As late as 1987, two years before the Berlin Wall fell, the United States seriously considered the possibility that the Soviet Union might start World War III.
This Defense Department map shows the broad outline of a two-pronged Soviet attack on Western Europe. Planners expected one army to march across the Northern European Plain into the Low Countries and another to dive across Bavaria into France and the Iberian Peninsula.
At the time, the Soviets had thirty forward-deployed divisions in Eastern European to spearhead an invasion force with another 94 in Western Russia. NATO was outnumbered and counted on the threat of massive nuclear retaliation to deter the Reds.
Atomic weapons played a different role in Warsaw Pact planning. Far from a last resort, they were envisaged as something like big artillery pieces that could clear the way for a ground invasion. Read more
Seventy years ago this week British India was split in two, creating the nations of India and Pakistan, which have been at each other’s throats since.
The partition was carried out a little-known British civil servant, Cyril Radcliffe. A lawyer by training, Radcliffe was given the impossible task of dividing the subcontinent into Hindu- and Muslim-majority states. Read more
Octopuses are a popular trope in political art. They came in vogue in the 1870s, when Frederick W. Rose depicted Russia as a giant octopus lording over Eastern Europe. The sea monster was quickly given to Germany when it posed a bigger threat to peace in Europe. During the early Cold War, it was Russia’s turn again. The octopus was the perfect metaphor for spreading communism.
Here is a selection of the best and worst tentacled sea creatures. Read more
What would the map look like if the Axis powers had won the Second World War? The new season of The Man in the High Castle, which premiered on Amazon last week, gives us one possible answer.
Based on the 1963 alternate-history novel by Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle takes place in a world where Nazi Germany controls much of the Atlantic world and Imperial Japan has conquered the Pacific. Read more