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Authors: Joe - Dalton Weber,Sullivan 01

Primary Target (1999)

BOOK: Primary Target (1999)
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Primary Target (1999)
Weber, Joe - Dalton Sullivan 01
Published:
2010

Primary Target

Joe Weber

*

PROLOGUE:

Russia.

W
ith communism a distant memory and oligarchs corruptly seizing hundreds of billions of dollars, politica
l
leaders in Moscow faced difficult decisions. The motherland, suffering from an industrial collapse and economic meltdown, was on the brink of social explosion. Would the government be able to overcome the robber barons and their massive security forces before the military took control of the country?

If the tycoons and Mafia were thwarted, would the politicians embrace a Western-style democracy with a market economy, or would they accept a quasidemocratic style of capitalism? Many of the deputies in the Communist party, as well as a large segment of the Russian people, were nostalgic for the cradle-to-grave days of communism. A few of the stouthearted politicians and military leaders openly called for a return to authoritarian rule, whether Communist or fascist, blended with nationalism and militarism.

Thus far, attempts at economic and political reform had been distorted and sabotaged by oligarchs and politicians still faithful to the old Soviet system. Corruption plagued Russia's fragile economy, from rising crime rates to Mafia ties in the Kremlin. A vast majority of Russians believed that old-line Communists and the KGB secre
tly transferred billions of dol
la
r
s out of the country when the reforms were implemented. The Russian Federation, widely known for questionable election practices, was still considered a menacing and destabilizing force in the world. A force with a powerful military showcased by nuclear-tipped ICBMs and an impressive strategic nuclear submarine fleet. Although the Russian armed forces appeared to be in a state of chaos, the admirals and generals were still actively engaged in preparing for nuclear war with the United States. Unfortunately, the NATO bombing campaign in the Balkan states had exacerbated the situation and soured U
. S
. relations with Moscow.

Chapter
1

Moscow
.

On the birthday of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, blowing snow and bone-chilling temperatures paralyzed Moscow.

Thousands of the poor and homeless were standing in government-organized soup lines, shivering as they inched their way toward steaming kettles full of thin, near tasteless broth. They were literally a stone's throw from where President Nikolai Shumenko would be paying his respects to their deceased founder.

A sense of foreboding, some would call it despair, permeated the frosty air during this miserable day in April. Chaotic political upheavals, combined with a hair-trigger military desperate to compensate for the erosion in the Russian command and control system, were pressuring "hard-liners" like Shumenko to make fateful decisions.

The homeless and oppressed Muscovites watched as Shumenko and his entourage arrived at Red Square in their shiny black limousines. After the officials stepped out of their cars, Shumenko momentarily made eye contact with one of the dispirited men. The stooped man had hollow eyes and a twisted, angry look. The thickset president nodded respectfully, then looked away and walked in silence. Unable to stifle his bitterness, he turned to his friend Yegor Pavlinsky, a former first deputy prime minister.

"Look at these wretched people," Shumenko grumbled. "I will not allow the Americans to continue to wipe their feet on us," he said venomously as they approached Lenin's granite tomb. "Their State Department has slashed funding for another twenty-two agencies in Moscow, and President Macklin has publicly humiliated me about our ties to Iran and Iraq."

Shumenko gestured toward the soup line. "All this while the economic reforms the technocrats insisted on have impoverished millions of our people."

"Da," Pavlinsky said angrily. "The Mafia and the corrupt elite also share the blame for this disaster." A fervent hard-liner and consummate political dealmaker, Pavlinsky cleared his throat. "My friend," he said morosely, "our crisis, Russia's crisis, has reached the breaking point. The Americans are catnapping while our economic and political instability represents the greatest threat to global security today." Pavlinsky took a quick breath. "If we are to survive, we must infuse more money into our economy, and we must do it quickly."

Pavlinsky's impassioned words prompted Shumenko to speak bluntly. "More money," he growled in protest, "for the mobsters to take to their offshore banks. More money for the corrupt bankers and businessmen to steal and send to Zurich."

Shumenko's eyes narrowed and his jaw tightened. "They have systematically looted the Central Bank and sent the money to a variety of phony asset-management companies. We might as well pour the money into the sea."

"We have no other choice," Pavlinsky shot back. "The economy is free falling. We're bankrupt! We must stand together and do what's best for our motherland," he exclaimed. "Lower your voice," Shumenko said firmly. "We're riding a hungry lion. Speak quietly and calmly."

"If we don't do something drastic to improve our economy," Pavlinsky said through clenched teeth, "we will lose political control and the country will collapse in anarchy." "Nineteen seventeen," Shumenko said angrily.

"What?"

"We have all the ingredients for another revolution." Pavlinsky paused, then lowered his voice. "We can avoi
d
an overthrow and return our country to a position of global prominence," he said with deep emotion. "We can provide Russia with great wealth and strategic leverage, if you'll listen to me."

"I'm listening," Shumenko said mechanically.

A virulent anti-American, Pavlinsky's angry voice suggested ominous intentions. "The millions of dollars Washington sprinkles on us, and the billions of dollars we make from Iraq, Iran, and other countries is nothing compared to the four-trillion oil-and-gas bonanza in the Caspian Sea."

Shumenko's eyes hardened, challenging his friend. "Keep your voice down," he insisted in a coarse whisper. "Working with Iran and Iraq," Pavlinsky said in a low, raspy tone, "we can provide a nuclear umbrella for a pipeline through Iran to the Persian Gulf. Russia, not the U
. S
. or the West, will control a key point of distribution and we can drive prices much higher."

"We're running out of time." Shumenko sighed in frustration. "As long as the Americans are entrenched in the Gulf region, your idea will only be a wistful dream."

"We can force the Americans out of the region," Pavlinsky said with a distinct harshness in his voice.

Shumenko's eyes grimly reflected his impatience. "I suppose you have a foolproof plan?"

"Da," Pavlinsky said stiffly. "The Persian Gulf will be our salvation." He paused, then turned to face Shumenko. "If we fill the void when the Americans withdraw."

"Yegor Ryzkovich," Shumenko said with passion, "think about how many people have underestimated the Americans in the past two hundred years. Do you really believe the U
. S
. will pull out of the Gulf region?"

"Da," Pavlinsky declared, seeing the surprised look on Shumenko's face. "Allow me to explain how we can contribute to--"

"Wait, wait a second," the president interrupted as he stole a glance at members of his security detail. "Not here," he said under his breath. "We'll have dinner at my dacha." "As you wish."
g
uest quarters to allow privacy in the massive dining room of the dacha. A bodyguard added logs to the crackling fire, then quietly left the room when Shumenko and Pavlinsky seated themselves at the dining table. They made small talk and ate a few bites of the array of caviar, smoked trout, sliced beef, and stuffed cabbage. When the maid and the chef retreated to the kitchen, the men shoved their plates aside and Shumenko poured generous amounts of Stolichnaya vodka into their glasses.

"We have to be very cautious with the Americans," the president began in a tight voice. "We've already irritated Washington with our campaign to end sanctions on our trading partners. Now the State Department is forcing more sanctions on us for helping Iran with their missile technology --technology which is transforming the balance of power in the Gulf region."

"Advanced missile technology," Pavlinsky said dryly, "which is our sovereign right to provide to any nation. The United States has no right to tell us what to do with our technology."

Shumenko slowly shook his head. "I understand, but look at the condition of our country and our people. We can't afford to poke the tiger too many times."

Grim and exasperated, Pavlinsky took a sip of vodka and looked his friend straight in the eye. "Nikolai Kopanevich, how long have we known each other?"

"Since we were in the Komsomol Youth League." "Have I ever betrayed you?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

Pavlinsky raised a bushy eyebrow and spoke in a clear, firm voice. "The American military forces have diminished while the demand on their services is continuing to increase. Look at the Gulf region, the Balkans, the Western Pacific, South Korea, and other commitments."

"They're still in much better shape than our decaying military," Shumenko said glumly. "While the Americans continue to launch improved satellites to monitor our military forces, we don't have the money to replenish the early-warning satellites we need to monitor their missile fields and the world's oceans."

Shumenko's voice turned flatter. "Our decision makers ar
e
blind, which greatly increases the risk of a major miscalculation."

Pavlinsky ignored his friend. "In the foreseeable future, as Admiral Loshkarpov and I view it, the demand on the U. S. military will exceed the Americans' force structure."

Dubious, Shumenko blandly nodded. "Yes, their plate is full, but their cupboard is well stocked."

"My friend," Pavlinsky went on with raw emotion in his voice, "their pilots, Navy and Air Force, are leaving the military in droves."

Impatience flashed in Pavlinsky's eyes. "Major aircraft programs have been realigned or canceled, they're running out of high-tech missiles and bombs, and budget squeezes are having an adverse effect on recruiting, personnel retention, and morale. They're trying to maintain a superpower spread from one end of the globe to the other and it isn't working."

Pavlinsky squeezed his fist into a knot. "Their aircraft carriers are going to sea without a full complement of sailors. When the 6th Fleet battle group deploys to the Persian Gulf, U
. S
. forces in the Mediterranean will have to make do with one submarine and four surface vessels. That's absolutely insane," Pavlinsky declared loudly. "It's an open invitation for disaster."

Shumenko paused a moment, a faint glimmer of hope in his eyes. "At a time when the U
. S
. is enjoying a reasonable amount of economic stability. How stupid of them."

"That's my point." Pavlinsky tossed back the rest of his vodka. "In addition, we know the U
. S
. is having a problem with forward basing in the Gulf region. Host nations like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Turkey, and even Kuwait are becoming more reluctant to permit key U
. S
. air operations to originate from their sovereign territory."

"Undermanned or not," the president interrupted, "you're forgetting about the Americans' aircraft carriers. They have their own floating sovereign territories-100,000 tons of diplomatic persuasion."

"Ah, yes." Pavlinsky smiled thinly, the look in his eyes full of malice. "But they don't have enough carriers to handle all the potential problem areas. If one or two carriers were damaged or destroyed, and say a crisis developed betwee
n
North and South Korea, or India and Pakistan, or China and Taiwan, or another crisis erupts in the Balkans, someone would have to fill the void in the Persian Gulf."

Shumenko reached for more vodka. "Someone who is welcomed in the Middle East--say a benefactor who isn't despised by Iran or Iraq?"

Pavlinsky nodded in agreement. "A benefactor who can offer stability to the region." He paused to allow his message to register. "Admiral Loshkarpov suggested that we send the cruisers Pyotr Veliky and Peter the Great, along with our Navy's flagship, Admiral Kuznetsov, to the Persian Gulf for an extended goodwill cruise."

"Have you discussed this with anyone else, other than Loshkarpov?" the president anxiously questioned.

"No, of course not."

"Let's keep it that way," Shumenko said bluntly. "So, my friend, what is your plan?"

Pavlinsky answered with an air of enthusiasm. "I've scheduled a meeting in the near future with Bassam Shakhar. I'm proposing to you that we supply the kindling in the Middle East and let someone else light the fire."

A sudden frown crossed Shumenko's face. "I'm not so sure that's a good idea--too much instability and too many variables."

"Trust me," Pavlinsky said with a gleam in his eye. "Others--factions that hate the U
. S
. presence in the Gulf region--will confront the Americans. All we need to do is provide the critical mass."

"Critical mass," Shumenko quietly mused, then caught his friend's eye. "A self-sustaining fission chain reaction?" "Da," Pavlinsky said firmly. "Our hands will be clean, I promise you."

Shumenko remained quiet while he contemplated the pros and cons of the ambitious and risky undertaking. Finally, he looked at Pavlinsky for a long moment, then spoke forcefully. "Officially, I'm not going to endorse what you have suggested--and I don't want to be involved."

BOOK: Primary Target (1999)
3.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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