counter-offensive with an agreement of a cease-fire, return to status quo ante bellum, and definitive peace settlement is to be negotiated in Berlin. During the discussion, Alekseyev bemoans the use the military by the government for political purposes, while the SACEUR expresses doubt that the new Soviet government will remain stable and secure liberties. The SACEUR and Alekseyev view the withdrawal of Soviet forces from West Germany with relief; the aftermath of the conflict left unknown.

Characters in Red Storm Rising[edit]

Allegiances of nations involved in the war described in the book.

Publication history[edit]

In 1987, it was published in French as Tempête Rouge (Red Storm), translated by France-Marie Watkins, with the collaboration of Jean Sabbagh.


Tom Clancy met Larry Bond in August 1982. Clancy had purchased Bond's Harpoon board game, and became friends after meeting at a gaming convention.[1] They used the board game's second edition miniatures rules to test key battle sequences, notably the Soviet operation to seize Iceland and the attack on the carrier battle group in the "Dance of the Vampires" chapter. Bond refereed the game sessions, which typically involved several players on each side (Clancy among them) acting in various roles.[2]

In December 1988 MicroProse released a Red Storm Rising computer game, in which the player commanded an American submarine against Soviet forces. The player had the option of choosing between both single missions or campaign and which era to play in; modern missions offered the player more advanced submarines and weapons, but also a more technologically advanced adversary as well.

The information that "[the year] 1988 represents the situation at the time of the action in the novel Red Storm Rising" appears on page 6 of the computer game manual. During his initial briefing by Chief of the General Staff Marshall Shavirin, he informs General Yuri Rozhkov—who is in charge of all Soviet ground forces—that "hostilities will commence on the fifteenth of June" after "four months of preparation." However, the initial radio message shown in the computer game gives a different month and day for the outbreak of war.

In 1989, TSR, Inc. released the Red Storm Rising board game designed by Douglas Niles, based on the book. The game won the Origins Award for Best Modern-Day Boardgame of 1989 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Boardgame of 1989.[3]


In December 2015, a document released by the UK National Archives revealed that, shortly after the October 1986 Reykjavík Summit between Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the latter had advised UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to read the novel in order to gain an understanding of the Soviet Union's intentions and strategy.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sipe, Russell; Wilson, Johnny; Clancy, Tom; Meier, Sid (July 1988). "An Interview with Tom Clancy". Computer Gaming World. pp. 22–24.
  2. ^ "Choreographing the Dance of the Vampires".
  3. ^ "Origins Award Winners (1989)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
  4. ^ Edwards, Valerie (30 December 2015). "How Ronald Reagan based his foreign policy on Tom Clancy books: President told Margaret Thatcher to read Red Storm Rising thriller to understand Russia". The Daily Mail.

External links[edit]