Special National Inlelligence Eslimate
Implications of Recent Soviet Military-Political Activities
CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROG RELEASE AS SANITIZED
IMPLICATIONS OF RECENT SOVIET MILITARY-POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
THIS ESTIMATE IS ISSUED BY THE DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTEUIGENCE.
THE NATIONAL FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BOARD CONCURS, EXCEPT AS NOTED IN THE TEXT.
The tallowing intelligence organization, participated in the preparation of the Estimate:
The Central Inteetrjtnee Aoency. the De'eme Mefcoenco Aoency. the Nohond Securityond the esteSgerice reocWicmon ol the Deportmenl ol Stole.
The AjMtonrl Stofl (or Ir.teiioence. Depcelaent ofy The Director of Wend fnteeigence. Deportmenl of ihe Novy The An.Chief of Staff, InleKoeoce. Deportment of the Air fortt The Director of Inttlllgence,Marine Cor pi
During the past severalumber of coincident Soviet activities have created concern that they reflect abnormal Soviet fear of conflict with the United States, belligerent intent that might risk conflict, or some other underlying Soviet purpose. These activities have included large-scale military exercises (amongajor naval exercise in (He Norwegian Sea, unprecedentedaunch activity, and large-scale SSBNreparations for air operations against Afgrianistan; attempts to change the air corridor regime in Berlin; new military measures termed responsive to NATO INF deployments; and shrill propagandaeightened danger of war to US behavior.
Examining these developments in terms of several hypotheses, we reach thc following conclusions:
believe strongly lhat Soviet actions are not inspired by, and Soviet leaders do notenuine danger of imminent conflict or confrontation with the United States. This judgment is based on the absence of forcewide combat readiness or other war preparation moves in the USSR, and the absenceone of fear or belligerence in Soviet diplomatic communications, although the latter remain uncomprooiising on many issues. There have also been instances where the Soviets appear to have avoided belligerent propaganda or actions. Recent Soviet "war scare" propaganda, of declining intensity over the period examined, is aimed primarily at discrediting US policies andpeace" pressures among various audiences abroad. This war scare propaganda has reverberated in Soviet security bureaucracies and emanated through other channels such as human sources. We do not believe it reflects authenticfears of imminent conflict
do not believe that Soviet war talk and otherask" Soviet preparations for an Imminent move toward confrontation on the part of the USSR, althcHigh they have an incentive to take initiatives that discredit US policies even at some risk. Were the Soviets preparing an initiative they believedeal risk of military confrontation with thc United States, we would see preparatory signs which the Soviets could not mask.
The Soviel actions examined are influenced to some extent by Soviet perceptionsounting challenge from US foreign and defense policy. However, these activities do not all fit Into anpattern of current Soviet foreign policy tactics.
Each Soviet action has its own military or political purpose sufficient to explain it. Soviet military exercises are designed to meet long-term requirements for force development andwhich have become ever more complex with thc growth of Soviet miliiary capabilities.
In specific cases, Soviet military exercises are probably intended to have llie ancillary effect of signaling Soviel imwer and resolve to some audience. For instance, maneuvers In thc Tonkin Gulf were aimed at backing Vietnam against China; Soviet airpower use in Afghanistan could have been partly aimed at intimidating Pakistan; and Soviet action on Berlin has the effect of reminding the West of its vulnerable access, but very low-key Soviet handling has muted this effect
Taken in their totality, Soviet talk about the increased likeliriood of nuclear war and Soviet military actions doolitical intention of speakingouder voice and showing firmnessontrolled display of military muscle. Thc apprehensive outlook we believe lhe Soviet leadership has toward the longer term US arms buildup could fn the fuiure increase its willingness to considereven at some heightenedrecapture the Initiative andthe challenge posed by the United States.
These Judgments are tempered by some uncertainty as to current Soviet leadership perceptions of lhc United States, by continued uncertainty about Politburo decisionmaking processes, and by our inability at this point loetailed examination of how the Soviets mighl have assessed recent US/NATO military exercises and reconnaissance operations. Notwithstanding these unccrt.iin tics,we are confident lhal, as of now, the Soviets sec not an imminent military clashostlysomeperilous stralegic and political struggle over lhe rest of the decade.
There hu been much Soviel talk about lhe increased danger of nuclear war. This lhc me has appeared In public pronouncements br Soviet poliiical and military leaders, in slalemenls by high officials targeted at both domestic and foreign audiences. In internal communications, and in other channels Soviet authorities have declared that Washington Is preparing for war, aod have issued dire warnings that the USSR will not give In lo nuclear blackmail or other military pressure. The articulation of this theme has paralleled the Soviet campaign to derail US INF deployment. It continues to Ihis day. althoughomewhat lower intensity In recent months than in
Since3 there hasigh level of Soviet military activity, with new drmloyments of weapons and strike forces, large-scale militaryand several other noteworthy events;
frVF response: Start of construction of additionalases following Andropov's announcement on3 of termination ofmonth moratorium oneploymentsNATO:patrolsI nuclear-powered cruise missileoff the USpforwarf dcploy-mcntT*long-rangelass SSBNs; and the start of deployment^m rangeissiles in East Cermany andand continued propaganda and active measures against INF deployment.
Responre lo NATO eiercise: Assumption by Soviet air units In Cermany and Poland^
Jof high alert status with readying of nudear strike forces as NATO"Ableuclear releasepost exercise.
exercises: Large-scale exercise activity during spring
featuring theofna SLBMs;Including the dispersal
operational Northern Fleet SSBNs supported by
a large number of shipsiZ
Berlin air corridors: Periodic Soviet imposition beginning1 of minimum flight altitudes for lhe entire length of one or more of the Berlin airunilateral change In the rules governing air access to Berlin.
A/ghanUlan: Deployment in mid-April ofairborne units to Afghanistan, launchingajor spring offensive Into Ihe Panither Valley, and initiation onpril for lhe first time of high-Intensity bombing of Afghanistan byndombers based in the USSR.
East Arid; Deployment in3 of navaltrike aircrafl to Vietnam for the first time: posiliontng of both Soviet operational aircraft carriers for the first time simultaneously In Asian waters Innd the first foint Soviet/VVetnainese amphibious assault exercises on the coast of Vietnam in April.
mall combined Soviet/Cubanexercise in the Culf of Mexico, with the first-ever visitoviet helicopter carrier In April/ May, and Soviet/Cuban antisubmarine drills.
Troop rotation: Initiation of the airlifl portion of Soviet troop rotation In Eastern Europeays later in April than this has occurred for the past five years.
This Estimate explores whether the Soviet talk about thc Increasing likelihood of nuclear war aod the Soviet military activities listed aboveattern of behavior Intended either to alarm or intimidate the United States and its allies or to achieve other goals.
pecifically, in examining the facts we address five explanatory hypotheses:
i Both the Soviet talk about war and lhe military activities have been consciously orchestrated
the board to achieve political ellecti thiough polluting and propaganda The object has been to discredit US defense and foreign policies; to pill Washington on notice that the USSR wilt pursue aevenunless US concessions areo maintain an atmosphere of tension conducive to pressure by "peace" groups on Westernand, if possible, tu undercut Presidenteelection prospects.
b Soviet behav>oresponse to Washington's rhetoric. US military procurement and RSD goals, and US military eacrcisc* andactivilies near Soviethave excited Soviet concerns and caused Moscow to lies its own military responuveness. signaling
to Washington thatrepared for any
Itself is preparing for threatenlogaction In the futureegreeThe real aim behind its receni actionsto alarm, but to desensitise the Unitedhigher levels of Soviei militaryintended future moves and reducingtime
weak General Secretary and politicalthe Soviet loadenhip have lessenedat tho lop and permitted aunder abnormally high militaryto pursue its own agenda,ormore confrontationalobserver.
Soviet military actions at issue are notthe talk about war and are basicallyevents, each with its own rationale
Soviot Talk About Nuclear War
ur assessment of the meaning of alarmistand propaganda about the danger of nuclear wartarting point for evaluating recent Soviet military activities
oviet talk about the war danger ishighly orchestrated. It has obvious external aims:
Toense international climate that"peace" activism In the West and public pressure on Western governments to backtrack
on INF deployment, reduce commitments to NATO, and dislance themselves from US foreign
To elicit concessions in arms control negotiations by nurupuUtirtg the anateties of Westernleaders about Soviet thinking.
To Strengthen cohesion within the Warsaw Pact and reinforce Soviet pressure for higher military outlays bv non-Soviet member state*, i
The overall propaganda campaign against the United Stales has recently been supplemented with thof fhe Olympic Games.
talk about tlse danger of nuclear war alsoclear domestic propaganda -function toon the Soviet labor force, continueddeprivation, and ideological vigilance in themessage is abo being disseminated^
^within tlir Sonet and Eastbureaucracies. Q
central question remains what are theal top decisionmaking levels of theOur Information aboul such leadershipb largely inferential Nevertheicsa, wetn several broad conclusions
we believe that thereeriousUS defense and foreign policy trends There Ismeasure of agreement among both politicalleaders that the Uniied States hasglobal offensive against Soviet Interestshe overall scope and momentumUS military buildup. Fundamentally, theconcerned lhat US programs will undercutmilitary strategy and force posture. Seen inMoscow condemns INF deploymentoreand comprehensive US effort alined atmilitaryhe ihteat here Ubut longer term However, tlie abilityUnited States to cairy out its longer term plansby Soviet readers not only toaudiences but also because theysome uncertainty In the ability of the Unitedsustain its military effort.
0 Sccortdly, In our Judgment the nature of that much political mtilitary.eakhy reaped for US technological prowess and anxiety that this could in due course be used against the USSR. The Soviets are thus concerned that the United States might pursue an arms competition that could over time strain the Soviet economy aod disrupt the regime's ability to manage competing military and
reouiremcnu. More immediately, tlie Soviet! are concerned that the United Slates couldhift in the overall balance of military power which, through more Interventionist foreign policies, could effectively thwart the eilension of Soviet influence in world affairs and even roll tb&ck po.it Sov lot itaiirif. From this perspective, tlie United States" actions in Central America. Lebanon. Crenada. and southern Africa are seenoken of what could be expectedroader scale in the future
hird, and most important for this assessment, we do not believe the Soviet leadership sees an imminent threat of war with the United States. It is conceivable that the stridency of Soviet "war scare" propagandaenuine Soviet worryear-future attack on them. This concern could be inspired by Soviet views about the depth of anti-Soviet intentions In Washington combined with elements of their own military doctrine projected onto thc United States, sueh as the virtues of surprise, striking first, and masking hostile initiatives in exercises. Some political and military loaders have stressed the danger of war more forcefully than others, suggesting that there may have been differences on thisat least how to talk about thethe past half year.
owever, on the basis of what wo believe to be very strong evidence, we Judge that thc Soviet leader-ship docs not perceive an Imminent danger of war. Our reasons are the following:
The Soviets have not initiated the miliurymoves they would have made If theya US attack were imminent.
In private US diplomaticth Moscow over the past six months the Soviets have neither made any direct threats connected with regional or other issues nor betrayed any fearS atuck.
Obligatory public assertions of the viability of the Soviet nuclear deterrent have been paralleled by private assertions within regime circles by Soviet experts that there Istable nuclear balance in which the United States does not have sufficient strengthirst strike.
recent months top leaders, including thoof Defense and Politburo member Dmitriy Ustinov, have somewhat downplayed the nuclear war danger, noting that it should not be "over-dramatized" (although Ustinov's recent Victory
Day speech returnedomewhat shriller tone. At the same time, high foreign affairs officials have challenged tlse thesis that the Unit-ed States can unleash nuclear war and have emphasized constraints onourse of action.
Moreover, the Soviets know that the United States is at present far from having accomplished all of its force buildup objectives.
Recent Soviel /Vtilitary Activities
t Is possible that some of the Soviet miliury activities listed above were intended, as ancillary to thetr military objectives, to intimidate selected audiences:
The East Asian naval maneuvers, deployment of strike aircraft to Vietnam, and amphibioushave displayed military muscle to China.
Tbe bombing campaign In Afghan bun could be seen not only as an operation against thebut abo as an implicit threat toand perhaps Iran.
In mounting large-scale and visible exercises (such as the March-April Northern and Baltic Fleet exercise In the Norwegian Sea)ould understand that they could be perceived as threatening by NATO audiences-
Soviet INF-related miliUry activities have also been designed to convey an impression to the West that the worldore dangerous place following US INF deployment and that the USSR is making good on Its predeptoyment threats to counter with depIoymcnU of its own.
There is uiscertalnty within the intelligence Community on the origins of Soviet behavior with respect to thc Iserhn air corridors. It Is possible that Soviet actioneliberate reminder of Western vulnerability. Alternatively, airspace rcqulromenU for exercises may have motivated this move- Thc low-key manner in which the Soviets have handled the Issue does not suggest that they have been Interested In squeezing access to Berlin for Intimidation purposes. Nevertheless, the Soviets have been in the process of unilaterally changing the corridor flight rules and thereby reminding the West of their ultimate power to control access to Berlinhort hiatus in late April and early May. the Soviets declared new air corridor restrictions, indicating that Ihis effort contin-
ues.ossibly related, very recent development, the Soviets declared tight new restrictions on travel In East Cermany by allied missions located in Potsdam.
umber of instances wc have observed the Soviets avoiding threatening behavior or propaganda when they miebi have acted otherwise, perhaps in some cases to avoid embarrassment orFor example, they:
Never publicly acknowledged the incident tn3 Inoviet attackwas disabledhe US coast as It attempted toS ASW ship, and moved the sub nuickly out of Cuba where it had come for emergency repairs.
reaction to this recent exercise included^'
the placing of Soviet air units in Fast Cermany Poland in heightened rcadincssP[
Alert measures included increasing the number of Tighter-interceptors on strip alert.C
Although the Soviet reaction was somewhat groatcithsn usual, by confiningreadiness to selected air units Moscow clearly revealed that it did not ia fact think thereossibility at this timeATO attack.
no tangible action in March when one of their merchant tankersine off Nicaragua
Notified Washington of multiple missile launches In early Aprilesture of "good will'*
Reaction to US actioni? The new Sovietof nuclear-armed submarines off US coasts and the forward deployment ofissiles In Eastern Europeoviet reaction to NATO INF deployment, which the Soviets claim is verytothc threat perceived hero by Moscow is certainly not ooe of imminent nuclear attack.
Soviet military exercisesthemselves sometimesreactive" element. F_
"Ta key Issue Is whether this counterexercis-ins takes on the character of actual preparation for responseerceived Ihreal of possible US attack.
ase inho Soviet reaction to "AblehisATO command post exercise held In3 that wu larger than previous "Able Archer" exercisers^
"iThe elaborate Soviet
How the Soviets choose to respond to ongoing US military activities, such as exercises andoperalions, depends on how they assess their scope, the trends they may display, and above all the hostile intent that might be read into them. We are at present uncertain as to what novelty or possible mlli-tary objectives the Soviets may have read Into recent US and NATO exercises and reconnaissance operationsetailed comparison of simultaneous "Rod" and "Blue" actions hu not been acccmiplished. The Sovietsn thc past, ascribed the samecharacter to these activities as lo US military buildup plans, thai is. calling them preparations for war. But tbey have notS intent to prepare for imminent war
Preparation for lurgriit jnllitanj action? There Is one case in our set of military activities that might conceivably be ascribed to the "masking" of threatening Soviet initiatives. For the first time in five years, tbe airlift portion of the troop rotation In Eastern Euiope began onpril rather thanpril This may havehange In training and manning practices or the introduction of new airlifl procedures. The change of timing of the airlift portion of the annual troop rotation could alsotep towardarningdelay of annual Soviet troop rotations which would prevent degradation of the forces bytrained men But the rail portion of the rotation began ahead of schedule and. In any event, the pattern of rotation wu within broad historical norms.
in early April, when the Soviets began toa bomber strike force In tbe Turkestan Military
there wai some concern lhal it mightmasking of preparations for operations against Pakistan, or even Iran, rather Ihan against Ihe most obvious target. Afghanistan At this point the force is clearly occupied against Afghanistan. It was never suitably deployed for use against Iran. We believe that, although the force could be used againstaior air offensive against Pakistan withoutor precursor political pressure would serve no Soviet purpose and is eitremely unlikely.
reject the hypothesis that weak central leadership accounts for thc Soviet actions examined here.
omprehensive pallem? In our view, the military activities under examination here do tend to have their own military rationales and the exercises arc Integrated by long-term Soviet force development plans. However, these activities do not all fit into an integrated pattern of current Soviet foreign policy tactics. The different leadtirnes involved in initiating various activities argue against orchestrationoliticalumber of the activities represent routine training or simply refine previous exercises. In other cases, thc activities respond to circumstances that could not have been predicted ahead of time.
olicy impact of leadership weakness or factionalism? The Soviet Union had threeSecretaries In as many years and, given the age and frail health of Chernenko, yet another change can be expectedew years. This uncertain political environment could be conducive to increasedwithin the leadership and magnification of policy disagreements. Some have argued that either the Soviet militaryardline foreign policy faction led by Cromyko and Ustinov exerts more Influence than it could weretronger figure Although Individual Soviet military leaden enjoy great authority in the regime and military priorities remain high for the whole leadership, we do not believe that the Soviet military, as an institution, is exertingheavy Influence on Soviet policy. Nor do we believe that any faction is exerting influence other than through Politburo consensus- Consequently wa
Taken in their totality, Soviet talk about the increased likelihood of nuclear war and Soviet military actions doolitical intention of speakingouder voice and showing firmness through adisplay of military muscle. At the same time, Moscow has given little sign of desiring to escalate tensions sharply or to provoke possible armedwith the United States.
Soviet talk of nuclear war has been deliberately manipulated to rationalize military efforts withaudiences and to influence Western electorates and political elites. Some Soviet military activities have abo been designed to have an alarming or Intimidating effect on various audiences (notably INFhe naval exercise In theSea, and naval and air activities in Asia).
Our assessment of both Soviet talk aboutwar and Soviet military activitiesery tow probability that the top Soviet leadership isworried about the Imminent outbreak of nuclear war, although It is quite possible that officialand vigilance campaigning have generated an atmosphere of anxiety throughout the military and security apparatus. The available evidence suggests that none of the military activities discussed- in this Estimate have been generatedeal fear of imminent US attack.
lthough recent Soviet military exerciseswith other ongoing Soviet programs to heighten overall military capabilities, we believe it unlikely that they arc intended to mask current or near-future preparations by thc USSR for some directly hostile military initiative. Moreover, wc are confident that the activities we have examined in this Estimate would
not successfully mask all the extensive logistic and other military preparations the Soviets would have to commence wellealistic oflcnsive initiative against any maior regional security target.
Both thc talk of nuclear war and the military activities address tho concernsonger timeMoscow's inability to elicit major concessions in the arms talks, successful US INF deployment,most important by far the long lerm prospectuildup of US strategic and conventional military forces, have created serious concern in the Kremlin We judge that the Soviet leadership does indeed believe that the United Stair* is atlempting loiliiary posture that severely undercuts the Soviet power position in the world
The opprehensive outlook we believe the Soviet leadership has toward the longer term Weslern sums buildup could in live future increase its wUllngness to0 heightened'recapture the Initiative and neutralize the military challenge posed by the United Slates. Warning of such actions could be ambiguous.
ur judgments in this estimate arc subject to ihree main sources of uncertainty. We haveinformation about:
a. The current mind-set of thc Soviet political leadership, which has seen some of its optimistic international expectations from the Brezhnev era disappointed.
b- The ways in which military operations andpolicy tactics may be influenced by political differences and the policy process in lhe Kremlin
c. The Soviet reading of our own militarythai is, current reconnaissance and exercises.
Notwithstanding these uncertainties, however, we are confident that, as of now, the Soviets see not an imminent military clashostlysomeperilous strategic and political struggle over the rest of thc decade
van ^tttd--'Original document.