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Red Army Hardcover – Apr 1989

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (April 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671676687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671676681
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 516,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Army General M. M. Malinsky, Commander of the First Western Front, sat alone in his private office, smoking a strong cigarette. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jose on 29 April 2011
Format: Paperback
This book rates higher than any other WW3 book, it does not get into hardware details, ir does not name the tanks, APCs, etc. it does not feature any naval action and only shows air action periferically.

What it does is show the nitty/gritty details of soldiering in the Soviet Army, and how Soviet doctrine would fight the war that never was in Europe, written in a fluid prose. As usual with Mr. Peters the tone tends to be dark, but it just cannot be put down. Since I bought it as the Cold War ended I have re-read it anually.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Russell Phillips on 1 Feb 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I first read this, the idea of the cold war turning hot and the Warsaw Pact invading western Europe was still a possibility. Now, of course, it's more alternative history than a possible future.

It's very different reading it now, but it's still a good book, and still worth reading. As the author says, the book is "not about the hardware or even the mission, but about the men". That makes it unusual within the genre. I only once saw a piece of equipment named (an F-16), every other time they are given generic names or descriptions.

This focus on men over machines, and particularly the author's decision to only tell the story from the Soviet point of view, make the book a very interesting read. It's interesting to see things from a Soviet point of view, and Peters has some intriguing ideas about how the Soviets would have done things.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Johnston on 26 Sep 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One of the rare WW3 books that is told from the point of view of the "other side" - being written in the 80's it's told from the point of view of the Warsaw Pact. Also has an unusual ending.

Very well written, with the combat passages pulling no punches and the feelings of the participants brought vividly to life. Written from the soldiers point of view so not a huge amount of politics.

If you're after something a bit more focussed on the sharp end than Larry Bond or Clancy, go for it. Gritty, realistic and not to be missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AK TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Dec 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ralph Peters focused on a little covered area in fictional WW3 writing - namely the mind ofthe Soviet soldier. 'Red Army' is written entirely from the Soviet view and focuses much more heavily on individual men behind the assault on Germany than on the equipment or in depth descriptions of the battles themselves.

The book covers the Northern prong of a hypothetical Soviet assault on Germany in the late 1980s. The action is then seen from the eyes of the participants, be it the Front Commander, a MiG pilot, tank commanders or common infantrymen. While several protagonists appear more than once, some are only given one appearance - in some cases this is final for obvious reasons.

The focus on the individual personalities and their points of view tries to bring some much needed differentiation to the common portrayal of the Soviet Armed Forces as an anonymous but uniform body. The author still manages to portray the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet warfighting system, which may not count on individualist tendencies for success but still has to ensure they do not derail the centrally mandated plan of action.

The ending is also quite surprising for a WW3 novel, even if it could well be realistic. The author - a US military intelligence operative with a focus on Soviet military matters - clearly has the required knowhow to make the book realistic, even if this makes it far from the gung ho one sided NATO shootfest that is perhaps more common.

So definitely a book for those trying to understand the Cold War opponent more fully but less for those looking for an action packed thriller full of data sheets of various equipment used by both sides. This is not to say that the book is anything else than a gripping read but it probably caters to a subtly different 'WW3' reader.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 41 reviews
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Most Accurate Depection of WW 3 I've Read 1 Sep 2001
By David Harte-Maxwell - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book when it first came out 12 years ago. I was working as a Battalion Intelligence operator at the time and was comparing doctrine of the forces involved. One main difference is that the Soviets reinforce success, wheras NATO would have to reinforce their weakest part of the line. A touted NATO advantage was their communcations system that would allow it to manouver units more quickly, which may have been a false assumption. Of all the books I've read, this is the best.
Warfare is notoriously difficult to model, as small events may have great importance. On the other hand, capabilities of equipment and units are accurately known and not likely to change much in battle. While recognizing the differences in equipment and ways of employing it, Peters realizes that most professional soldiers have common characteristics. Some leaders are daring and intuitive, some are not. Making sure they are employed in the right spot is crucial, and again Peters shows that the Soviet professional development system is much like that of the West.
By contrast, Clancy's Red Storm Rising makes it seem as if a handful of men can change the course of history by themselves. Coyle's Team Yankee makes the Americans invulnerable to Soviet attacks. Only Hackett's Third World War comes close to Red Army in what I believe could have happened. That's no surprise given Hackett's experience as NATO's ground commander.
Since the Second World War westerners have fostered and been fed the idea of Russians as backward and without initiative. We have concentrated on Patton, Rommel and Montgomery as military geniuses without recognizing Rokossovsky, Koniev and Zhukov and that the Red Army defeated the Nazis and took Berlin. Ralph Peters simply puts human beings in charge of the Red Army.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
More plausible than you think -- or want to. 26 Mar 2005
By M. G Watson - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are three major novels on the subject of World War III that I am familiar with -- Gen. Sir John Hackett's "The Third World War" Tom Clancy's "Red Storm Rising" and Ralph Peters' "Red Army."

"Red Army" is the best of these. It should be read by anyone who wants a plausible, if not necessarily probable, scenario for a war that never happened.

The fact that the war didn't happen, and the USSR is no more, doesn't affect the readability of this book in the slightest, so if that was holding you back from reading it, don't let it. You would be missing a first-class war novel that isn't a commercial for the military-industrial complex or a propaganda pamphlet extolling the virtues of NATO.

"Red Army" is a war story told from the perspective of the Red Army, from its senior commanding general, Malinsky, to the lowliest private, the decidedly unwarlike Leonid. It is Peters' attempt to put human faces on the Soviet "hordes" we (me, anyway, since I'm old enough to remember them) grew up fearing and dreading.

Some of the characters are indeed dread-worthy, such as the bullying drunk, Struharkin, the murderous coward Seryosha, or the emotionally scarred airborne officer, Gordunov (the most unfortgettable character in the story). But they are outweighed by characters so sympathetic I was actually rooting for the Soviets to win (traitor!).

Most everybody who has posted a review here liked the book but almost all of 'em took issue with the plausibility of the ending. Without giving anything away, let me respectfully disagree and point out the following:

1) Somebody pointed out that Peters isn't impressed by the German Bundeswehr and that in real life the Germans would fight much better, if necessary to the last round. They certainly did in WWII but that was a long time ago, under a different system. The German army is the smallest comparible to its population in the European community and the German people of today are largely pacifist and anti-nationalist. Furthermore, during the Cold War the Bonn gov't insisted on a policy of "forward defense" i.e. of meeting the Soviets head-on at the border so as not to lose territory. Hitler used this as his defensive strategy in Russia from August 1943 onwards, and it failed miserably. War conditions have certainly changed since The Big One, but putting all their armies forward and making them hold a rigid defense designed to conserve territory and save German cities would cost a huge price in lives and equipment. Peters (in my opinion) was right to question whether the modern-day Germans would pay it.

2)The Soviets indeed did perform badly militarily on many occasions and Peters does not address the issue of mass desertion, raised by Suvorov in his seminal work "Inside the Soviet Army." I'm not sure, however, that he is overestimating the Red Army so much as assuming it would perform at or near its ideal. I think in a short, set-piece war, where the Soviets had the advantage of political surprise and their usual advantage in numbers, they might nearly have done this well -- maybe. A lot of things do "go the Russians' way" in this book, but a lot of things went NATO's way in "Red Storm Rising" and Hackett's "III WW".

3) Judging the Soviet army on the performance of the Taliban, Iraqi or Arab armies is a bad idea because the Soviet equipment sent to those countries was "for export only." The Soviets referred to equipment (tanks, aircraft, APCs, missles, etc.) shipped overseas as "monkey models." The monkey model was a no-frills, stripped-down version of the real Soviet model and was never the best version or even the most modern. For example, the Soviet army of the 80's would have been using T-80 tanks, not the T-72s used by Hussein. And the first echelon of Soviet forces NEVER is issued the best equipment; during WWII, the Germans did not encounter the great T-34 and KV-1 tanks which gave them so much trouble until they were hundreds of miles inside Russia proper. The Soviets believe their first echelon will be wiped out in both offensive and defensive war and see no reason to give it the best equipment. While the Abrams and Leopard are better tanks than the Sovs had, the Soviet advantage in numbers must at least be taken into consideration.

Anyway, I have my opinion, you have yours, and Peters has his: his book "Red Army" is the "alternate ending" to a war that was -- thank God -- never fought.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Excellent! 12 Feb 2007
By Kazuaki Shimazaki - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is top class, especially when you consider the era it is written.

Not writing about your own Army has its advantages. You don't feel so compelled to portray them like saints. Maybe Ralph would not have fallen prey to this fallacy even if he wrote about the US Army, but this factor couldn't have hurt him in portraying a wide variety of characters, good and bad. I don't know whether he managed to portray Russians or just more "3D" versions of Western-stereotypes, but he definitely portrayed them as MEN, and that rises this book into a level Red Storm Rising (RSR) and most technothrillers (certainly all in my experience) could not match. If Ralph's 1st Western Front faced off Clancy's RSR NATO, the 1st Western Front would have won by sheer virtue of the characters being men instead of cardboard cutouts - the characterization is THAT different.

Ralph decides not to mention technical matters too explicitly so as to showcase the men. That's a nice strategy when the book was written, but it also means the book ages better. Even if the Cold War continued, technical perceptions change. By blurring it, the macroaccuracy (often determinable early on) will rule over the microinaccuracies (which takes years to ferret out with spies).

Some people object to the story on the grounds of American-forces doing well against Soviet-forces in the past. What is closer is that generally, at least one side is only vaguely relevant to the patron. Example: the Iraqi army is only superficially similar to the Soviet Army. T-55s are the majority. Even the T-72s are early export versions and armed with ancient, export use steel-cored sabot rounds. The maneuver war was preceded by an unrealistic (in Cold War context), multiple month fire preparation with planes. Of course, perhaps the Americans will still have gone through everything like a knife through butter anyway, but not necessarily.

Some people criticize the book for not explaining the cause of the war. However, I'd say the cause of the war is out of scope for the characters involved. Even Malinksy shouldn't have to care about why the war occurred, just to win it. Besides, the book is has too much to say as it is, and war triggers in technothrillers tend to be on the thin side. Best to leave it to the reader's random imagination.

The overall operational strategy is handled very well. With the short briefing by Front Chief of Staff Chibisov at the beginning, and a few maps (truly pictures worth a thousand words), the flow of the battle and geographical positions of all the major Soviet units are easily grasped.

Some people groan about the ending, but it is the best possible. The apparent success of the Americans suggests that NATO could have won (or at least done better) had it got its act together, which I think was a point Peters was trying to make. It also no doubt appeases the American readership. Yet, the success, beyond blowing out the foremost Soviet OMG brigade, is deliberately left vague.

Storywise, the cease fire route was the only way to go - never mind he's running out of pages, two general alternatives are plausible given the setup but they are impalatable. The Americans were apparently doing well, so he could arrange for them to win the battle for NATO (with a little help from the rest) like some reviewers suggest. That would likely lead to nuclear war on the part of the Soviets, and if that didn't happen kind of makes the whole book rather meaningless by not giving NATO the "punishment" Ralph thinks their lack of coordination and other weaknesses deserves.

Alternatively, the map shows that 7th Tank Army is about to enter the battlefield, and it is positioned to hit the American counterattack's flank or rear, depending on how far the US manages to penetrate into 3rd Shock Army's zone. So at least an equally likely scenario is that the Americans get crushed. Which will also mean nuclear war, and the whole American counterattack becomes almost as strategically (and storywise) meaningless than the local counterattacks on the Russians during Day 1 of the war.

With nuclear war being a high probability and with the warheads due to fall on their own territory (assuming the tactical nuke war does not go strategic), it is very likely that West Germany would choose a cease-fire. In fact, arguably the most unrealistic part of NATO's nuclear defense is that the Germans will let it happen.

And once the Germans decide to quit, there's really little choice for the others as far the battle in Germany is concerned. With twelve divisions, and one of the largest airforces in NATO going out, their line would utterly shatter, leaving the rest of NATO like islands waiting to be surrounded. There was really nothing to it but retreat.

Even with the rest of the Reforger divisions arriving, they would face the fresh Soviet 2nd echelon and the reorganized 1st echelon - not a particularly good correlation. In the longer run, the Soviet economy is strengthened by the acquisition of West German technology, while the Western economy is badly dented by the loss of a major trading partner. Conventional war, in the short or middle run, simply isn't the way to go.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
and I thought RED STORM RISING was good! 21 Sep 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
wow. This book was absolutely amazing. I read it in four days (but only an hour or two a day!). Its all russians, which is cool. Its got every concievable character- tankers, infantryman, artilleryman, supplyers, generals, KGB officers, MiG pilots, Air-Assault Paratroopers, Reconnaissance Tankers, Engineers, Air defence troopers, and (of course) your local neighborhood political officer! ( but there are a couple who are actually good soldiers, and do their duty.). Its a great book, and a must have for anyone who likes the military or action. One definite plus is that it doesn't get into all of the technology details. The author simply says "tank" not a specific type-like Tom Clancy loves to do. Just read it, you won't be wasting your time, and it might just give you a whole new perspective on modern war!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The threat seems real 7 May 2006
By Ben Phenicie - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Born in 1980 as I was, by the time I was old enough to understand the Soviet threat, it had ceased to be a threat! Therefore, I once looked back at the high anxiety of the Cold War with a sort of Panglossian detatchment. Not after reading Red Army.

From the moment that Soviet tanks crash across ill-prepared Western defenses, it seems clear that the threat posed by the huge Soviet military machine was indeed very real. I do not claim to posess the same level of knowldege as other reviewers, particularly those who were former service members, but from a lay perspective, the Red Army seems very frightening and very powerful. They were, indeed, not ten feet tall, and, clearly, not invincible, as the novel makes clear. But one must concede that proper timing, force of will, huge numbers, and a very Soviet willingness to accept causalties made them a danger.

Also striking is Peters' ability to write cogently about many, many different strategic and tactical levels of his imaginary war, from conscripts in the mud to generals by their maps and computers. While the highest ranking character is a four star general, one gathers that Peters might well have transitioned effectivley to the multi-front level and the grand, international strategic level. These were not, however, within the realm of his story so, aside from tantalizing hints ("perhaps the war would develop and Asian phase") he forbears. Aspiring authors must admire this level of skill, knowledge, and discipline.

The characters are wrenchingly human. Most memorable to me was Anton Malinsky, son of the four star Soviet general. Peters shows us how war twists men's fates into terrible mockeries of what they might have been.

Red Army has now passed from being a vivid cautionary tale to an article of academic debate. It is, however, still one of the better war novels out there, and well worth the investment in time for those interested in recent history.
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