This electrifying thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series has President Jack Ryan and his allies facing a treacherous foe threatening to unleash chaos around the globe...
When Russian President Valeri Volodin’s ambitions are foiled in Dagestan, he faces a difficult choice. The oligarchs who support him expect a constant flow of graft, but with energy prices cratering, the Russian economy sputters to a virtual halt. Unable to grow the Russian market at home, his hold on power relies on expansion abroad—a plan that has been thwarted by the United States in the past.
But this time Volodin has determined that an indirect approach is the best. A floating natural gas facility in Lithuania is blown up. A Venezuelan prosecutor is assassinated. A devastating attack on a Russian troop train kills dozens. A chaotic world is the best camouflage for a series of seemingly unrelated attacks.
Only one man recognizes an ominous pattern in the reports of terror from around the globe. U.S. President Jack Ryan sees a guiding hand in the worldwide chaos, but before he can act he needs proof.
While his intelligence agencies race to uncover the truth behind the attacks, the President struggles to unite a fractious and distrustful coalition of Western nations against the schemes of the Russian dictator.
With five thousand Russian troops poised to invade a NATO nation, can Jack Ryan move swiftly enough to stop Volodin’s grand plan of global conflict and conquest? Or will he succeed in changing the balance of world power forever?
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A little more than thirty years ago Tom Clancy was a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history. Years before, he had been an English major at Baltimore’s Loyola College and had always dreamed of writing a novel. His first effort, The Hunt for Red October, sold briskly as a result of rave reviews, then catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn.” From that day forward, Clancy established himself as an undisputed master at blending exceptional realism and authenticity, intricate plotting, and razor-sharp suspense. He passed away in October 2013.
Mark Greaney has a degree in international relations and political science. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tom Clancy Support and Defend, Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect, Tom Clancy Commander in Chief, and Tom Clancy True Faith and Allegiance. With Tom Clancy he coauthored Locked On, Threat Vector, and Command Authority. He has written six books in his own Gray Man series: Gunmetal Gray, Back Blast, Dead Eye, Ballistic, On Target, and The Gray Man. In his research for these novels, he traveled to fifteen countries, and trained alongside military and law enforcement in the use of firearms, battlefield medicine, and close-range combat tactics.
The Norwegians sold their secret submarine base to the Russians, and they did it on eBay.
In truth, the transaction was conducted on Finn.no, the regional equivalent of the online trading site, and the purchaser was not the Kremlin but a private buyer who immediately rented out the facility to a Russian state-owned concern. Still, the base was the only non-Russian permanent military installation on the strategically important Barents Sea, and the very fact that NATO condoned the sale in the first place spoke volumes about the organization’s readiness for war.
And it also said something about Russia’s intentions. When the purchaser clicked buy, Norway gave up Olavsvern Royal Norwegian Navy Base for five million U.S. dollars, a third of what Norway was asking and a pitiful one percent of what NATO spent building it in the first place.
With this purchase Russia won two important victories: It gave them the strategically located installation to use as they saw fit, and took it out of the hands of the West.
Olavsvern is an impressive facility, something out of a Bond film. Carved into the side of a mountain near the city of Tromsø north of the Arctic Circle, it has direct access to the sea and contains underground tunnels, massive submarine bays with blast-proof doors, a dry dock capable of receiving large warships, a 3,000-square-meter deep-water quay, infantry barracks with emergency power, and more than 160,000 square feet of space that is virtually impervious to a direct nuclear attack because it is hewn deep into the rock.
At the time of the sale, those in favor—including the Norwegian prime minister—rolled their eyes at anyone who said such a deal was ill-advised; the buyer promised that the Russians would use the facility to service their oil rigs—the Russians drilled all over the Barents Sea, after all, so there was nothing nefarious about that. But once the ink was dry, the oil-industry ruse was quickly forgotten, and the massive mountainside submarine lair was promptly employed to house a fleet of Russian scientific research vessels for a state-owned concern run by Kremlin insiders.
And those who knew about Russia’s Navy and intelligence infrastructure in the Arctic knew research vessels often worked hand in hand with both parties, conducting surveillance and even moving combat mini-submarines around in international waters.
The Norwegian prime minister who sanctioned the deal with the Russians soon left office, only to become the new secretary general of NATO. Shortly thereafter, Russia moved its Northern Fleet to full combat readiness, and it increased activity out of the Barents Sea fivefold as compared to the last of the days when Olavsvern maintained a watchful eye over them.
Russian president Valeri Volodin stood in the Arctic cold with a pleased expression on his face, because he was thinking of Olavsvern now, even though he was some 250 miles to the east.
This was an auspicious morning here at Yagelnaya Bay, Sayda Inlet, the home of the 31st Submarine Division, and Volodin had the massive base in Norway on his mind because he knew without a shadow of a doubt that if NATO still operated Olavsvern there was no way today’s operation would have had a chance for success.
The Russian president stood on the bow of the Pyotr Velikiy, a Kirov-class nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser and the flagship of the Northern Fleet, his Burberry coat buttoned tightly across his chest and his wool hat keeping most of his body heat where it belonged—in his body. The commander of the 31st Submarine Division hovered just behind him on the deck, and he motioned to the fog ahead. Volodin saw nothing at first, but as he peered deeper into the mist, a huge shadow appeared on the cold water, pushing out through the veil of morning vapor.
Something big, slow, and silent was coming this way.
Volodin remembered a moment from the time of the Olavsvern sale. Members of the Norwegian media had pressed the ministers responsible for approving the deal about the danger posed by their neighbor Russia. One of the more frank of these ministers replied with a shrug. “We are a NATO member state, but we are also a small and peaceful nation. America, on the other hand, is large and warlike. Jack Ryan will see to Norway’s security if the day comes. Why shouldn’t we use our money for the important causes and let America do the fighting for us, because they love it so much?”
Volodin smiled now as he looked into the fog hanging over the gray water. Jack Ryan would have no time for Norway. True, the American President loved war, and the excuse of a Scandinavia in peril would be a good one for him, but Valeri Volodin knew something that few on earth knew, least of all Jack Ryan.
America was about to have much to deal with. Not here in the Arctic, but damn near everywhere else.
The silent shadow began to take shape, and soon it was visible to all on the deck of the Pyotr Velikiy. It was the pride of the new Russian Navy. A massive new Borei-class nuclear ballistic submarine.
Volodin knew if NATO was still operating a base here in the Arctic, the vessel before him could have been detected and it would have been tracked by Western craft, both surface and submersible, well before it made it into the safety of deeper waters. And that would have been a shame, as far as the Russian president was concerned, so it was a damn fine thing that the Norwegians sold their strategic base off for pocket change.
Volodin glowed with satisfaction. Five million U.S. was a small price to pay for Russian naval supremacy of the Arctic.
The vessel before him had a name, of course; it was called the Knyaz Oleg. But Volodin still liked to think of this one, as well as the four others already in his fleet, by their original code number. Project 955A had a nice ring to it; it felt like a fitting title for Russia’s most powerful and most secret weapon.
The Borei was the fourth generation of what the Americans called SSBN (Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear). At 170 meters long and 13 meters wide, it was huge, although it wasn’t the biggest sub Volodin had ever seen. That would be the Typhoon class, one of the Borei’s predecessors. But while the Borei might not have been as big as the Typhoon, it was far more advanced. It could dive to 1,500 feet and make 30 knots while submersed, and its pump jet propulsion gave it something submariners called “silent speed,” meaning it could travel quickly with very little noise, and it was damn difficult to detect.
There were ninety crew members on board, and most all of them, including Captain Anatoli Kudinov, stood on the deck and saluted their president as they passed the Pyotr Velikiy.
Project 955A was no secret to the Americans, but they did not understand the full scope and operational capabilities of these vessels, nor did they realize the Knyaz Oleg was already in service. Soon enough, likely just north of here in the icy waters of Kola Bay, Volodin was certain an American satellite would take note of a Borei leaving Sayda Inlet, sailing away from the protection of its hangar and out into the Barents Sea.
It was no matter. It might take the Americans a few hours to be sure they were looking at the Knyaz Oleg, but then they would lose interest, as they had no idea it had already been assigned to fleet ops. For a few days the Americans would think the newest Borei was undergoing more sea trials, but that would not last for long, because Valeri Volodin had no plans to make this mission a secret one.
No . . . Volodin was sending this submarine out on a mission of terror, and the mission hinged on everyone in the world knowing both what it was and, in a general sense, where it was.
Also standing on the deck of the heavy missile cruiser behind Volodin, ringed by his deputies, was the admiral in command of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. He was the overall commander of all naval nuclear ordnance, and he’d come along today to wish bon voyage not to the Knyaz Oleg, but to the twelve devices of his that had been loaded into the sub’s weapons stores.
On board the floating titan passing now just one hundred meters in front of President Volodin were a dozen Bulava ballistic missiles, each one carrying ten warheads. This gave the Knyaz Oleg the ability to prosecute 120 nuclear detonations, meaning this one vessel could, with only slight exaggeration, replace the United States of America with a smoking hole the size of a continent.
But only if it was close enough to the East Coast of the American shoreline to render America’s missile defense systems irrelevant.
Volodin spoke softly in the morning cold, his words turning to vapor. “Amerika. Washington, D.C.”
The men standing behind him at the bow looked at one another. If this was an order, it was an unnecessary one; everyone knew the Knyaz Oleg was heading exactly there—to within forty-five miles of the capital city of their adversary.
But even though Volodin was sending 120 nuclear warheads into the territorial exclusion zone of the United States, he had no plans to lay waste to the United States. He did, however, have every intention of scaring the living shit out of every man, woman, and child over there, and in so doing, to persuade the American populace that Russia’s territorial integrity 8,000 miles from home was none of their goddamned business.
Volodin’s scheme to be played out in the weeks ahead was wide-ranging, but the Knyaz Oleg was the opening move on the chessboard, and for this reason he had flown all the way up here to the Arctic, to pay his respects to Captain Kudinov, and to bestow on the mission and the men the weight and force of his presence.
The vessel Volodin liked to call “Project 955A” disappeared in the distance now, fading silently into the mist just after leaving Sayda Inlet and moving toward Kola Bay. Valeri Volodin continued to stare at the wisps of vapor left hanging in its wake, his military leaders looking on.
The emotions he wore on his face—pride and excitement—were both real, but there was another emotion welling inside, and this sentiment he would not allow himself to express.
Apprehension. Apprehension bordering on dread.
Today represented one facet, a single moving part of an intricate mechanism, a multifaceted operation that would span the globe.
And while Valeri Volodin was proud and hopeful and defiant . . . he also knew this had to work.
This had to work or he was a dead man.
The Independence was a ship, but its job was not to sail from here to there. Instead, it remained stationary at anchor in the port of Klaipėda, on Lithuania’s Baltic coast, and it just sat there, connected to a long jetty with mounting and mooring devices, steel connecting bridges, and a massive pipeline link.
The supertanker had sailed into port to much fanfare a year earlier because everyone knew it was going to be a game changer for the Lithuanians. And although now it was, essentially, a fixed object bobbing in the water and no longer much of a ship, it had achieved its mission.
Independence was its name, but this was also its objective. It was a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage and regasification unit, the first of its kind.
Lithuania had been dependent on Russia for its gas and electricity needs for decades. On a whim determined by the political winds of the region, Russia could either raise the price of gas or reduce the flow. They had done this multiple times over the past few years, and as tensions between the Baltic nations and Russia grew, Lithuania’s dependence on its neighbor’s goodwill became a clear and present danger to their national security.
An LNG import facility stood to change this. With the Independence and the pipeline from the port, LNG shipments from Norway now could be delivered by tanker, offloaded onto the regasification facility, and turned into the natural gas necessary for the nation.
This way, if the Russians once again turned off their gas pipelines, or once again raised the prices to extortionist rates, Lithuania and its allied neighbors needed only to exercise their option to turn on the safety valve provided by the Independence.
The process for regasification is highly technical and precise, but surprisingly simple to understand. In order to transport a large volume of gas, it needs to be converted into liquid, thus condensing it by a factor of six hundred. This is accomplished by dropping the temperature of the gas to –160 degrees. The liquefied form of the commodity is transported at this temperature in specially designed tankers, in this case from Norway to Lithuania. Here the LNG is pumped into the storage tanks of the Independence, where the regasification system superheats the liquid with propane and seawater, returning it to its gas form. The gas is then pumped into tubes that offload it through the port of Klaipėda and then along an eighteen-kilometer pipeline to the metering facility. From there it goes directly to Lithuanian homes, where it provides much-needed heat for the long Baltic winters.
The $330 million project was already serving its purpose from an economic standpoint. Russia dropped the price of its gas the day the Independence went online so they could compete with the Norwegian gas.
But to say that the Russians weren’t happy about this was a great understatement. Moscow did not take kindly to energy-export competition in Europe. It was accustomed to its monopoly and it had used it to threaten Russia’s neighbors, to enrich the nation, and, perhaps most important, to mask Russia’s myriad other economic problems. Russian president Valeri Volodin, in typical hyperbolic fashion, had even gone so far as to claim that Lithuania’s new natural gas facility was nothing short of an act of war.
Lithuania, like many of the other former Russian satellites, was used to incendiary rhetoric from Moscow, so the government in Vilnius just ignored Volodin’s threats and imported large quantities of natural gas via Russian pipelines and small quantities of LNG from Norway via the Baltic Sea, and the Independence served as a model for other Baltic nations to work to develop their own secondary option for energy.
The rest of Europe had a hand in the building and delivery of the Independence to Lithuania. Stability in the region was in everyone’s interests, after all, and NATO nations who could be pressured or controlled outright by Russia’s energy exports were a weak link in the chain.
It was therefore said that while Lithuania relied on the Independence for its energy, Europe as a whole relied on the Independence for its security.
A middle-aged German electrical contractor walking along the jetty noticed the body floating in the water, and this saved his life.
He’d come to work early this morning to check some misbehaving circuits in the off...
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