Curiously -- Why 1985?

Discussion in 'World At War 85 Series' started by DigitalRommel, Mar 31, 2019.

  1. DigitalRommel

    DigitalRommel Member

    Jun 7, 2018
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    I'm curious why many modern wargames (not just WaW85) have focused on 1985 as the fictional year of the NATO vs. Warsaw Pact war? If you know, please reply.

    I would only guess it was based on Hackett's The Third World War: August 1985 book, but Hackett wrote his book before 1979 to describe a future conflict.

    I think it's somewhat objectively believed now that 1983 was the high water mark of the Cold War. The crisis finally abated with the death of Yuri Andropov very early in 1984. More interesting, unlike the well known 1962 cuban missile crisis, the USSR was actually closer to military parity in 1983 and knew it.
    Ryan Shannahan likes this.
  2. seneffe1

    seneffe1 Member

    Feb 27, 2017
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    just my personal opinions-

    I'm not sure that there is a generally accepted date for a high water mark year in political terms- 1983 is a good candidate but not the only one. It's true that Andropov's death removed an implacable (though very frail) hardliner from the scene- but he was replaced by someone not much less hard line- though even more frail. In both those cases general conflict was made more likely by their frailty- in the sense of them being unable to control even harder line factions at the top- a 'virtual coup'. Relations with the West began to warm with Gorbachev but there was also an identified risk (not necessarily any active plot of course) of an actual coup against him, or the possibility of him having to act against type in some international situation to demonstrate toughness- which then could escalate.

    So in the political sphere the component risk factors changed a lot from 1983-86, but the overall risk equation didn't necessarily change quite so much or so quickly.

    In the military sense I'd say that 1985 is a pretty good year for a variety of reasons. In terms of the conventional military balance on the Central Front, after years of effective acceptance of a very early use of nuclear weapons in case of an invasion on the Central Front- this was the period when the possibility that NATO might actually be able to halt at least the first WARPAC strategic echelon by conventional means alone started to be discussed as a serious question. Doctrinal changes in NATO (particularly but not just USAREUR) backed up by the arrival of substantial amounts of new generation equipment was starting to have an appreciable effect by 1985. Looking back at western military literature of the 1980s- in the 1985-6 time frame, there starts to be a lot more discussion of how a conventional conflict might be won- or at least prolonged beyond the point where the Soviets would risk their alliance breaking up.

    Of course the Soviet military was improving its conventional forces too in this time frame- but it was not making the step changes seen in the bigger NATO armies. The WARPAC allied armies were really falling behind. My reading of the material is a clear sense that Western conventional improvements were a fundamental source of concern to the Soviet military.

    1985 also feels like an interesting mix of older and newer equipment on both sides (eg getting towards 50/50 M1s and M60A3s in USAREUR; T62s, T64s and T80s all present in substantial numbers in GSFG).
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  3. Gorby

    Gorby Member

    Feb 26, 2019
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    Besides the cultural and political points the seneffe1 made very well, I'd also say that, culturally, 1985 is something of a watershed moment in terms of popular culture's relationship with the military. Rambo came out in '85 and opened the floodgates for those classic mid-to-late 80s military action films. Iron Eagle came out in January '86, Top Gun not long thereafter. There were plenty of others, of course. I think that, subconsciously at least, setting the game in '85-'86 gives a bit more immediate visceral excitement to a certain number of people. '83 was a dour, boring year (aside from Jedi) and by '87 we're well into the summit era, which makes fictional conflicts seem even more far-fetched.
  4. Norman Stewart

    Feb 21, 2015
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    I'd like to hear from LnL on why 1985 was chosen.

    Random, before M1 upgrades increased their edge, most plausible political atmosphere for war to break out, leave plenty of time till 1989?

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