Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy

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(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In the late 1970s, a public CIA report suggested that the Soviet Union's economy might suffer dramatically in the 1980s from insufficient supplies of oil. Red Storm Rising builds on this premise.

To enhance efficiency, the Soviet oil fields are controlled from only a few command centers. One of these is attacked by Moslem fanatics who use the computer-controlled pipeline switching equipment to destroy a major oil field, cutting Soviet oil production by about a third. Faced with a severe economic crisis, the Soviet leaders fear that the Western nations will push their country into utter economic ruin. Prompted by this fear, the Soviet leaders launch a surprise attack on Western Europe, hoping to eliminate NATO as a military threat and force the Western powers to make social and economic concessions.

At the outset of the war, the Soviets occupy Iceland, depriving NATO of a crucial air base from which to intercept Soviet long-range bombers. NATO forces must then rely on carrier-based fighters to protect their convoys in the Atlantic. NATO fighters swarm to bring down Soviet Backfire bombers over the ocean, and eventually the superior technology of American aircraft enables them to overcome the greater numbers of enemy planes. In Europe, armored divisions rage across the countryside, while NATO and Warsaw Pact fighters shoot at one another overhead. Again superior American technology plays a crucial role, enabling American Stealth aircraft to sneak behind enemy lines to destroy huge quantities of supplies. Once the NATO command understands oil's role in starting the war, it unleashes its Stealth planes on oil supplies, forcing the Soviet leaders to a desperate decision to use nuclear weapons on the European battlefield.

Behind the decisions of when and how to wage war, lurks the ominous threat of escalation to all-out nuclear conflict. The Soviets take a calculated risk when they decide to launch a conventional attack on NATO, knowing that America might respond with nuclear missiles. And it is the prospect of nuclear war that brings about the novel's climax . When the Soviet leadership orders its military to use nuclear weapons, some officers choose instead to...

(The entire section is 549 words.)