Key Point: The Soviets could’ve taken Iceland. Or at least caused a lot of chaos and disruption if the United States did not bolster the defenses beforehand.
Tom Clancy’s 1986 novel Red Storm Rising depicts a conventional war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. It’s one of Clancy’s best books and, interesting for a story about a Third World War, doesn’t involve a nuclear apocalypse.
It does describe a ground war in Germany, naval and air battles in the North Atlantic and — central to the plot — an invasion of Iceland by a regiment of Soviet troops. Clancy, who died in 2013, was known for his realism and extreme attention to technical detail.
In Red Storm Rising, the Soviet troops overwhelm a U.S. Marine company in the Nordic island country after sneaking to shore inside the MV Yulius Fuchik, a civilian barge carrier loaded with hovercraft. Before the amphibious assault, Soviet missile target and destroy NATO’s F-15 fighters based at Naval Air Station Keflavik.
Iceland was an overlooked by highly strategic location in the Cold War. Were the Soviet Union’s attack submarines to break out into the Atlantic and threaten NATO shipping, neutralizing Iceland and penetrating the “GIUK gap” would be of vital importance.
But that doesn’t mean the Soviets really could’ve invaded Iceland … right?
For a possible answer, let’s consult The Northwestern TVD in Soviet Operational-Strategic Planning, a 2014 report by Phillip Petersen — an expert on the Soviet and now Russian militaries for the Potomac Foundation.
In December, the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment made the report public and available on its website.