IMPLICATIONS OF RECENT SOVIET MILITARY - POLITICAL ACTIVITIES

Created: 5/18/1984

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Implications of Recent Soviet Military Political Activities

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IMPLICATIONS OF RECENT SOVIET MILITARY-POLITICAL ACTIVITIES

this estimate is issued by the director of central intelligence.

the national foreign intelligence board concurs, except as noted in the text.

The following intelligence organization participated in the preparation of the Estimate:

The Central InteKgcnce Agency, Ihe Defense Intelligence Agency, the Notional Security Agency, ond the intelligence orgoniiotion of the Deportment of State.

Also Participating!

The Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army The Director of Naval InteSgence. Department of the Navy The Assistant Chief of Staff, lnt**genee. Department of the Air Force The Director of Intelligence. Headquarters. Marino Corps

KEY JUDGMENTS

During the post severalumber of coincident Soviet activities have created concern that ihey reflect abnormal Soviei fear of conflict with (he United States, belligerent intent thai might risk conflict, or sonic other underlying Soviet purpose These activities have included large-scahr military exercises (amongajor naval exercise in the Norwegian Sea. unprecedentedaunch activity, and large-scale SSBNreparations for iilr operations against Afghanistan; attempts to change tin: air corridor regime in Berlin; new military measures termed responsive Io NATO INF deployments; and shrill propagandaieightened danger of war to US |

Examining these developments in terms of several hypotheses, we reach the following conclusions:

We believe strongly thai Soviet actions are noi inspired by. and Soviet leaders do notenuine danger of imminent conflict or confrontation with the United States This judgment is bawd on the absence of forcewide combat readiness or other war preparation moves in lhe USSR, and the absenceone of fear or belligerence in Soviet diplomatic communications, although lhe latter remain uncompromising on many issues. There have also been instances where the Soviets appear to have avoided belligerent propan.uula or actions Recent Soviet "war scare" propaganda, of declining intensity over the period examined, is aimed primarily at discrediting US policies and mobilizing "peace" pressures among various audiences abroad. This war scare propaganda has reverberated in Soviet security bureaucracies and emanated through otltcr cliannels such as human sources. We do not believe it reflects authenticfears of imminent cunflict.|

We do noi believe thai Soviet war talk and olher actions "musk" Soviei prcparallons for an imminent move toward confrontation on the part of the USSR, although 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 the United States, we would see preparatory signs which the Soviets could noi mask.f-

The Soviet actions examined are influenced to some extent by-Soviet perceptionsounting challenge from L'S foreign and defense policy. However, these activities do not all fit into an tn-tesrated pattern of current Soviet foreign policy tactics | j

Each Soviet action has its own military or political purixne sufficient to explain il. Soviet military exercises are designed to meet long-term requirements for force development andwhich have become ever more complex with the growl It of Soviet military capabilities

In specific cases, Soviet military exercises are probably intended to have the ancillary effect of sigmling Soviet power and resolve to some audience. For instance, maneuvers in the Tonkin Gulf were aimed at backing Vietnam against China; Soviet airpower use in Afghanistan could have been partly aimed at intimidating Pakistan; and Soviet aclion on Berlin has the effect of reminding the West of iu vulnerable access, but very low-key Soviet handling has muted this effect

Taken in their totality, Soviet talk about the increased likelihood of nuclear war and Soviet military actions doolitical intention of speakingouder voice and showing firmnessontrolled display of military muscle. The apprehensive oullook we believe the Soviel leadership has toward the longer term US arms buildup could in the future increase its willingness to considereven at some heightenedrecapture the initiative andthe challenge posed by the United St*te*.Q

These judgments ure tempered by some uncertainty as to current Soviet leadership perceptions of the United States, bv continued uncertainty about Politburo decisionmaking processes, and by our inability al this point loetailed examination of how the Soviets might have assessed recent US/NATO military exercises aod reconnaissance operation* Notwithstanding these uncertainties,we are confident that, as of now, the Soviets see not an imminent military clashostlysomeperilous strategic and political struggle over ihe rest of the decade j

Tup

1 There haa been much Soviet ulk about the UKTraard dinger ot nuclear war That theme has appeared In public proraourxemcrtts bv SoMet political and militaryn statements by hush officials targeted at both domestic and foreign audiences, in inlernal communications, and in other channels Soviet authorities Iiave declared lhat Washington is preparing lorand have issued dire warnings lhat the USSR will not give In to nuclear blackmail or other military pressure Tlie articulation of this themr hat paralleled the Soviet eainpaum to derail US INF deployment It cootinura to ibis das. althoughornew hat lower intensity in recent months than in

ince3 there hasigh level of Soviet military activity, with new deployments of weapons and strike forces, large-scale militaryand several other notewoithv events:

INFtart of conHructtnn ul additHinalowingannouncement on8 of lermlnatioo ofniorilh moratorium oneployment'NATO.petrolslruise misSl* lubma-rines off tha US coast; first-ever forwardlong-rangelassand lhe slart ofkm ranee SS: mi^Ies inlovakia, and continued rxopaganda and active miuuiriINF deploy mrnl

fteaporue to SATO earrewr AanunpOon by Wirt air units in Cetrnany and Poland from!

lot high alert -talus with

readyinst ol nuclear strike forces as NATO"Ableuclear.release com* maml peal exercise.

t-itrcUft: Large-scale exrreiae activity during,4 which has -Jreu-ed Integrated strategic strike operatiora (eatuiirat the multiple bunches ofndtraining including the dispersalperational Northern Fleet SSBNi supportedarge number of ships;

fiVr/mcomdort. Periodic Soviet imposition beginning4 of minimum flight altitude* lor the entire length of one or more of the Berlin airunilateral change in the rules governing air access lo Berlin

A/gfuiniilan. Deployment in mid-April ofairborne units to Afghanistan, launchingajor spring offensive into the Paiusher Valley, and Initiation onpril lor tin- first time of high mt ci nil* bombing of Alghanlstan byndombers baaed in the USSR

.ASM.n3 of naval TUtrike aircraft to Vietnam for the first time; positioning of both Soviet operational aircraft carriers for lhe first time simultaneously in Asian waters Innd the first jointei namese amphibious assault eiercises on the cruil of Vietnam in April

mall cooiUrwd Soviet Cubaneiercise In lhe Cuff ol Meuco. with the first-ever vitaloviet rsebcoptrr carrier in Apni/ May. and Soviet/Cuban antisubmarine drills.

Troop rotation; Initiation of the airlift portion of Soviet tmop rotation In Easlerri Europeays later in April than this has occurred fur the past live years

This Estimate explore* whet bet the Soviet talk about the increasing like-ihnod of nuclear war and the Soviet military activities listed aboveattern of behavior intended cither to alarm or intimidate the United States and its allies or to achieve other uoah-|

Possible Explonotions

pecifically, in examining Ihe fads wc address five explanatory hypotheses:

a. Both lhe Soviet talk about war and the military activities have been consciouslv orchest rated

S Hi

across Ilie board lo achieve political effects through posturing and propaganda. The obiect has been to discredit IS defense and foreign policies; to put Washington nn notice that the USSR will putsuc aevenunless US coocrrooro are fcalhcormng. to maintain an atmosphere ot* tension conducive to pressure bv "peace" groups on Westernand. il possible, to undercut President Reagan's reelection prospects.

b Soviet behavioresponse to Washington's rhetoric, US military procurementoals, and US military exercises and reennnais-saoor activities near Soviethave exited Soviet concerns and caused Moscow To flex its own military responsiveness, signaling to Washington lhat it Is prepared (or any eventuality

itself is preparing for threateningaction in the futureeal aim behind its recent actionsto alarm, bul to desensrhre tbe Unitedhigher levels of Soviet militaryIntended future moves and reducingHun;.

weak General Secretary and politicalIhe Soviet leadership have lessenedat the top and permitted aunder abnormally high militaryto pursue its own agenda,ormore corafrontationalobserver.

Soviet military actions at issue aro notthe talk about war and are basicallyevents, each with its own rationale

Soviet Toft About Nocleor War

4 Our asaeauneiit of the meaning of alarmistami propaganda about lite danger of nuclear wartarling point for evaluating recent Soviet military activities. Q

oviet talk about the WB* danger Ishighly orchestrated It has obvious eaternal aims:

Toense international climate thai"peace" activism inl and public pressure on Western governments to backtrack on INF deployment, reduce commitments to NATO, and dUtance themselves Irum US foreign policy objectives

To elicit concessions in arms control negotiations bv manipulating the ansieties of Western poJiti-cal leaden about Soviet thinking.

To strengthen cohesion within tbe Warsaw Pact and reinforce Soviet pressure for higher military outlays by non-Soviet member states, j

The overall propaganda campaign against the United States has intently been supplemented with theof the Olympic

he talk about the danger of nuclear war alsolear domestic propaganda function to rationalize demands on the Soviet labor force, continueddeprivation, and ideological vigilance in the society This message Is also being disseminated

Twithin the Soviet and East European

1 bureaucracies, T

civilian requirements More immediately, the Soviets are concerned that the United States couldhift in Ihe overall balance of military power which, through more interventionist foreign policies, could effectively thwart the extension of Soviet influence in world affairs and even roll back past Soviet gains. From this perspective, the United Stales' actions in Central America, Lebanon, Grenada, and southern Afilca are seenoken of what could he expectedroader scale In the future.|

Third, and most important for this assessment, we do not believe the Soviet leadership sees an imminent threat of war with Ihe United Stales. It is conceivable Ihal the stridency of Soviet "war scare" propagandaenuine Soviei worryear-future attack on them. This concern could be inspired by Soviet views about the depth of anti-Soviet Intentions in Washington combined wiih elements of their own military doctrine projected onto lhe United States, such as the virtues of surprise, striking first, and masking hostile initiatives in exercises. Some political and military leaders have stressed tbe danger of war mote forcefully than others, suggesting that there may have been differences on thisal leas! how to talk about thethe past half year.

However, on the basis of what we believe to be very strong evidence, we judge that lhe Sovieidoes not perceive an imminent danger of war. Our reasons are the following1

The Soviets have not initiated the militarymoves they would have made if iheya US attack were imminent.

In private US diplomatic exchanges with Moscow over the past six months the Soviets have neither made any direct threats connected with regional or other Issues nor betrayed any (earS attack.

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 suflicient strengthirst strike.

In recent months top leaders, including theof 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 shrillert the same time, high foreign affairs officials have challenged tbe thesis that theStates can unleash nuclear war and have emphasized constraints onourse of action.

Moreover, the Soviets know thai the United Slates is at present far from having accomplished all of its force buildup objectives!

Recent Soviet Military Activities

ntimidation? It is possible that some of the Soviet military activities listed above were Intended, as ancillary to their military objectives, to intimidateaudiences:

The East Asian naval maneuvers, deployment of strike aircraft to Vietnam, and amphibioushave displayed military muscle Io China.

The bombing campaign in Afghanistan could be seen not only as an operation against thebul also as an implicit threat loand perhaps Iran.

In mounting large-scale and visible exercises (such as the March-April Northern and Baltic Fleet exercise in lhe Norwegian Sea) Moscow would understand that they could be perceived as threatening by NATO audiences. ^

Soviet INF-relaled military activities liavc also been designed to convey an Impression to the Weil that the worldore dangerous place following US INF deployment and that the USSR Is making good on its prede ploy men! threats to counter with deployments of ils own. ^

There is uncertainty within the Intelligence Community on the origins of Soviet behavior with respect to the Berlin air corridors. It is possible that Soviet actioneliberate lemlnder of Western vulnerability. Alternatively, airspace requirements for exercises may have motivated this move. The luw-key manner in which the Soviets have handled the issue docs not suggest lhat they have been interested in squeezing access to Berlin for intimidation purposes Nevertheless, the Soviets have been in lhe process of unilaterally changing the corridor (light rules and thereby reminding the West of their ultimate power to control access lo Berlin.hort hiatus in bte April and early May, the Soviets declared new air corridor restrictions, indicating thai this effort

ues.ossibly related, very recent developmenl. the Soviets declared light new restrictions on travel in East Germany by allied missions located in Potsdam.

reaction to this recent exercise included

umber of instances we have observed Ihe Soviets avoiding threatening behavior or propaganda when they might have acted otherwise, perhaps in some cases to avoid embarrassnieut orFor example, they:

Never publicly acknowledged the incident in3 inoviet attackwas disabled off. the US coast as it attempted toS ASW ship, and moved the sub quickly out of Cuba where It had come for emergency repairs.

y ant

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the placing of Soviet air units in East German Poland in heightened

included

nit the number of ftehtcr-interccptors on strip

although the Soviet reaction was somewhat greater than usual, by confiningreadiness to selected air units Moscow clearly revealed that it did not in fact think thereossibility at this limeATO attack.

no tangible action in March when one ol their merchant tankersine off Nicaragua.

Notified Washington of multiple missile launches In early Aprilesture of "good will "

Ifi. hWfion fo t'S actional Ihe new Sovietdl nuclear armed tultftiarines off US coasts and the forward oVplovmerit of2 missiles in Eastern Europeoviet reaction to NATO. .M. which the Soviets claim is verytothe threat perceived here by Moscow is certainly not one of imminent nuclear attack]^

oviet military eit-rctsas themselves sometimesreactive" element. They frequently incoc-pontic Western operational concepts and weaponinto exercise scenarios,!,

irig takes on the character of actual preparation for responseerceived threat nf possible US attack.

ase in point is the Soviet reaction to "AblehisATO command post exercise held in3 that was larger than previous "Able Archer" exercises

[

IThe elaborate Soviet

le pattern

How the Soviets choose to respond to ongoing US military activities, such as exercises andoperations, depends on bow they assess their scope, the trends they may diiplay. and above all the hostile intent that might be read into them We are at present uncertain as to what novelty or possibleobiecti>es the Soviets may have read into recent US and NATO exercise* aod reconnaissance operationsetailed comparison of Hmuttaiieous "Bed" and "Blue" actions has not been accomplished The Soviets have, as in the past, ascribed the samecharacter toactivities as to US military buildup plans, that is. calling them preparations for war. But they have notS intent to prepare for Imminent war.j

Preparation for surprise miUta.ruhere is one case In our set of military activities that might conceivably Iw ascribed In the "masking" of threatening Soviet initiatives. For the first time in five years, the airlift portion of the troop rotation in Eastern Europe began onpril rather thanpril This may havehange in training and manning practices ot the introduction of new airlift procedure* The change ot timing of the airlift portion of the annual trtup rotation could alsotep towardarningcotnprc-bensive delay of annual Soviet troop rotations which would prevent degradation of the forces by withdraw, rag trained men But the rail portion of the rotation begantediile and In ani event, bag of rotation was within bruail historical norms f

n early April, when the Soviets began toa bomber strike force In the Turkestan Military

District, there was some concern that it mightmasking of preparations for operations against Pakistan, or even Iran, rather than against the most obvious target, Afghanistan. At this point the force is clearly occupied against Afghanistan, ll was never suitably deployed for use against Iran We believe that, although the force could he used againstajor air offensive against Pakistan withoutor precursor political pressure would serve no Soviet purpose and is extremely unlikely [

oviet military exercises display and contribute to steadily growing Soviet force capabilities These exercises liave become increasingly cumplex ashas deployed more capable and sophisticated weapons and command and control systems.

we Interpret the accelerated tempo ol Soviet live exercise activityeflection of the learning curve inherent in theprocess itself and of long-term Soviet military objectives, ralheT than of preparations for, or masking of, surprise Soviet military actions

olicy impact of leadership weakness or factionalism? The Soviet Union has had three Cener-ai Secretaries in as many years and. given the age and frail health of Cheinenko. yet another change can be expectedew years. This uncertain political environment could be conducive to increasedwithin lhe leadership and magnification of policy disagreements. Some have argued that cither Ihe Soviet militaryardline foreign policy faction led by Gromvko and Ustinov exerts more influence than it could werelronger figure. Although individual Soviet military leaders enjoy great authority In the regime and military priorities remain high for the whole leadcrsliip, we do not believe lliat the Soviet military, as an institution, is exertingheavy influence on Soviet policy. Nor do we believe lhat any faclion is exerting influence other than through Politburo consensus. (Consequently we reject the hypothesis thai weak central leadership accounts for lhe Soviet actions examined hete.[

comprehensive pattern? In our view,activities under examination here do tendIheir own military rationales and theintegrated by long-term Soviet forceHowever, these activities do not all fit intopattern of current Soviet foreignThe different Icadtimcs involved inactivities argue against orchestrationumber of lhe acliviiiestraining or simply refine previous exercisescases, tbe activities respond locould not have been predicted ahead of lime '

Conclusions

Taken in their totality, Soviet talk about the increased likelihood of nuclear war and Soviet military actions doolitical Intention of speakingouder voice and showing firmnesi through adisplay of military muscle. At the same time. Moscow has given lillle 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 lo influence Western electorates and political elites Some Soviet military activities have also been designed to have an alarming or intimidating effect on various audiences (notably INFhe naval exercise in lheSea. and naval and air activities in

Our assessment of both Soviet talk aboutwar and Soviet military activitiesery low probability that the top Soviet leadership isworried about lhe imminent outbreak of nuclear war. although it is quite possible that officialand vigilance campaigning have generated an atmosphere of anxiety lliroughout 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 militaiy capabilities, we believe it unlikely that thev are intended to mask current or near-fulure preparations by the USSR for some directly hostile military initiative. Moreover, we are confident thai the activities we have examined in this Estimate would

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iwxcssfullv mask all the extensive logistic and other militaryhe Soviets would have to commence wellealistic offensive initiative against any major regional security target, j

Both lhe talk of nuclear war and lhe military activities address lhe concernsonger limeMoscow's inability to elicit major concessions in ihe arms talks, successful US INF deploymentmost important bylong-term prospectuildup of US strategic and conventional military forces, have created serious concern in lhe Kremlin. We judge that the Soviet leadership does indeed believe that the Untied States is attempting toilitary posture that severely undercuts the Soviet power position in lhe world. ^

The apprehensive outlook we believe the Soviet leadership has toward the longer term Western arms buildup could in the future increase Its willingness to considerat some heightenedrecapture the initiative and neutralize the military challenge posed by the United States Warning of such actions could be ambiguous. ^

ur judgments iu Ihis Estimate are subject Io three main sources of uncertainty. We haveInformation about:

current mmd-sel of the Sovietwhich has seen some of itsexpectations from the Brezhnev

ways in which military operations andpolicy tactics may be influenced byand the policy process in

Soviet reading of our own military that is, current reconnaissance ami

Notwithstanding these uncertainties, however, wc are confident that, as of now. the Soviets see not an imminent military clashostlysomeperilous strategic and political struggle over the rest of the decade- ^

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