Created: 12/1/1991

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Director of




The Winter of the Soviet Military: Cohesion or Collapse?

National Intelligence Estimate

This National Intelligence Estimate represents the views ol the Director of Central Intelligence with tho advice and assistance ol the US Intelligence Community.

Director of



The Winter of the Soviet Military: Cohesion or Collapse?

Infonnation available as1 was used in tne pceparaiion ol this National Intelligence Estimate.

Tho lot/owing intelligence organizations participated

in the preparation of this Estimate:

The Central Intelligence Agency

The Defense Intelligence Agency

The National Security Agency

The Bureau ot (mergence end Research.

Department ol State

afco participating:

The Deputy Chief of Stall lor Intelligence,

Department ol tho Army

Trie Director of Naval Intelligence.

Deportment ol (ha Navy

The Assistant Chief of Staff. Imentgence.

Department o* the Ar Force

The Dvecior ol Intefcoencc.

Headguators. Manne Corps

stnnoio was approved for publication by the National foreign Intelligence Board.


This Estimate is oneeries to be published in the coming weeks on various crises facing the former USSR.^

Tke multiplicity of problems facing the new governments and*their limited ability to cope with them make it likely lhal one or more of these problems will take on "worst case" proportions. This Estimate focuses on the cohesion of the Soviet military only over the winter and does not address all the components that constitute current Soviet military capability.

Key Judgments

The Winter of the Soviet Military: Cohesion or Collapse?

Forces unleashed by Ihe collipse of lhe Soviet system axe breaking up ils premierSoiiei military; lhe high command cannoi hall ihis process.entralized command and conlrol system continues to operate, poliiical and economic collapse is beginning lo fragment Ihe miliiary into elements loyal lo Ihc republics or simply devoted to self-preservation. These forces include:

Republic action lo take control of units, equipment, and facilities could provoke OOnfllcts of loyalty within the armed forces.

Shortages of basic necessities are prompting commanders of major formations lo seek lies lo local political bodies.

Commanders who do noi receive local support may act on Iheir own Io seize or extort basic necessities.

Housing shortfalls continue lo undermine morale and cohesion.

Traditionally (irsl in line for high-tech resources, the military now has difficully ohiiiinjng rood and fuel.

Triple-digit inflation and Ihe lackiliiary btidgel threaten pay.

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Erosion of legiiimacy and discipline:

Since thc August coup, questioning of traditional discipline has increased, and officers face difficult decisions about whom to obey.

The disappearance of an external threat has increased officer disorientation.

Massive officer cuts further erode discipline and morale. The uncertain future, coupledeneral lack of transferable job skills, heightens officer concern.

The picture with respect to cohesion in thc armed forces is mixed:

day-to-day activity of much of the force, suggesting unit integrity and nominal responsiveness to the chain of command.

On thc other hand, senior Soviet officers acknowledge serious problems,rowing body of anecdotal evidence indicates an increasing tendency for unit commanders to challenge orders that threaten the well-being of their troops.

The armed forces are likely over the winter to continue to exhibit basic unit integrity and responsiveness, but, as the center fails to provide essential goods and services, the established chain of command will become increasingly irrelevant.

"Moreover, merely getting through thc winter willalse picture of military cohesion and stability. The most likely scenario will be continued decay and breakup of the Soviet armed forces. Halting this trend would require countering the centrifugal forces at work in the former Soviet Unionajor improvement in the economic conditions now affecting the military.

Although less likely, there isignificant chance of rapid disintegration and widespread violencearge number of units seek autonomy or military organization collapses.

liven less likely is the involvement of the armed forcesaJe civil war between or within major republics during Ihe winter.



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Forces unleashed by rhe collapse of ihe Soviel system are breaking up itsentralized command and controlcontinues io operate, political and economic collapse threatens to fragment the military inloloyal to thc republics or simply devoted to self-preservation. Widespread shortages arc deprivingpersonnel and their families of basic necessities, damaging morale. The events surrounding the failed coup and lhe collapse of the Communist Partythe moral basis of the officer corps, thcof lhc cenler. and lhe chain of command. The disappearance of thc perceived Western threai and lhe disintegration of lhc Warsaw Pact have increased lhe sense of disorientation among officers. These forces threaten miliury cohesion, thai is, ihe ability of unils ai all levels to maintain organiiralional integrity and respond io orders from an acknowledged chain of command.

Stresses on (lie Miliiary Fragmentation

Plans by several republic and regional Governments to lake control or unils, facilities, and equipment on their territory will increase pressure on military unity. So far. these plans amount largely to declarations of inient, but,epublic decide to take conirolajor unit,on. or nuclearhowdown with the center could provoke conflicts or loyally within the armed forces. Defense Minister Shaposhnikov and Interior Minister Barannikov, for

"ample, staled in November that force would be used to counter republic attempts lo turn such declarations into reality.

We believe thai through the winter more largeformations will seek lies to local political entities. Many units have longstanding lies lo republics or subrepublic areas from which ihey receive economicew Ground Forces units in Byelorussia. Ukraine, and Russia already have offered allegiance to the republics where they are stationed.ocal accommodation, some unit commanders may try to take direct control of supplies or. alter natively, engage in warlord-like extortion.

The sbifi in polilical power lo the republics has allowed lhc nationalist genie to escape from the Stalinistondition lhal hastensUkraine's situation illusiratesone especially dramatic aspect of thc pressure of nationalism. lis declaration or independence and demand for its own rorces threaten iu splii lhc Soviet miliury. Ukrainians constilule someercent of lhe officer corps andercent or the conscripts, according io Sovicl sources. Many of ihese personnel may join thcarmed rorces.

csuli of thc accommodation by the central Ministry of Dcrcnse (MOD) io republic demandsMay at home" conscription policy. Ground Force units in the republics are becomingercentrbaijan-based units arehis process, combined with republic concern aboul possible violence to obtain supplies, may lead io "creeping absorption" of units by local governments.

Shortages or Basic Goods and Services Thc Soviet military, traditionally first in line for high-lecb resources, now finds ii difficuli to obuin food and fuel (seci can no longer command Ihe

delivery of basic iicnu across republic boundaries amid widespread shortagesrowing barter system. Industrial and Agricultural enterprisesignore orders to supply tbc armed forces in return foi "wooden rubles."

Uniu throughout the miliury confront worsening shortages:

central control and have only limited abilityurrent development! Despite such resources as military farms and reserves of food. fuel, and other commodities-^

commanders look elsewhere for help. Units getfrom civilian enterprise* in return for labor and sell or rent military equipment. The Chief of thc General Staff has asked thc Soviet public to donateewly created chanty for thc miliury. Clearly, such makeshift efforts will not solve the problem. Only improvement in the economy coupled with either inlerrepublic agreement on mihury funding orbreakup into republic armed forces can do that.

Housing shortfalls continue to undermine military morale and cohesion:

Erosion of Legitimacy and Discipline Soviet officers also face fundamental questions of loyally and discipline. They arc uncertain how to aci in ihe present chaotic political situation. In theory. Ihe armed forces are under control of the central state apparatus, but some officers question its legiiimacy and believe that no one is in charge^

Soviet media icporicd in November thai troops in the Baltic states- including an elite airbornerefused lo leave until "normal social and living conditions are created at ihcir new postings "

Miliury pay is also threatened. Salary increases have not kept pace with triple-digit inflation. Some units have not been paid onroblem thai will become more widespread in tbe absenceiliui budgcl. Yerrsin recently promised ihai Russia will pay lbc miliury (and double theirut in the short run this probably will require priming more money, thereby increasing inflation.

Thc capacity of ihc armed forces io deal with these problem* limitedcommand and control, logistics, and personnel systems aic designed for

Since tlw August coup attempt, questioning ofmiliiary discipline has spread within the officer corps. The actions of seniorYaiov supported Ihe coup while Air Force Chief Shaposhnikov opposedsplits in the officer corps and further weakened its

Officers face increasingly difficult decisions about whom to obey. Those who supported thc "right side" while disobeying ihciras lhe Pacific Fleet officers who supportedsometimes praised. Others who followed orders are condemned.


obedience lo orders it no longer adequate; ofticers are not toclearly criminal" order. But they have been given oo clear guidance on what constitutes such an order.

Massive officer reductions further erode discipline and morale. Gorbachev's announcement in8nilateral reductionena cut offficers, and additional cuts are scheduled. Most Soviet officers,uch greater degree lhan Western counterparts, lack uanifernblc skills; the uncertain future intensifies their fear.

Unili Become Pressure Points The effects of theseand the erosion of legitimacy andcome together ai lhc garrison, divisional, andlevels. Individual commanders must deal directly with these new problems. On Ihe whole, they haveeasonably good job. Whatever their internal problems, most Soviet umis retain their basic structutc and equipment and. with varying degrees of success, continue some routine operations andWith no clear alternative, mosl Soviet officer* follow thc well-worn patterns of the pasi

for (be Winter

Over ibe winter li ia likely iha( the armed force* will maintain cohesion. We expect cohesion lo hold whether tbe armed forces coniinue io decay under tbc nominal control of central authorities or whether agreements among republics lead to division of the armed forces among them. The latter case would mean the end of the traditional Soviet military. Evenituation where ils basic structures arehowever, lhe military will likely lose conirol of some uniis to republics and localities, or even collapse, Such loss of control could lead lo incidents ofviolence

Decay will continue. Thc pressures uirderminjng the military cannot be checked or alleviated over the next several months. Thethc military's condition after thevary by service and from republic to republic. Simultaneous andoutcomes arc possible. The ultimateof the outcome will depend on the military's institutional coherence; its allegiance lo civilits ability to satisfy basic needs; and itsio accept increasing hardship and uncertainty.

interrepublic polilical and economic agreements, there will be even less hopeolution to thc problems facing lhc miliury. The reliability offorces ordered lo Uke unpopular actions, such as suppression of civil unrest, is open lo serious question. The effect of such orders probably would beccelerate thc disintegration of the armed forces.

Ironically, one of the most disruptive, but least likely.

develop mencoup initialed by thewould require cohesion in ihc units involved lo ensure lhal orders would be obeyed. The unsettledin lhe officer corps, confusion aboul theof traditional authority,eluctance to uke action that might accelerate miliury disintegration inhibit such an nci.f"

oup attempt wouldesperate judgment by miliiarylhat there was no otherailed coup attempt couldescent into civil war.

conclusion thai thc armed forces are likely to maintain cohesion over the winter reflects tbe foi lowing:

Miliury service, for all ils problems, will coniinue lo be more appealing to manyeturn to civilian life. The availability ol resources in miliury supply channels and reserve stockpiles, in contrast Io bleak civil prospects will keep many unit* largely intact.

Most officers support miliury subordination to civil authority.

Yel'isin has promised to fund tbe MOD. albeit with rr.ifor cuts.

Celling through lhc winter relatively peacefully,couldalse picture of military cohesion and stability. Spring will find ihe military under increased pressures and with fewer resources. Absent

Alrcmathe Outcomes

Though unlikely, there isignificant chance of outcomes involving the severe degradation orof organizational cohesion. These includelocal unil autonomy and loul collapse of the armed forces

Widespread local unit autonomy. Traditionally slrong tics between some units and local civilian authorities and the trend toward local and regional autarky in the economy could produce even more fragmentation in the military structure, leading to autonomous action by units operating in their own interest. The armed forces would retain unilbut fragmentegional, rayon, or oblast basis. The pressure on militaryo deal wiih local civilian authoritiesasis of food for


or to ensure more miliiary influence in civil affairs could become stumer: Unil accommoda-lions wiih local authorities would bolster local ties and lead lo allegiance to republic or subrepublk governments. On tbe darker side, where local authorities refused cooperation, units could assume local control or. alternatively, extort supplies from local authorities.

pt* Conditions worse than wewidespread failure to provide military personnel and Ibeir families with basic goods and services, collapse of discipline, and lawlessness throughoutwould destroy existing military organization, large numbers of soldiers would desert. Gangs of deserters would lake what ihey wanted from lhe civilian population

Even less likely, though moil violent, is (hcof lhc armed forces in large-scale civil war within or between major republics during thc winter.

Triggering events could be resistance by Ihe center oi Russia lo republic efforts lo assume control offorces or equipment on their letriiory or.violence involving Russian minoritieson-Russian republic Such conflict would be especially dangerous if thc control of nuclear weapons were at Slake. Conflicts bclween republics olher than Russia and Ukraine may be more likely but. while violent, probably would remain localized

Least likely are conditions, much better than wc anticipate, ihat could halt ihc decay and breakup of the Soviet armed forces Such an ouicomc would require major improvement in lhe economicnow affecting lhc military and countering thc centrifugal forces al work in the former USSR


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