Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy is a book that just a few years ago would be thought very dated. Unlike Clancy’s more recognizable Jack Ryan books where you can ignore the dated references to the Cold War and Soviet Russia because you’re focusing on the adventures of our favorite CIA analyst turned President of the United States, Red Storm Rising is not so focused on a single character.
Rather the story takes place in a world where the Soviet Union, due to economic problems caused by terrorism in Muslim heavy areas (Azerbaijan in the book…but you can read it as Crimea if you like) feels that its only option for survival is to start World War III with an invasion of Europe and the Middle East for resources. Obviously written in the days before the end of the Cold War, this book is still disturbingly relevant.
In Clancy’s usual nearly obsessive attention to detail the books details the operations of this short lived battle between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in very realistic terms of how it would have actually occurred had it come to that. Most notably that no one would have been crazy enough to actually use nuclear weapons. Clancy’s novel not only shows the shortsighted nature of Russia politicians who refuse to deal with the West or anyone as equals who need to be negotiated with and rather view everyone as someone to be bullied by force.
The book is your typical Clancy novel. A tightly written thriller that goes a little overboard on the attention to detail for some people, but which deals with all the situations as realistically as one could possibly conceive of them. I tend to enjoy Clancy’s attention to detail and enjoyed this book, but I fully understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so you have been warned. The battles are not glorified but rather show mess that battles are, often yielding only modest and fleeting victories, with huge causalities and losses as the wages of war. While all the characters of the book draw you in, they’re secondary to the vision of what would have happened had the Cold War actually heated up. The book does not focus on the politics or the politicians of the war but rather the soldiers and generals who must fight it, their thoughts, ideas, and the cost it brings upon them.
Now a few years ago this would have been seen as little more than a fictitious relic of the Cold War era. After all the most optimistic would have said that Russia had given up her evil ways of totalitarianism and conquest…and the less optimistic would have pointed out that even if Russia hadn’t reformed the US was still supplying NATO and many of the former members of Warsaw Pact with arms, money and support so Russia would never be stupid enough to actually try anything too soon. Most intelligent people agreed with the prediction in the book The Next Hundred Year by George Friedman (another excellent book every conservative should read) that Russia will be Russia and in a few decades will make a futile attempt at reclaiming the old empire, but in doing so they would once again gut money that should go to infrastructure and the stable ground by which a strong economy can grow in favor of a strong military and thus sow the seeds of their own defeat. But, let’s be honest here, even the more hawkish Neo-cons out there didn’t see Russia doing anything this soon as Russia moves into Georgia and the Ukraine.
And suddenly, due to Vladimir thinking he’s the second coming of Lenin and Ivan the Terrible rolled into one, Russia is up to its old games of trying to gobble up its weaker neighbors.
Which is why this book becomes important. Because while the names of the governments may change this is an important look into what will happen if the world allows this new Cold War to continue. While the weapons and names may be a little out of date, the fact that if this bully of a nation isn’t slapped down before they have a chance to revitalize their strength, that it may once again bring the world to this brink if not go all the way into madness.
It’s engrossing enough to get even non-political people to read it, only at the end to realize that this is still a very deadly possibility.