Created: 5/1/1974

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Top Secret

Possible Soviet Employment of Strategic Forces

Top Secret

Possible Soviet Employment of Strategic Forces


This paper assesses the strategic militarythat underlie current programs to upgrade the Soviet forces for intercontinental attack. Its framework is shaped by such questions as "Why do the Soviets want more strategic force throw weight and weapons?" "How would the Soviets employ theirforces?" "How do the Soviet military leaders justify extensive force improvements to theleadership?"

paper elusions:

the following principal con-

nuclear strategic doctrinez

- stresses the requirement For a strategic nuclear force which is capable ofa massive preemptive strike based upon istratagic warning,

recogni2es the possibility trike may be denied the USSR; there' fore stipulates the requirement trategic force posture which provides the capability to survive an attack and to etaliatory strike that in-flicts unacceptable destruction on entary and economic targets.

Soviet programs to modernizeforces and to enjarge LBM forcesimprove the ability of thesemeet the military requirements of overall coverage of hard targets, andrequirements are among the factors that Soviet force improvements

J. Soviet force posture and improvementare the product of numerous factors in addition to strategic military requirements * They include theoncern for the political image of

tegic power, the imperatives of technological pro-gess and competition, and the interplay of internal bureaucratic interests.

4. The Soviets probably believe that their cur' rent force improvements assure them at minimum an overall strategic position equal to that of the United States, enhance the prospect cfargin of superiority in terms of political image and warfighting potential, and put themtrong negotiating position is the US.

The paper is organized in the following manner:


Section II Section III Section IV

Section V

Strategic Nuclear Doctrine

Soviet Targeting Philosophy

Possible Target Sets

Current and Projected Soviet


How Much Is Enough?

was-produced jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, IS

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I. Soviet Strategic Nuclear Doctrine

Soviet military writers and political spokesmen have discussed three principal employment options for their strategic nuclear forces: preemption, launch-on-warning, and retaliation. Sovietof strategic employment policy have been cast in general terms and have focused predominately upon massive use of strategic weaponside range of US military, political and economic targets. Soviet military writings have indicated Soviet awareness of limited strategic employment concepts but have not yet suggested that such employment is being planned for intercontinental attack.

There is good evidence that the Soviets do notolt-from-the-bluetrikeeriod of rising tensions in which forces could be broughtorkable strategy. The Soviet political leadership, while endorsing preemption, has long stressed that the Soviet Union would noturprise nuclear war, and at SALT Soviet spokesmen have asserted that tho USSR does notirst-strike capability. The Soviets, moreover, do not have an offensive and defensive posture that wouldirst-strike damage limiting strategy feasible today. At the same time, the Soviets evidently do notudden first strike by the US. Their propaganda continues to cite the threatS surprise attack, but the observed day-to-day readiness posture of their strategic forces indicates that the Soviets do not, in fact, expect such an attack.

Soviet military writings have emphasized the desirability of strategic preemption if unambiguous strategic warning is available. Their descriptions of Western initiation of nuclear war are often followed by statements calling for the "forestalling" and "frustrating" of such anthe other side to the draw. Preemption offers the most effective way to use Soviet strategic forces for the traditional military objective of destroying the enemy's means of waging war. Preemption is therefore believed to be one of the strategic options that govern Soviet force posture decisions.

Given the immense consequences involved, however, thi? political leadership would need to be confident that the OS was about to attack beforereemptive strike. It is not known what kind of evidence the Kremlin leadership would think solid enough toreemptive strike. In view of the OS retaliatory capabilities it is difficult to envision circumstances under which the Sovietleaders would feel so sure of US motives and intentions that they would initiate general nuclear war.

Another strategic option that the Sovietshave considered is the concept of launch-on-warning; that is, launching an all-out attack when there is clear evidence that an enemy attack has already begun. It is difficult to judge how seriously this option is considered at the top decisionmaking level. oncept with which to confront the US, it may be seen toertain psychological value in reinforcing deterrence. enuine policy, it would present immense problems of decisionmaking, command, and control. there are major technical difficulties that presently appear to preclude Soviet adoptionaunch-on-warning policy. However, these problems are not necessarily insurmountable.

All the evidence on military decisionmaking in the Kremlin points to the preeminence of theleadership and its firm control over nuclear weaponry. It would be out of character for the Soviet political leadership to delegate the authority touclear attack or to accept therisks of accidental or unauthorized launch inherentaunch-on-warning policy.

an "answeringthe oldest declared Soviet employment option and the one most frequently enunciated by the top party and government officials. The Soviet strategic buildup over the past decade has madehoroughly credible option. The assumptions underlying the leadership's view of retaliation, as reflected in the Soviet position at SALT, are that the US and

USSR possess more than enough nuclear weapons to bringorldwide catastrophe, that the side attacked first wouldetaliatory forceof annihilating the attacker's homeland, andar between the US and USSR would befor both. This broad political view of nuclear war coexists, however,trongly stated military view that, however nuclear war began, the Soviet Union would somehow survive it and its enemies would be defeated. Retaliation is therefore believed to be the second of the strategic options governing Soviet force posture decisions.

Whatever flexibilities the Soviets may beinto their strategic attack forces, there is no indication in available doctrine that they accept the feasibility of limited strategic nuclear warfare. On two occasions Soviet officers writing

publications have noted the theoretical possrblity of employing selective strikes against targets of secondary military importance. Their comments in this regard appear purely speculative, demonstrating Soviet awareness of the limiteduse concept withouteadiness to adopt this strategy. In their writings and statements on the subject, the Soviets haverejected the possibility that either the US or the USSR would be able to exercise restraint once nuclear weapons had been employed against its Despite these disclaimers, the Sovietarsenal couldtrategy of controlled strategic attack, and there is evidence that the Soviets are incorporating limited nuclear employment concepts into their military doctrineentral European war. This process of doctrinal adaptation will probably continue and perhaps eventually spill over to Soviet planning for intercontinental attack. We believe, however, that this arena is not likely to see Soviet adoption of limited use concepts during the Seventies.


II. Soviet Targeting Philosophy

Evidence on Soviet targeting indicates that both counterforce and countervalue targets arein their planning. This would evidently be the case regardless of whether the circumstances of Soviet force employment were those of preemption or retaliation. The primary mission of Sovietattack forces is destructionthe enemy's warmaking capability, and this is interpreted in Soviet military writing toery broad range of targets.

The Soviets have consistently identified the basic targets of their strategic attack forces as missile launch sites, nuclear weapons production and storage facilities, other military installations, military-industrial targets, political-administrative centers, and the enemy's systems for controlling and supporting strategic forces. Explicit references to the destruction of enemy population, as such, are omitted from Soviet listings of strategic targets with very rare exceptions. Attacks upon US military industry, as well as political and administrative centers, however, would involve the direct targeting of major American cities and result in massivecasualties.

Specific target responsibilities for the several elements of the Soviet strategic nuclearStrategic Rocket Forces he ballistic missile submarine element of the Navy, and Long Rangebe fully delimited on the basis of Soviet military writings because the requisite specificity is notd changes andapparently continue to be made. Moreover, the relative importance of each of these threechanges over time. The SRF and the Navy presently constitute the most important strategic forces; the LRA's intercontinental attackhave been diminished.

In general, open Soviet military literature attributes to the SRF practically the full range of targetseneral nuclear war. ypical example


ofitation is that the SRF is assignedof destroying tho enemy's nuclear attackand major groupings of his forces,of military-industrial targets, andgovernmental and military control, logisticand transportation. Although theparticular SRF target citations vary, thisis almost always cited as responsible forthe potential enemy's strategic ew occasions the SRF has alsoto be responsible for the destruction ofnaval groupings and bases, f ' " oth general nuclear war

andATO-Warsaw Pact nuclear confrontation, the SRF's responsibilities would include targets in the theaters of military operations, particularly

Open Soviet military writings have beenless specific concerning the targetof the Soviet ballistic missile Soviet naval writings have longbases, naval-related industrialand command and control facilities aretargets. Recent citations are usuallysuch general terms as "important militaryin the interior" of the enemy'sthat in the

late sixties naval Strategic forces were "assigned" responsibility for destroying the enemy's military economic capability. Such SLBM target references suggest some overlap with SRF targets. Clearly both SRF and naval strategic offensive missiles areof destroying targets such as enemy military bases, political and administrative centers,targets, and national communications and transportation networks.

Soviet military men have infrequently considered withholding some strategic forces during tho initial intercontinental exchange. When the concept has been discussed it usually has been in termsome strategic nuclear forces are not employed in the initial, massive salvo because they were not in firing positions at the time.

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Apparently upon attaining their station they would be used immediately. Suggestions of intentional withholding, however, havo occurred. In the lateigh-level military leader notedingle strike may not achieve all its objectives, thus necessitating reassignment of tasks and targets and ropeated launchings of weapons. The repeated strikes would be both individual and group strikes and would be fired against now strategic objectives and partially destroyed targets.

When intentional withholding has been discussed, tho context suggosts its purpose is for militaryrather than for political effect of intrawar deterrence and diplomacy. The major focus continues toassive, initial salvo at thelevel.



III. Possible Target Sets

There is no direct evidence indicating precise targets for Soviet intercontinental weapons. oviet targeting plan for intercontinental weapons is based on what is known about possible Soviet plans for employment of nuclear weapons at thelevel and from general Soviet statements on the use of strategic forces.

The potential targets for soviet strategic nuclear weapons can be broken down into four geographicalUS, Western Europe, China, and US military bases overseas. orldwide basis, there are moreixed military targets thatare of highest strategic importance and should be targeted by the most effective available Sovietsystems. In addition, urban-industrial areas are presumed to be targeted, though we have noabout what criteria the Soviets use in their targeting plan for such areas.

Although the present structure of Soviet forces is an outgrowth of many doctrinal, technological,and bureaucratic influences and compromises, we presume that their justification rested in part on the view of the target system presented by the military planners to the political leaders. The variousmade over the years about how best to deal with these targets have resulted in some blurring of the distinction betweene in the US calldeliverySLBMs, and heavywhat we call peripheral attacksuch as medium- and intermediate-range missiles and bombers. In the past four years, the Soviets have allowed their aging MRBM/IRBM liorce and their medium bomber force to shrink somewhat- in size, and haveand tested the capability to employ certain of their ICBMs at ranges appropriate to peripheral attack.

There are indications that the Soviets plan to employissiles against peripheral targets. They probably will target some of the new ICBM systemsimilar fashion. Like the


theas been test-fired to short range. In time the ICBM force may evenreater role in peripheral attack because the agingRBM force is more vulnerable and much less effective than the new systems. Thore is tenuous evidenceew MRBM may be in the early stages of development, but it probably could not be deployed in large numbers until the early Eighties.

For these reasons, it seems certainortion of the total Soviet requirement for ICBMs andnow and in thefor striking some of the European and Asian targets.


Western Europe

The Soviets have an extensive and variedof attacking Western Europe. They couldsystems, either intercontinental-rangemissiles and aircraft, and in somenuclear delivery systems as well. InSixties the Soviets began construction ofwhose sector of fire includes At about the same time they conductedflight tests of the During thisalso were deactivating some of their SS-4sites. At the .present time thereS-Ss targeted toward Western Europe.

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For the purpose of this paper, an attempt is made to identify some of those high-priority targets in Western Europe that the Soviets may judge require ICBMs or SLBMs because of special operationalas time-urgent targets and hardened facilities which an accurate ICBM would have anprobability of destroying.

There are many otheras well as urban-industrial areas in Westerncould be targeted with ICBMs. Since these are not time-sensitive or hardened installations, the Soviets could assign them to MRBMs or medium bombers.


China, like Western Europe, can be attacked from the USSRide variety of nuclear weapons. How the Soviets structure their nuclear targeting plan against China with tactical nuclear systems deployed along the Sino-Soviet border, medium bombers, ICBMs, and SLBMs is not known. If the same criteria that were applied to Western Europe are used, there are someargets in China which the Soviets may assign to ICBMs or SLBMs. These include aboutndissile sites and aboutirfields. In this connection, it should be noted that Soviet MRBM/IRBM units in the Far East wereew years ago, and their targets presumably taken over by ICBMs.

One featurearget base in China thatit from those for the US and Western Europe is the expanding Chinese strategic missile threat. In addition to the two ballistic missile systems now deployed, China has two more under development. deployment continueslow pace, Chinese strategic missile deployment could reachnits by oviet planner's view-


point, the bulk, if not all, of this force would be capable of striking the USSR. Thus, Soviet strategic weapons requirements for China will continue to grow as new missile units become operational and theand control, logistics, and industrial base to support them is developed. Soviet targeting of Chinese missiles would probably be difficult, however,the Chinese deploy some systemsemimobile mode and because even at fixed sites missiles may be stored in caves located some distanceaunch site.

Most of the major industrial targets in China are concentratedew areas. ovietplan to attack the industrial base of China would notarge number of nuclear weapons. arge extent, Soviet targeting of industrial areas of China probably could be allocated to medium-range bombers or SLBMs on older submarines.



IV. Current, and oviet Capahiies

The development and deployment of the present Soviet force provide what may be described as rough strategic equality with the US. There are,umber of areas in which the intercontinentalforce might be considered as falling short of Soviet objectives. These shortcomings of theforceleast indesign, development, and the ultimato deployment of the new systems now being tested.

Analysis of the capabilities of Sovietattack forces in this section includes:

Comparison of present and future US and Soviet forces by static measures of strategic power

Assessment of the possible effectiveness of tho Sovietpresent and inthe preemptive and retaliatory roles.

Por purposes of this paper, we havebest" projection of Soviet forces0 q

The tables on

snow tne soviet intercontinental attack systems and their operational deployment levels for 4

Tho projection takes into account recentincluding some which arefuture Soviet ICBM and SLBM deployment. It assumes extension of the quantitative limits of the Interim Agreementut no additional limitations on the quantitative or qualitative aspects of Soviet force programing. The projection includes extensive modernization of the ICBM force and expansion of the SSBN fleet toubmarines andLBMs. It postulates rates of deployment for new systems that are comparable to past rates of deployment. The pace and extent of deployment are based on the assumption that vigorous strategic competition

On-Line Soviet Intercontinental Attack Forces,

Number of








y SS-13




od 1

LRA aircraft



On-Line Soviet Intercontinental Attack Forces,

Number of











Mobile Mod




od 1





LRA aircraft


* It is estimated thatackfirewill be deployed by the endbout f these could le assigned to Soviet Haval Aviation. Of that probably will be allocated to Long Range Aviation some could be--and in DIA's robably will be--assigned the mission of intercom inental attack.



between the US and USSR will continue and that the overall level of effort will be on the order of that which the Soviets devoted to intercontinental forces in the mid- and late Sixties.

The US Programed Force is used for these It is derived from the force projections of the US Department of Defense Five-Year Defense Program as of

Static Measures

Comparison of existing US and Sovietusing static measures of strategicthat the Soviets have an advantage in some areas while the US leads in others. The chart on the next page illustrates the relative strengths of each in terms of total delivery vehicles, on-line missile RVs, throw weight, and equivalent megatons4 0 the Soviets would increase their lead in numbers of delivery vehicles and in missile throw weight, and almost equal the US in numbers ofRVs. The US, however, woulduch larger bomber force.

Given the lead the Soviets have achievedumber of these static measures of strategic power, they may attach high political significance to these measures. If so, they probably would attempt to equal or surpass the US in those areas where they arc now behind. In addition, they may see their advantages as compensating for certain USas the size and capabilities of the US bomber force, the capabilities of the US SSBN fleet, and the level of US technology in general.

These static measures of strategic power,fall far short ofull assessment of the capabilities of the weaponorwould notoviet militaryull evaluation of theirin the preemptive and retaliatory roles.

Force Employment and Effectiveness


Estimates of how the Soviets plan to employ their

Static Measures: US-USSR


On-Line Missile RVs

Delivery Vehicles USSR








intercontinental attack forces are tenuous because we lack firm evidence about many variables which must bo considered in detailed targeting plans. Based on what is declared Soviet nuclear doctrine, general Soviet plans about targeting, the potential target sets, and the characteristics of theirascheme can be constructed for Sovietattack forces.

The table on pageostulated Soviet allocation plan for thoir present force of intercontinental weapons. At the present time the Sovietystem is the only Sovietdelivery systemignificant capability to attack US ICBM silos, and it could destroy no more thanCBM silosreemptive strike.

Direct comparison of the total number of militarythe US ICBMthe number of Soviet weapons indicates that they have anumber of weapons to destroy someercent of the US military target base, and stillesidual ofissile RVs and all bomberfor use against urban-industrial targets and for withholding. This case assumesn-lineissiles are directed against targets inEuropere assigned targets in China. The chart on pagellustrates the Soviet ICBM threat to US ICBMs.

If Soviet weapons requirements are based at all on desired minimum force capabilities forafterirst strike from the US, they may consider deployment of the new systems and the hardening program for their ICBM silos necessary force improvements. The chart on pageossible Soviet view of the -hreat posed by the US Programed Force. aSoviet planner'sthat at the present time someoCBMs would trike j

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top secret

top skgfIet

Postulated Targeting of Present Soviet intercontinental Attack Weapons









target areas


Military targets, urban/industrial areas

ICBM silos, hardened coamand and control


andUS bases in the Far East

Western Europe

Soft missile sites,other military targets

MRBM silos, airfields, naval bases,areas

and US bases


Naval facilities, sir-fields, defensiveurban/industrial areas


aicas, ICBM silos

Forty launchers in this category are now undergoing conversion.

In this case target coverage would be reduced significantly. In addition to thoCBMs, the retaliatory force would consist of0 SLBMs, assuming the Soviets surge their SSBN fleet before the US attack and that it is highly sur-vivablc. Under these conditions the Soviets could allocate all of their surviving intercontinental weapons against the US and destroy someercent of the militaryaboutercent of the urban industrial base. Onlymedium-range ballistic missiles and bombers would bo available for use against Western Europe and China.

The projected Soviot intercontinental force0 would represent substantial improvementside spectrum of military measures of effectiveness.reemptive strike against the US Programed force, the projected Soviet force wouldheoretical capability of destroying all butf the US Minuteman force, assuming the Soviets allocate two missile RVs to each US ICBM silo and the effects of fratricide can be overcome. In this coso theof tho new ICBMs are assumed to be

for the initial versions* later

variants. Of then-line weapons in theould bo used to destroyercent of the other military targets in the US. The Soviets could assign the remaining weapons to Western Europe, China, urban-industrial areas in the US, or to be withheld.


V. How Much Is Enough?

Soviet strategic force posture decisions areinfluenced by traditional military values of war-waging, victory-seeking, andonflict. These values place before the Soviet military planner the goal of strategic superiority in warfighting power. Both political and military decisionmakers alike probablythat thisoving target at best, especially when they consider the performance of the US over the decades of strategic arms competition.

In some respects, Soviet policy displays ato keep after this goal no matter what, because it is viewed as the correct way toar that all would prefer not to take place, the premise being that deterrence would best be served by forces able to wage anduclear war. In other respects, however, Soviet arms policy displaysthat "ideal" strategic goals are not always in practice, and that, in any case, the costs and risks of unrestrained arms competition should be limited where permitted by other Soviet objectives. Soviet participation in SALT and the desire for an ABMpossibly different reasons amongSovietto this awareness.

In addition, Soviet strategic force posturespecifically those underlying the current modernization programs,ariety of interests and impulses in addition to purely military orrationale. Among these are:


the concern of the military and political leadership for the overall image of Soviet strength

the determination of political and military leaders to master importantIRVs, solid-fueled ICBMs, guidance improvement, ballisticdefense, and antisubmarine warfare.

the interplay of internal political and bureaucratic interests among those most vitally concerned with strategic weaponsactor that may have much to do with the emergence of four, ratheresser number of new ICBMs.

ilitary requirements standpoint the new weapons programs the Soviets now have under way are likely viewed as necessary steps to maintain pace with what they expect US intercontinental attack forces to be during the late Seventies and early Eighties, and to gain such superiority in strategic power and warfighting capabilities as may be From this point of view, the principalfor judging the worth of new systems are the contributions they can make to Soviet capabilities for both preemptive attack and retaliation.

The now Soviet ICBM systems now under development represent substantial improvements over existingin both the preemptive and retaliatory roles. The introduction of MIRVs will increase the number of targetable weapons and give greater target coverage. The new systems will also provide the capability to attack larger numbers of hard targets. The new silo and launch control construction programs provide greater survivability. New guidance systems will allow moro rapid retargeting.

Soviet capabilities to attack hard targets will improve as the new systems are deployed in large numbers. The potential hard-target capabilities of the Soviet force will depend on the accuracies of tho new systems and how the Soviets treat the problem of fratricide. In any event, Soviet potential tothe US Minuteman force will almost certainly fjnprove over time as the new systems are deployed.

At the same time the Soviets mightajor hardening program for their ICBM silo systemsecessary stop to keep pace with the threat posed by the US Programed Force. An extensive program totheir silo system hardness would theoretically provide0 on the orderCBM Soviet deployment of MIRVs would significantly incroAKo the number of surviving RVs.

Thus, there is an evident relationship between the Soviet, particularly the Soviet military, view of the nature and conduct of strategic war. the targeting and survivability requirements that emanate therefrom; and the strategic force improvements currently under way in the Soviet Union. Strategic operationalthat is, target coverage and survivability haveajor role in determining both the qualitative aspects of Soviet force improvements and the fact that they will be implementedarge scale. But our analysis of Soviet strategicdoes notlear answer to the question of how much is enough in the way of strategic forcefor Soviet decisionmakers. Moreover, asearlier, many factors additional to strategic requirementsajor role in Soviet decisions on how much is enough.

As to the perception of strategic power, the new ICBM systems will erode the long and well-publicized US lead in development and deployment of MIRV systems. Extensive deployment of the new MIRVedin the projection of Soviet forces on pagegive the Soviets inead in the number of missile RVs and would reduce the large advantage the US has in total weapons, includingRVs and bomber weapons.

In the final analysis, the strategic position the Soviets do in fact achieve through force improvements and, to some extent, what they believe they canstrive for will be influenced by US It is unlikely that any specific strategic positionis the United States, for example, parity, equality, or superiority, is the definitive military goal of current Soviet programs. When the Soviets make decisions on military posture, they think about these general goalsonditional Thoy probably believe that their current force improvements will assure them rough equality in the important parameters defining the US-Soviet strategic balance, even if the USigorous strategic competitor. They also probably believe that their current programs could deliver some militarily and politically useful forms of advantage should the

United States restrain itself unilaterally. They cannot be certain of the outcome but they appear to believe that their extensive force modernizationare the right investment to assure attainment of minimum goals, to keep open the prospect that more ambitious goals can be achieved, and to put themtrong negotiating positionis the US.


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