The standard scenario for World War III opens with 30 Soviet divisions (13 of them armored) surging from take-off positions primarily in East Germany across the north German plain headed for Aachen.
Some 60 more Soviet divisions would be in a second wave coming out of the European part of the Soviet Union itself and falling in behind the spearhead forces. About 50 divisions of Warsaw Pact forces would be in supporting roles.
That makes for a total of some 140 divisions in an offensive force which starts from Central Europe headed into Western Europe. It is a formidable prospect to any soldier.
NATO forces in West Europe in a position to meet this advancing force immediately total about 50 divisions.Britain has an additional 8 divisions at home earmarked to support its forward Army of the Rhine of 5 divisions. The United States has 9 divisions at home earmarked to reinforce its 7 divisions based in Europe.
Moscow is extremely worried about recent events in Poland. Soviet military forces are again in positions from which they could move into Poland and take effective control of that country as they were during last December and again in April. They have warned the Poles that they will do whatever they think is necessary to prevent developments in Poland which they say would "change the balance of power in Europe and the world."
If Poland were to become truly independent (which, of course, is what most Poles want), the balance of power in Europe would be altered radically -- to the disadvantage of Moscow and to the advantage of the West. The old scenario for the opening phase of World War III would go to that attic of history.
A truly independent Poland would mean that the starting line for any Soviet offensive into Europe would be pulled back by 500 miles. Instead of being able to start from East Germany the Soviet spearheads would have to start from behind the Soviet frontier itself. The takeoff line would be in Eastern Europe, not in Central Europe.