Point Paper for DCI
SUBJtiCT: The Soviet Viewpoint on Interdiction of Merchant Shipping in Wartime
Dospite the West's need to keep open merchant sea lines of communications and the potential advantages this vulnerability offers the Soviets, there is little cvidonco to show thot the Soviets perceive disrupting of merchant shipping as an essential wartime objective.
ATO-Warsaw Pact engagement, the Soviets' foremost initial objective is to destroy NATO's tactical nuclear capability. The main objective of Soviet naval forces is to reduce li'ostorn naval nuclear strike poten-tinl--its SSBNs (which the Soviets apparently believeole in_thoatQr nuclpnr warfare! and nlrprnft carriers.
6 indicate rrarfrri uujuiljuTSTup-tion of shipping, if mentioned, is onJy incidental.
Soviet naval classified writings available0 and unclassified writings to date show no change in this aspect of Soviet naval strategy. The Soviets have not revealed in any way--writings, speeches [
--evidencolnn to disrupt
'huslbiii snippingeans ofar with the West. Moreover, Corshkov's writings seem to indicate that the interdiction of merchant shipping is an outdated concept in the era of nuclenv weapons because the duration of tho war will be short, and shipping can best be disrupted by destroying ports and the sources of shipping.
as regards other scenarios outside thc NATO-Warsaw Pact arena, cur evidence suggests that thc Soviots expectajor conflict in other parts of thc world involving vital Western interests would spread quickly to the European theater. Thc Soviet naval contingency plans of which we are aware, for example, are almost always in the contextATO-Warsaw Pact conflict. So long as they hold this view, Soviot naval planners and operators would be deterred from diverting substantial forces away from their primary mission of countering thc nuclear-capable forces of Western ncvies for lesser objectives. Indeed, the few refarencos we see in Soviet classified naval documents regarding local conflicts in distant areas itiakc no mention of attacks on sea lines of communication as an objective.
Tho above findings address current Soviot intentions. ifferent issue iss our best cstimato of likely Soviet actions? Wc believe that in most instances the Soviets would be guided in war by the precepts which have shaped these intentions for so long in peacetime. Nonetheless, because the Soviets do possess thc capability totrong campaign against shipping, it is possible that, given the unpredictability of war and thc lessons of past conflicts in which peacetime concepts were discarded, the Soviets could alter their strategy. If such were the case, however, they would be forced to abjure strategic precepts which have been the bedrock of their operational planning for more than two decades.