According to scenarios drafted in 1964, Warsaw Pact forces planned to use 131 tactical nuclear missiles and bombs to sideline NATO armaments and destroy Western Europe’s political and communications centres, in the event of an “imperialist” strike.
In an alarming insight into the “Doctor Strangelove” mindset of Soviet strategists, the Czechoslovak People’s Army, CSLA, was then expected to immediately march over deadly radioactive landscape and invade Nuremburg, Stuttgart and Munich, then bastions of West Germany.
On the ninth day the troops would take Lyon, south eastern France.
Soviet reinforcements would then continue the offensive towards the Pyrenees in the west.
Historian Petr Lunak from NATO’s information office in Brussels, found the 17-page Warsaw Pact plan while sifting through declassified communist-era documents in Prague’s military archives.
“Russians outlined the general (war) plan, while the (leaders of) individual Warsaw Pact armies prepared precise military blueprints, with details on front lines, deployment of troops and arms,” said Mr Lunak.
The text, written in Russian and entitled CSLA Plan of Action for a War Period, was signed by the Czech defence minister of the time and carried president Antonin Novotny’s stamp of approval.
According to Mr Lunak, the plan was still an option until 1986, three years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was shelved by Vaclav Havel in 1990 when he was elected Czech president.
While most Western planners were convinced that any first strike would lead to total mutual destruction, the plan - written in matter-of-fact language - shows that Warsaw Pact nations presumed a massive ground war would follow nuclear attacks.
Mr Lunak described the military plans as “fairy tale” thinking based on World War II warfare: “They (the Soviets) really planned to send ground troops out in the field and have them fight for a few days until they died from radiation,” he said.
The final draft of the invasion plan was completed under Soviet Communist Party chief Nikita Khrushchev, shortly after the 1961 Cuban missile crisis, when the United States and the Soviet Union had teetered on the brink of war.
According to the Prague documents, Moscow’s commanders fully expected western “imperialists” to make the first nuclear strike.
Mr Lunak includes the plans, as well as interviews with Czech generals of the time in his book, Planning the Unthinkable: Czechoslovak War Plans, 1950-1990.
The first English translation of the text was published earlier this month by the Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security, which analyses and publishes declassified NATO and Warsaw Pact archives.
Vojtech Mastny, a senior fellow at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., who coordinates the project, said the 1964 document is the first such detailed war plan to come to light. “There’s no doubt that the plan would have been used if the green light was given from above - the political leadership of the communist bloc,” he said.