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i Intelligence Kslimjue
Soviet Policy Toward the United States4
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SOVIET POLICY TOWARD THE UNITED STATES4
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this estimate is issued by the director of central intelligence.
the national foreign intelligence board concurs except as noted in the text.
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This Special National Intelligence Estimate examines current Soviet policy toward tbe United Slates and prospects for major changes during the remaindern part, itontribution to the ongoing effort by the Intelligence Community to monitor the possibility that the Soviets may be preparing for some form of confrontation with the United States in the near term. This effort has assessed recent Soviet military activities as largely the product of longstanding or evolving plans, intended to increase Soviet strength for an intensified power struggle over the long term, rather than preparations for confrontation in the near term.
This SNIE's focus, however, is broader than that issue alone. Itomprehensive assessment of current Soviet policy toward the United States and possibilities for sharp changes of course. Such possibilities include Soviet moves which instigate or exploit local crisis situation! ond also initiatives relating to arms control negotiations. Soviet views about the current US administration make the possibility of major Soviet initiatives to influence the November election, or to exploit the political environment of lhc campaignentral concern of this Estimate.
Current Soviet policy toward the United States eipresses deep hostility to US aims and interests. It is shaped primarily by the Soviet perception that the United States is acting to alter the overall military power relationship, seeking to strengthen US alliances, and conducting regional securityfor the purpose of containing andSoviet influence in world affairs. US policies threaten to undercut earlier Soviet expectations thatoulderiod in which the USSR could, against the backdrop of its military power, expand its international influence at low risk, and enjoy the economic and diplomatic benefits of Western acceptance of its superpower status. US policies and pronouncements alsoegree of challenge to the moral and political legitimacy claims of the Soviet regime which its leaders find unusually disturbing. Soviet policy is motivated by the desire to combat and. if possible, deflect US policies, and toore permissive environment in which Soviet relative military power and world influence can continue to grow.
Current Soviet policy toward the United States makes hostile initiatives in crisis areas, such as Central America andistinct neat-term possibility. However, we do not see in current Soviet political and military behavior preparationeliberate major confrontation with the United States in the near future.
The Soviets perceive that US policies directed againstonsiderable base of political support within the United States and in NATO. AI the same time, they see weaknesses in thatbase which can be exploited to alter or discredit US policies, making it possible to blunt tbe challenge posed by tbe United States and perhaps to returnondition of detente on terms consistent withinternational ambitions.
The policy implications of these perceptions for Moscow are fairly straightforward, upoint:
Fust, Soviet leaders seem at present to believe that thethat the United States will continue the policies of tbe past several years into the rest of the decade is high enough to require some political and military gearing uperiod of lasting and more intense struggle How vigorous an effort this will require in the future ts uncertain to them, and possibly in some dispute
Second, the Soviets believe they can influence the content, effectiveness, and durability of US policies they see directed against them. The rigidity and hostility of Soviet policy toward the United States, on one hand, and attempts to take initiative and show flexibility, on the other, arc aimed at negating those policies. Up lo now, they have evidently calculated that rigidity and hostility are the most promising posture But their recent performance and the outlook for the future plausibly call this into question.
Moscow's policies toward the United States are focused onthe domestic and alliance bases of public support for US policies and programs. Hostile propaganda, which blames the United States for an increased danger of war and for diplomatic rigidity with regard to regional security and the major arms control issues, is used to put the US administration on the defensive where possible ond to excite opposition to Washington's policies.
Ai the sameostile stance toward the West is seen by Soviet leaders as convenient for exhorting greater discipline, sacrifice, and vigilance on the Soviet home front, where the Politburo is preoccupiedange of complex problems. These problems include stagnating economic performance and the resistance of the system to reform, flagging social morale and the dwindling effectiveness of exhortation and disciplinary measures to boost worker performance, continuing isolated dissent, ethnic nationalism, "antisocial" attitudes among youth, and some doubts among the elite as to top-leadership effectiveness.reat deal of their attention, these problems create aIneliberately stimulated image of the USSR's being embattled abroad is used by the Politburo to reinforce its political and ideological control at home.
An alternative view is thai, while the Soviet leaden recognize the existenceumber of longstanding domestic problems, they are not so preoccupied with addressing these issues that it prevents them from acting decisively and resolutely on foreign policies. Moreover, the holder of this view also believes that, while there may be some criticisms among party functionaries, there is no evidence that these criticisms affect Soviet policies.1
Although there may be debates among Soviet leaders about tactics toward the United States, wc believe that current Soviet policy,ominant hard line with steps and hints of progress,htat ihahtmi.re Agtncm
based on consensus in (he Politburo. The uncertain political power of General Secretary Chernenko. his and oilier Politburo members' limited foreign affairs expertise, and Cromyko's long experience as Foreign Minister have probably given the latter influence over Soviet foreign policy tactics he has not enjoyed under any previous General Secretary. We doubt, however, that he is unilaterally able lo enforce hisover tbe objections of the rest of the Politburo, or lhat explicit contention on foreignrecently rumored with respect to the USSR's space arms controlto his being temporarily overruled. The consensus rruintaioira mores of the Politburo and the skills of its members in avoiding isolation make such showdown situations unlikely. Rumors of foreign policy conflict in the Politburo are probably exaggerations of more routine debate over tactics, and may be deliberately spread to influence Western perceptions.
In the last few months, tbe Soviets have been amenable to progress on several US-Soviet bilateral issues and haverominent initiative on antisatcllite systems/space weapons negotiations. Onissues, such as the hotline upgrade and the renewal of the technical and economic cooperation accord, the Soviets appear motivatedesire to preserve the basis for substantive dialogue on issues of direct benefit to them, despite their underlying hostility toward the present US administration. The space weapons initiative, on the other hand, was intended primarily to stimulate concessions ftom the United States, or political controversy about them, in an election period when the Soviets judge that the administration wants to display progress in US-Soviet relations- Failing US concessions, the Soviets want,inimum, to deny the US administration any basis for claiming -that it can manage constructive US-Soviet relations while pursuing anti-Soviet military and foreign policy goals.
The USSR's as-yct inconclusive initiative on space^weapons is an example of the policy mix being pursued. Soviet behavior on this subject is motivatedrofound concern that the United States will develop strategic defensespace-based or an ABMwould seriously undercut the credibility of Soviet strategy andtrong desire to achieve real constraints, by agreement or political influence, on what the Soviets regard as threatening long-term technology challenges by the United States in space weapons. This desiic will persist and shape future Soviet actions whether there are space weapons talks in the near future or not. But sbort-tcrm political considerations have clearly Influenced the Soviets' tactics so far. They proposed specific talks in Vienna in Septemberombination of reasons: to put Washington on the defensive if it refused, to coax it into
majoi concession* if it chose not to refuse, and to stimulate politicalfrom Congress and elsewhere with US ASAT and space weapons programs. The Soviets have expected all of these possibilities to be greater in an election season, and have evidently been willing,ime, to risk the US administration's claiming progress on arms control for its own political advantage. Throughout the diplomatic exchanges that followed their proposal ofune, the Sovietsominant line of hostility and accusation that the United States blocks the talks with repeated hints that compromise leading to Vienna is possible.
The USSR is currentlyeliberate dual-track policy toward the United States. It involves, on one hand, hostile propaganda on all subjects, hostile acts such as harassment of US diplomats and tampering with access to Berlin, stubborn resistance to compromise on central arms control issues, and incremental increases in military capability dramatized by exercises and INF-related deployments. Il has also allowed, on the other hand, forward movement on selected bilateral issues and contained hints of progress on arms control and widerissues if the United States makes concessions. Sustained Soviet efforts to undermine US interests and policies, from Central America, to Europe, to the Middle East, are an integral part of this policy course.
We expect this mixed Soviet policy to continue in the near future. Itasis for denying political benefits to the USthe Soviets expect, but are not sure, will bewhile exploring for concessionsew tactical base for dealing with the administrationollowing term. This tactical posture leaves open the possibility of joining ASAT/space weapons talks in September If the United States appears ready to make inviting proposals, and also the possibility of refusing such talks, or walking out on them, if tbe administration looks politically vulnerable to such moves.
As of now, we believe the chances are well less than even that the Soviets will see it in iheir interest to start some form of ASAT/space weapons talks in September. They have probably not yet conclusively decided this, notwithstanding high-level assertions that talks arc not expected. In any case, they will handle the matter for the short-term purpose of stimulating pressuresS ASAT test moratorium and to coax concessions on the agenda and substantive issues. Should such talks begin, il is highly likely that the Soviets will hold over them the constant threatalkout or suspension to keep up this pressure. If they see the US administration as unbending on Soviet demands, divided within, and politically vulnerable as the election approaches, there is achance they would stage some sort of walkout for political effect. It
is somewhat more likely, liowever. that they would remain a( the talks, presscheduled adjournment or suspension before (he elections, andrumfire of public and private accusations that the administration is blocking progressital arms issue that could open the way to progress on the rest of the strategic arms control agenda. This tactic would maintain pressure on Washington for concessions, keep the issue alive during tbe campaign, but not damage irretrievably the prospects for resuming the game should the administration be reelect ed.
Soviet desires to exacerbate tbe political vulnerabilities of the administration or to exploit inhibitions on its behavior in the preelection period couldole in Soviet behavior toward potentiallysituations that may arise in regions of tension, or could be instigated by Soviet action. On the whole, Soviet behavior toward regional crisis contingencies will be governed more by localand risks than by the Soviet reading of the US politicalAs regards the latter, while the Soviets may sec opportunities to hurt the US administration politically or to exploit election-year inhibitions, they will also reflectpotty record of assessing theserealizingoviet challenge might strengthen thestanding and generate supportorceful response unwelcome to Moscow. The following examines possible contingencies we believe most worthy of attention, and we have reached judgments as to their probability:
In Central America, an insurgent offensive of limited scope and moderate effectiveness is likely to occur in El Salvador in late summer or the fall, and the Soviets expect it to undermine Washington's claim that its policies there are working. There is evidence that the Soviets are arranging the shipment9 trainer/combat aircraft to Nicaragua, possibly beforeAlthough the United Slates has made clear that it wilt not accept MIGs or other combat jets in Nicaragua, the Soviets would count on the less9 to introduce ambiguities into the situation and toS response. The Soviets would be betting that the United States is unwilling militarily to challenge9 deployment before the election, andby its prior acceptance to tolerate the planes thereafter. The Soviets may intend to introduce more advanced fighter aircraft (such as MIG-iUs) into Nicaragua at some point in the future Their decision on MIGs or other advanced aircraft would depend principally on US reaction to deployment of. The Soviets could also exploit the availability of Nicara- *
gua's Urge new military airbase for visits by Bearand ASW aircraft, to shape the political environment for other deployment actions, and for military activity, such as maritime monitoring at the approaches of the Panama Canal An alternative view is that the estimate places too much emphasis on9 issue. If these aircraft are shipped to Nicaragua, Moscow would perceive their introduction as only oneumber of increments in the Sandinista regime's militarywould include the corrstructionarge military airfield at Punta Huete and three Soviet-equipped communications intercept facilities. In evaluating the probable US response to the MIGs, Moscow would consider US reaction to all of such increments, not tolone The Soviet concern not to provoke the United States into military action that has kept Moscow from delivering MIGs to Nicaragua for over two years would continue in play.'
The Soviets may take hostile action against Pakistan to end its support of the Afghan resistance, the tenacity of which appears to have increased the Soviets' frustration and perhaps led to doubts as to whether they ought to be satisfied with their protracted strategy for imposing control on Afghanistan.
Soviets cannot direct Indian actions against Pakistan. But wc believe that the likelihood of India's taking action over the nextonths for its own reasons has risen distinctly, and we believe that the Soviets are in consultation with New Delhi about the situation and strongly motivated to exploitIt is somewhat less likely that the Soviets will make direct but limited attacks on Pakistan's border because this would present the best political circumstances for increased US support while not altering Zia's policies. Nevertheless, given Moscow's strong incentives to try to change Pakistan's policies toward the Afghan war, recent signs of increased Soviet pressure on Islamabad, and Moscow's inability to command Indian action against Pakistan, the prospect of unilateral Soviet political and military pressures on Pakistan, such as limited air attacks and hot-pursuit raids on border sites, cannot be ruled out. The Soviets may decide to increase the frequency and scale of limited cross-border raids in
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an attempt lo foioe President Zia lo rein in the insurgents, but we believe large-scale Soviet military actions against Pakistan remain unlikely.
In Ibe Persian Gulf region, escalation of the Iran-Iraq war and the prospect of US intervention might induce the USSRto apply military pressure on Iran to end the conflict and tooviet roleuperpower in the Gulf region-Various developments in the Gull are possible, but In the short term the most likely Soviet responses will be efforts to gain increased political influence in Iran and other regional states, rather than confrontational military actions. An Iranian victory over Iraq and Soviet reaction to it could leadoviet invasion of Iran, and therebyirect military confrontation with the United States. But we believe this course of events is highly unlikely In the time frame of this Estimate. There Is no evidence to suggest that the Soviets are readying their military forces in the region to exer! visible pressure or lo take local action, but they could be brought within weeks lo sufficient readiness to attack Iran orartoviet pressure campaign against Iran.
In BeWin. where tlic Soviets have been acting to remind tbe West of its vulnerable access, the Soviets could escalate pressures to stimulate fear and tension among the United States and itsSome increase in Soviet actions to test US and allied reactions cannot be ruled out in the short term We beheve any major escalation of pressure is very unlikely because the risk of counterproductive political effects in the Westenuine confrontation is higher than the Soviets wish to run now.
Taken together, these regional conflict situations, in which USinterests are opposed and (be potential for local conflictis significant, generate possibilities for limited US-Sovietover corning months which we cannot rule out, although weunlikely. Circumstances could arise in which local eventsSoviet desire to gain local objectives and. secondarily, toUnited States, resultingegree of confrontation the USSRoriginally seek. Domestic political conditions in the Unitedplay some role tn Soviet calculations. Tlie Soviets would expectperiod to impose inhibitions on US response's to theirother developments which would enhance their prospects of local
esser extent, they may expect regional crises to put the US
' on the delensive regarding its overall foreign policy. At
the same time, uncertainties about US reactions to challenge and about the political effects of Soviet challenges on US politics will continue toestraining influence on Moscow's actions.
Recent Soviet military and political actions have created concern that the Soviets may be preparingajor military confrontation with the United States. During the past six months or so the Soviets haveigorous program of large-scale military exercises, have engaged in anomalous behavior with respect to troop rotation and withdrawn military support for harvest activities, have demonstratively deployed weapon systems in response to NATO's INF deployments, and have heightened internal vigilance and security activities. Amidst continuing propaganda and intermittent reporting
^Jabout Soviet fears of impending war, there is concern that recent Soviet military and defense-related activities might be read as revealing (or attempting to cloud) definite Soviet preparationsear-term confrontation with the United States that could sharply heighten the riskeneral war.
There is also concern about the possibility that the Sovietmight beind tonow-or-never" effort to dramatically shift the terms of the US-Soviet power struggle through central confrontation, fearful that future Soviet domestic problems may make it excessively difficult for the USSR to achieve its military andgoals in the future. It is feared that Soviet military activities could be in preparation foronfrontation.
We strongly believe that Soviet actions are not inspired by, and Soviet leaders do notenuine danger of imminent conflict or confrontation with the United States. Also, we do not believe that Soviet war talk and other actions "mask" Soviet preparations for an Imminent move toward confrontation on the part of the USSR.
Supporting the conclusion, the analysis underlying the present Estimate has led us to judge, further:
The Soviet leadership displays an expectation of intensified power competition with the United States in the years ahead, along with some hope that US policies can be deflectedombination of stubbornness and cajolery. It does not nowiew that dangerous confrontation may be required to defend its interests and advance its power.
While pleased with the USSR's improved military situation achieved in the past decade, the Soviet leadership Is not so confident in it that it would deliberately seekentral test of US-Soviet strategic strength to "keep history on track."
Patterns of power and decisionmaking in the Soviet Politburo at present are very unlikely to generate initiatives that aredangerous for its members,isky confrontational strategy would be.
Examined comprehensively, Soviet military and defense-related activities are in line with long-evolving plans and patterns, rather than with sharp acceleration of preparationsajor wax. Noteworthy by their absence are widespread logistics, supply, and defense-economic preparations obligated by Soviet war doctrines and operational requirements. We have high confidence in our ability to detect them if they were occurringide scale.
To be sure, Soviet propaganda and other information activities have deliberately tried to create the imageangerous international environment, of Soviet fear of war, and of possible Soviet willingness to contemplate dangerous actions. Some, although by no means all, recent Soviet military activity appears lo have been directed in part at supporting this campaign, especially large and visible Soviet military exercises. We believe that the apprehensive outlook the Soviets have toward the long-term struggle with the United Stales has prompted themespondontrolled display of military muscle.
In reaching these judgments, we must point out that the indicators and methodologies of our strategic warning establishment are oriented toward the provision of warning of warhort period, at most one to Iwo months. Because we give less emphasis to defense-economic and other home front measures that might provide strategic warning beyond soeriod, andattern of such activities isdifficult to detect in their early stages unless deliberatedly signaled by the regime, we have less confidence in longer range warning based on military and defense-related activities alone. However, In the tola) context of Soviet foreign and domestic developments, we judge it very unlikely that the Soviets are now preparingajor war or for confrontation that could leadajor war in the short run.
It is possible that, following the US elections and their reading of the overall political results, the Soviets could adjust their present foreign policy tactics to give more emphasis to steps of limited accommodation. Their aim would be to encourage US political trends that would deflect or alter the defense and foreign policies of the United States which the Soviets see directed against them. They wouldeturn in some form to the detente environment of then which they enjoyed many political and economic benefits of East-West amity but
suffered few constraints on ihe expansion of iheir military power and international activities directed against the West, especially in the Third World. Although political circumstances in the West, both in the Uniled Stales and in Europe, may encourage them Io make more serious attempts in this direction than in the past several years, the present Soviet leaders appreciate that detente consistent with longstanding Soviet aims requires fundamental changes in US policies,ubstantial US retreat from efforts to contain Soviet power. They also appreciate that this is unlikely to be accomplished solely by diplomatic maneuver on their part.
It is highly unlikely that the Soviets will fundamentally moderate their military and international aims and shiftolicy of genuine and far-reaching accommodation toward the United States in the period of this Estimate. This could occur in the years aheadesult of the USSR's facing greater internal problems and external obsUcks. For tbe present and the foreseeable future, Soviet leaden are likely to remain attached to expanding their military and international power. They will try to manage the Soviet internal system to sustain these objectives. They would like toorm of East-West detente that facilitates these objects ves while limiting the costs and risks of pursuing them They arc not yet readyorm of detente that forswears the expansion of their power.
In brief summary, the near term projections we have made are as follows (percentages are merely for display of qualitative jtjdgment; note that judgments of probable Soviet behavior in some cases are contingent on prior developmentsower probability):
The USSR is likely to continue through the remainder4 the mixed policy toward the United States observed during the summer months so far, with heavy emphasis on hostility and rigidity, but with an undercurrent of hints about progress in bilateral relations and armsercent).
It is now unlikely, but not ruled out, that the USSR will agree at the last minute to commence space weapons talks inercent) The odds rise sharply if the United States agrees to an ASAT testercent).
Should space weapons talks begin in September, therehance that ilw Soviets will contrive some sort of breakoff to damage the US administrationut more likely that they will simply accuse the United States of blocking substantiveercent).
A moderately effective insurgent offensive is very likely to occur in El Salvador in late summer or the fall, and the Soviets will welcome it for putting significant although not decisive political pressure onercent).
It is likely Out the Soviets will9 jet aircraft intot is unlikely that more advanced fighters (such as) will be introduced beforehould they successfully, then the probability of their sending more advanced fighters rises. See the alternative view, held by the Director, Bureau ofand Research, Department of State, as referenced inhe Soviets could also use the new large airfield soon to be completed for visits by Bear reconnaissance and ASW aircraft
Should India evince interest in attacking Paktstanp
be privately supportive, and probably would agree to provide intelligence and some logistiche Soviets* main aim would be an end to Pakistan's support of the Afghan resistance.
There iserious possibility that the Soviets will take escalated unilateral military steps such as airstrikes and hot-pursuit actions to pressure Islamabad toward this end in the monthsajor Soviet attack on Pakistan, requiring new deployments and some weeks of preparation, is very unlikely during the period of this Estimateear-term Soviet behavior toward the more probable develop men Is in tbe Iran-Iraq war is likely to be continued efforts toward political openings in Tehran and among the Persian Gulfnly in the event of dramatic military success by Iran againstercent) or major USon Iranian soil are the Soviets likely to take direct military measures towardercent).
The Soviets are unlikely to escalate substantially their present very low-key pressures on Berlinhey may, however, test Western reactions by small increases in the degree and visibility of pressures they are nowercent).
There is some likelihood that the Soviets will try, following the USix of tactics toward the United States that give greater emphasis to flexibility on arms control and movement Mi bilateral issues, without giving up fundamentalontinuation of present policy mix well5 is moreercent).
Is highly improbable that the Soviets will shift to mote far-reaching accommodations toward the United States during tbe period of this Estimateercent).
is highly unlikely that the USSR is now preparing for and will move deliberatelyisible posture of direct, high-level military confrontation with the United States during the next six monthst cannot be ruled out, however, that the USSR could move quickly intoostureesult of acrisis escalation not now planned or sought byercent).