Command Authority is a Jack Ryan novel, written by Tom Clancy and series co-author Mark Greaney. It was released in 2013. In the story, Russia invades Ukraine and the US comes to Ukraine's aid as a fellow member of NATO. The novel has a unique structure in that the main plot takes place in the present and a secondary plot takes place 30 years ago, when Jack Ryan, Sr. was still a CIA analyst. The chapters alternate between the present day events and those of 30 years ago.
There's a new strong man in Russia but his rise to power is based on dark secret hidden decades in the past. The solution to that mystery lies with a most unexpected source, President Jack Ryan.
On the first day of Spring, Russia invades it neighbor Estonia under the pretext of eliminating terrorists. During the invasion, Russian forces encounter and engage American and NATO forces. Due to the fact their plan depended on NATO not intervening, the Russian military pull out the next day. Newly elected Russian president Valeri Volodin, embarrassed by this humiliating defeat, begins plans for the invasion of another former Soviet republic very soon.
Two months later, at a restaurant in Moscow, a bomb is detonated killing the head of Russia’s foreign security service Stanislav Biryukov. At the White House, President Jack Ryan is having dinner with an old friend Sergey Golovko. Golovko is an outspoken critic of the current regime in Russia. Golovko falls ill and needs to be hospitalized. It turns out that he has been poisoned and only lives a couple more days. Test results reveal that it is radiation poisoning, likely caused by ingesting polonium. The national security team convenes and concludes that Russia is responsible for the two assassinations.
In Ukraine, the CIA chief of station Keith Bixby discusses with his men some surveillance photos of a man known as Gleb the Scar. Scar is a reclusive Russian mafia boss who has booked the entire top floor of the Fairmont Grand Hotel for a month. This is suspicious, so Bixby decides to reach out to some of his contacts for more information.
Jack Ryan, Jr. is living in London and working at Castor and Boyle Risk Analytics. His current assignment is investigating the sale at auction of Galbraith Rossiya Energy and the purchase of the assets by Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned natural gas concern. The evidence seems to be indicating that corrupt officials in Russia orchestrated the affair for profit. He talks his supervisor Sandy Lamont into going with him to Antigua in hopes of following the money trail.
Bixby calls John Clark to get more information on Gleb the Scar. Clark tells him what he knows about him and Bixby laments that he doesn't have the resources to check into him further at this point. The men of The Campus discuss the situation in Ukraine and Gleb the Scar and decide to go over and perform surveillance on him.
In Antigua, Jack Ryan, Jr. and Lamont begin to understand how the acquisition of Galbraith Energy was done, along with the shell companies and lawyers that were involved. After some analysis Ryan finds that a restaurant chain owned by the name of Dmitri Nesterov made one-point-two billion dollars from his involvement in the buyout of Galbraith Energy.
Russian President Valeri Volodin announces that in light of the death of Biryukov, the FSB and the SVR will be merged into one entity headed by Roman Talanov. President Ryan meets with his advisors to discuss this turn of events and Talanov’s background. Mary Pat Foley mentions that there was once speculation that Talanov was an assassin code-named Zenith. This reminds Ryan of some events that he was involved in earlier in his career as a CIA analyst. President Ryan asks Mary Pat Foley to have her husband Ed Foley look back into the old case of Zenith.
Clark makes contact with Bixby in Kiev. He offers to lend support to Bixby and gives him a number where he can be contacted.
Government investigators found that Golovko was poisoned while he was at the University of Kansas, where he made a speech and spoke with some students. A student named Felicia Rodriguez from Venezuela poisoned a Sprite that she gave him as he was going on stage. Bixby contacts Clark. He decides to take Clark up on his offer to help and asks him to surveil Gleb the Scar at the Fairmont Grand Hotel.
In London, Jack Ryan, Jr. is called into his boss’s office at Castor and Boyle. Hugh Castor tells him that he has made some inquiries into Nesterov and that he appears to have connections with the FSB. He is taking the Galbraith assignment away and giving Ryan other work. Ed Foley finds a clue to Zenith in some old Swiss files that the British provided: a code word scribbled in the margin, "Bedrock". President Ryan calls his son Jack Jr. and asks him to visit Sir Basil Charleston, former director general of the British Secret Intelligence Service, to ask him about Bedrock.
While the Campus team is surveying the Fairmont Hotel they notice some men who go up to visit Gleb the Scar and then leave. Clark has the other members of his team follow them. Meanwhile in Sevastopol word gets out among the citizenry that a building in town which is actually a CIA Special Mission Compound (nicknamed the Lighthouse) is a NATO property. People start holding demonstrations outside and Bixby decides the facility needs to be shut down and evacuated immediately. What they don’t know is that this is Gleb the Scar’s doing: he is organizing demonstrations and creating unrest at the behest of the leaders of his organization, the Seven Strong Men. Bixby calls Clark for help.
30 years ago: A banker in Switzerland by the name of Tobias Gabler is killed in what appears to be an act of random violence. Jack Ryan, Sr. is living and working in Great Britain and has a meeting with Charleston. Charleston tells him that they believe Gabler was managing accounts for the KGB.
Present day: Jack Ryan, Jr. visits Charleston and asks him about Bedrock. Charleston tells him that Bedrock was a former agent named Victor Oxley, and warns Ryan that Oxley is dangerous and he shouldn't go looking for the man himself.
Clark, Dominic Caruso, and Domingo Chavez make the trip to Sevastopol and arrive at the Lighthouse. The demonstration outside quickly turns into a mob, and men start shooting guns and throwing Molotov cocktails into the compound. Helicopters are sent to help the men evacuate, but one is shot down and the other is forced to leave without the men.
President Ryan and his advisors discuss what they can do about the ongoing attack at the Lighthouse. They decide to send a pair of Ospreys filled with Marine infantry for the rescue and have F-16s to do flyovers while the Ospreys are en route. Unseen assailants begin firing mortars from the nearby buildings at the Lighthouse. The F-16s manage to rattle the crowds enough to disperse for a while and distract the men shooting mortars. The Ospreys finally arrive, eliminate the attackers and rescue the survivors at the Lighthouse including Clark, Caruso, Chavez and Barry "Midas" Jankowski.
Oksana Zueva, head of the pro-Russian bloc in Ukraine, is assassinated as she is about to give a speech. The Campus men realize that one of the vehicles they had been trailing earlier from the Fairmont Hotel was there and that the Russians may have had her killed so it looks like the nationalists are to blame.
30 years ago: Charleston tells Jack Ryan, Sr. that they have an agent in the bank where Gabler worked, codenamed Morningstar. Charleston asks Ryan to travel to Switzerland to meet up with David Penright and help investigate Gabler’s death and the accounts that supposedly belong to the KGB. However just before he leaves he finds out that David Penright has died in an apparent accident.
Present day: Jack Ryan, Jr. finds Oxley at a pub in Corby, a town north of London. Oxley is not willing to talk so Ryan leaves for the time being. There is a pro-Russian rally in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, orchestrated by the FSB. The Seven Strong Men gang bombs the rally, and someone calls the authorities claiming that he is a nationalist and that he was responsible.
30 years ago: Jack Ryan, Sr. is in Switzerland with Nick Eastling investigating the death of David Penright, who was run over by a bus. While they are searching the safe house where Penright was staying, there is a gas explosion in the area where Gabler was killed.
Present day: Midas is reassigned as the senior command authority of all US and British forces in Ukraine for Operation Red Coal Carpet, the US’s plan to repel the Russian invasion into Ukraine they are anticipating.
30 years ago: Eastling finds out that Marcus Wetzel, who was their contact (codenamed Morningstar) in the bank, was killed in the restaurant explosion. He also finds out that Marta Scheuring, a known associate of the Red Army Faction, was apparently killed in the blast. Evidence seems to indicate that she was responsible for the explosion and accidentally got caught in it herself. They find some personal effects of hers and get her address in Berlin.
Present day: Volodin announces on TV that he has authorized military action in Ukraine, supposedly to protect the Russian citizens there, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine begins. Jack Ryan, Jr. is back in London and while he is out for a jog he is attacked by two men. He fights them off just as the police arrive and they escape. Government investigators found that a few days before Felicia Rodriguez poisoned Golovko she apparently met with FSB agents.
Thinking that he was attacked because he was seen with Oxley, Jack Ryan, Jr. travels back to Corby and goes to Oxley’s home. He finds Oxley there and two dead men on his floor. Oxley identifies as members of the Seven Strong Men gang who came and attacked him. More men come and attack Oxley and Ryan. They fight them off and capture one, fleeing the scene and stowing their captive in the trunk of Ryan’s car.
30 years ago: Jack Ryan, Sr. and Eastling travel to West Berlin to participate in a raid on Scheuring’s address, where a Red Army Faction cell has been holed up. They are hoping to capture the cell members alive, but just as they are setting up to start the raid a sniper starts firing at them from outside the building. In the confusion the unit conducting the raid opens fire on the cell members, killing all of them, and the sniper escapes. They find the room that was apparently Scheuring’s and find a briefcase hidden under some loose floorboards. Inside are pictures of Gabler and Wetzel, along with a typed statement that would seem to explain Red Faction Army’s rationale in targeting the men.
Present day: Oxley and Jack Ryan, Jr. take their captive to a lodge in Croydon to interrogate him. While there Oxley tells Ryan about his past. He says that thirty years ago he was assigned to track down an assassin known as Zenith that was operating in Eastern Europe. He confirms that Talanov was Zenith. Ryan mentions to Oxley that he works for Hugh Castor and Oxley tells him that Castor was his old case officer. Ryan calls Gavin Biery at Campus headquarters and gives him a list of phone numbers to look into that he got off of the phone of one of the goons that attacked him. With the list, Biery discovers a connection between Hugh Castor and Seven Strong Men. The Campus jet picks Ryan and Oxley up and they fly to Edinburgh to meet Galbraith. Galbraith and Ryan piece together the details of the sale of the Galbraith Energy assets as well as the 30-year-old murders at the Swiss bank. Someone had stolen Russian money and hid it away at the bank, and the KGB came looking for it.
30 years ago: Jack Ryan, Sr. returns to the site of the RAF safe house raid and encounters Marta Scheuring. He finds out that the person who died at the restaurant explosion wasn’t Scheuring after all, but it was someone from East Berlin with whom she had swapped identities. It seems the Russians have orchestrated it all to make it look like the Red Army Faction was responsible for the murders. Ryan wants to get Scheuring into protective custody so that she can prove that the Russians have been behind the assassinations, and Scheuring fears that Zenith will come to kill her. They leave the flat and start to make their way through West Berlin on foot. Scheuring gets spooked and runs away from Ryan. While he is looking for her he is attacked by two men. Another man intervenes and fights them off while Ryan escapes. Ryan doesn’t know that the man who came to his rescue was Victor Oxley.
Present day: Jack Ryan, Jr. and Oxley find Castor and confront him. Castor tells them that he has been doing business with Talanov over the years and that he is essentially the head of Seven Strong Men. Castor fears that the Russians will come after him because of what he knows about Talanov. He starts to negotiate with Ryan, saying that he can prove that Gleb the Scar is really Dmitri Nesterov. But a Russian kill team arrives at Castor’s chalet and attacks. The Russians kill Castor and Oxley, but the Campus team arrives in time to save Ryan. Ryan returns to the US and the rest of the Campus team returns to their safe house in Kiev.
Midas is ordered to arrest Nesterov. He calls Clark for help and they put together a plan for raiding the Fairmont Hotel via helicopter. The raid is a success and Nesterov is arrested. With Nesterov captured, Ryan calls Volodin and threatens to go public with the information that Talanov is really the head of Seven Strong Men, and that the Golovko assassination can be tied to the Russian government. In response, Volodin denounces Talanov and ends the invasion of Ukraine.
- The man assassinated early in the novel, Biryukov, is the man who affected John Clark’s rescue near the end of Locked On.
- It is indicated in Chapter 11 that it is the second year of President Ryan’s final term in office.
- In Chapter 16 it is stated that Volodin has been in office for a year.
- According to Chapter 36 Jack Ryan, Sr. is 6’1”.
- Sir Charleston owns an autographed copy of Jack Ryan, Sr’s first book.
- Barry “Midas” Jankowski is promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel in Chapter 56. He is 38 years old in this novel. He is recruited to join The Campus in the later novel True Faith and Allegiance.
- It is established that real-life head of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev also played that part in the history of the Ryanverse in Chapter 80.
- Jack Ryan, Sr.’s late father Emmett Ryan was a policeman in Baltimore according to the Epilogue.