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For decades there were rumors, but they were sensibly rejected as outlandish warmongering. The Soviets may not have been America's best friends, they may have said some mean things about Washington at the UN, but they never considered actual conflict with the West.

Or so we thought. Thanks to an explosive presentation made November 25 in Warsaw by Radoslaw Sokorski, Poland's new defense minister, we now know the Warsaw Pact was preparing for war the whole time--a war that never came. Armed with documents from Poland's military archives, Sokorski has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Soviet Union actually had detailed plans for responding to a NATO attack. Military ones. They even had maps of Western Europe and everything!

But wait, it gets worse. In the most shocking detail of the Polish revelations, some of the Soviet missiles were to be tipped with nuclear warheads. Standing next to the faded, incriminating map, Sokorski ominously described the purpose of the 27-year-old war plan: "The objective of the exercise on this map is to [repulse the attack and] take over most of western Europe—all of Germany, Belgium and Denmark."

It is not overstating matters to describe Sokorski's presentation as the biggest Polish contribution to human knowledge since Copernicus. The outing of the nefarious Soviet Strategy—dated 1979 and known as "Seven Days to the River Rhine"—has discredited the long dominant theory of how the Soviets would have actually responded to an invasion of their territory.

Until Sokorski's shocking presentation, Cold War military historians generally agreed that a NATO attack would have been met with a two-stage plan known as "MLK Plus Kittens." The plan was thought to have worked like this: Once Moscow had been decapitated in a nuclear first-strike and NATO tanks were rolling across the German plains, Warsaw Pact forces would go limp in an act of non-violent resistance. If this show of "living truth" did not repel the advancing NATO forces, the Soviets would release millions of adorable kittens onto the battlefield. If this failed, Soviet leaders were to concede defeat, dissolve the Soviet Union, and commit suicide after urging Warsaw Pact populations to do the same.

Now the Poles have gone and discredited everything we thought we knew. In place of the old certainties is nothing but questions. Among them: Who will finally tell the Poles that the Cold War is over?

Whatever the answer, one thing is certain: November 25, 2005—truly a great moment in "New Europe" history.









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