THE SINO-SOVIET RELATIONSHIP: THE MILITARY ASPECTS

Created: 9/20/1973

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

UBMlJTriDjBY.,^

> { - '

SECBET

3

THE SINO-SOVIET RELATIONSHIP: THE MILITARY ASPECTS

TOP SECBEI

CONTENTS

THE

I. THE MILITARY

II. THE LIKELIHOOD AND POSSIBLE FORMS OF MILITARY

CONFLICT

III. FUTURE FORCE RELATIONSHIPS

9 12

SECRET-

THE SINO-SOVIET RELATIONSHIP: THE MILITARY ASPECTS'

NOTE

This Estimate focuses on the military aspects of the Sino-Soviet relationship. It assesses the policy decisions behind the buildup along the Sino-Soviet border, describes current capabilities for various types of military action, identifies and discusst; various factors bearing on the chances of Sino-Soviet armed conflict, and arrives at an estimate of the likeliltood of such conflict More general aspects of theand the possible alternative lines ol development in the future will be presented in the forthcomingPossible Changes in the Sino-Soviet Relationship."

-TOP SECRET

- -XT -

PRECIS

The recent intensification in the exchange of recrimination,and insult between Moscow and Peking demonstrates thetension and hostility in Sino-Sovietey question is whether this situation will persist, changeore controlled competition, or cliange toward the extremes of genuine rapprochement or war.

The chances arc remote that the Chinese would deliberately take actions leading to war. There are, however, some considerations which argue for the possibilityoviet military initiative against China:

The Soviet buildup in the vicinity of the border5 exceeds by considerable measure the capability required to stop any attack the Chinese might mount, particularly since the bulk of Chinese forces in the border regions remain several hundred miles back from the frontier.

Soviet strategic capabilities aic overwhelming and astrike against the still infant Chinese strategic capability could appeal to some Soviet leaders as an effective means of dealing with this threat before it is too late.

Arguments against large-scale Soviet military actions include:

The very large manpower and materiel requirements for launching and sustaining major ground actions against thestubborn resistance of the Chinese and the uncertainties surrounding the outcomear which could very well become protracted and lead to the use of nuclear weapons. .

Soviet concern that,isarming nuclear strike, some Chinese missiles would survive and could destroy some Soviet cities in retaliation.

Soviet concern over the political, economic, and strategiccalculable and foreseeable and somewould attend any major military involvement with China.

Out judgment, based on weighing all these and other considerations, is that the chancesremeditated large-scale Soviet attack oncertainly still such as to demandquite low, say on the orderhile Moscow' is prepared to punish the Chinese at any point on the frontier where the Chinese might act forcibly to assert territorial claims, the main Soviet policy to counter China is centered on diplomatic efforts and on activities within the Communist movement. These efforts will not cause the USSR's "China problem" to go away, and military action, particularly anuclear strike, may continue toertain appeal to some Soviet leaders. But when considered in light of the calculable and incalculable risks of military action, argumentsore measured course which holds open the possibility of some accommodation and even reconciliation over the longer term are far more likely to prevail wibSin the top Soviet leadership.

Most participants in this Estimate feel that the judgment above applies toarge-scale Soviet invasionisarming nuclear strike. While tlic latter course probably rates more seriousby Soviet planners, the chances still seem low thatourse would actually be approved and, however, would differentiatearge-scale invasionisarming strike, rating the likelihoodisarming strike as markedly greater than that of an invasion.

A continuation of tensions at present levels would have the following implications for Sine-Soviet force postures:

appears that the Soviets are now close to being satisfied, in terms of peacetime requirements, with the number of divisions presently deployed in the vicinity of the border; filling out of these units and the addition of support units will continue. The effort to maintain these forces will not impinge* significantly on forces opposite NATO or on the Soviet position in mutual force reduction talks.

Chinese have been improving their defenses against possible attack from the north, but not at the expense ofa balanced capability to defend against attacks from all directions. With US forces withdrawing from Southeast Asia,

4

sccncT.

northern defenses may receive more preferential treatment, but no rapid shift in dispositions is likely except in the event of clear-cut Soviet preparations to invade, in part because of Chinese concern not to alarm the Soviets unduly.

Soviet and Chinese perceptions of each other's capabilities arc likely to remain basically realistic; perceptions ofro more likely to be colored by emotional factors, but not to the degree leading to gross miscalculations.

During, improvements in China's general purpose forces will do little to overcome the qualitative superiority of Soviet forces, and the USSR will also remain far ahead in the strategic balance. Nonetheless, Chinese force developments will have the effect of increasing the deterrent to Soviet military action.

An increase in tensions between the two powers would cause both sides to intensify their military preparations along the border. It would influence the Soviet negotiating position in the strategic armstalks and might cause tlic USSR to develop and deploy largeof regional weapons systems. The Chinese would probably push the deployment of their regional deterrent more rapidly, improve air defenses, and establish underground shelters and defenses inreater numbers.

ituation of lessened tension it is possible that tbe USSR would reduce its forces along the border, though not to the levels existinguch more likely would be the maintenance of the current forces at lower levels of readiness.

THE ESTIMATE

Whatever prospects it may once have had for long term "fraternalhe Sino-Soviet relationship is now plainly one o( adversaries. The key source ofis no longer, as it was during the,ispute over China'swith the Soviet Union and its proper role wiihin the socialist community. The struggle has now expandedlash of conflicting national interests and ambitions, in which each side perceives its physicalas weB as its international position to bo tlireatened by the other."

I. THE MILITARY BUILDUP

2 The most dramatic and convincingof the deep distrust and liostility in the Sino-Soviet relationship is found in thepreparations, particularly on the Soviet ride of the common border. Starting svithivisions near the border and throe

'For on extruded dticossfcm and analysis ofd implications of die Sino-Soviet, "Soviet Policy inatedlEORDft.

more In the Siberian Military Districthe Soviets now haveotal ofombat divisions in positions which indicate that they would be used ia the early stages of any major conflict with China. Of these, someivisions are stationed near the border. During the same period Sovietair strength has giown from lessircraft toircraft,ighter-bombers,ight bombers,econnaissance

*See map, page 7.

1 It is dear that Soviet forces in the border region exceed by considerable measure that capability required to stop any attack the Chinese might mount, given live present capabilities and disposition of Chinese forces. But it does not follow automatically from this that the USSR harbors specific plant foroffensive actions. It has long beeo Soviet practice to over-insure against military threats, and Soviet defense programs haverequent tendency to reflectystematic pursuit of narrowly-defined ob-

TOP SECRET

enera! quest for flexibility loargin of security against

4 From tbe Soviet point oi viewbe uncertainties concerning future Chinese threats and other contingencies were many. Given the developinr Soviet distrust of tbeather Luge buildup was required simply to provide tor tha physical Integrity of the lengthy frontierile Sino-MongolianMore importantly, the narrowness of the band of habitable Soviet territory aloog the frontier and the proximity of the vital Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Manchurian border boUi required that the buildup bein areas closn to Ihe border so that the Soviets couldhinese attack and push Chinese forces back before the railroad could be cut.

hile the pace of the Soviet buildup was relativelypeak levels, new divisions were being formedate of six perII appeared toong-range plan for methodical growth. While some experienced personnel and some air units were drawn from the western USSR, no ground force units opposite the NATO central region were used in the buildup The net additional costs of the forces opposite China are estimated to have reached some seven percent of annual expenditures for all Soviet military forces* These costs are by no means inconsequent ml, but we have not been able to identify any serious impact on the Soviet economy or on the Soviet forces Opposite NATO resulting from this buildup.

inally, It should bo noted that Soviet deployment of new ground force divisions and air units appears to have tapered off. Fleshing out of tho units in place continues, as does the buildup of support units. The forces in place clearly give theotent offensive capability. Brought quickly to full strength through local mobilization, they might be able to occupy northern Sia-kfang and penetrate into Manchuria. But it is the opinion of US military planners thai their Soviet counterparts would not favor the initiation of large-scale militarydesigned to seize and hold anyslices of Chinese territory without firstobilization that would lead to the creation offorce of at leastivisions in Soviet Asia.

Although the Chinese became aware of the Soviet buildup shortly after it began, Peking made no effort to concentratetroops of its own close to the border. While tbe Chinese maintainfround troops In the four military regions that border the USSR and Mongolia, most of these troops arciles from the closest border points. The deployment of air and air defense forcesimilar pattern; Chinafactical and air defense fighters deployed in tho four nqrthern military regions, but most of these are based well away from Ihe border.

Chioa's decision not to move its forces up to the border in the face of Ihe Soviet threat can be explained in terms of theof Chinese politics, Maoist military dextrine, Peking's view of the threats to

TOP SECRET-

fOi' SEGHCT

basic military capabilities, and the luck of defensible terrain near (he border., Mao was intent on use of then the Cultural Revolution, and in fact, some Chinese units were moved southward out of Manchuria during that period for domestic security and political reasons. Peking was also concerned with the threat posed by US forces in Indochina. With characteristic Chinese Communist caution and taking account of Chinas relative militaryItotli general purpose and strategictook care to offer do serious provocation to either adversary. Rather, the strategy with respect to the USSR was to hold forces well back from the border in order to avoid the danger of being cut of? by the superiorand firepower of the Soviets and to maintain balanced dispositions protecting (he vital centers of tho country against allthreats.

Even those measures taken by thewhich are clearly anti-Soviet, such as the construction of fortified areas and the priority deployment of early warning radars In north-em border regions, are clearly defensive, and do notuildup of Chinese forces close to the border. China now seems less fearful thanf an Imminent Soviet attack, and there has been little change in the basic pattern of theof Its military forces.

The apparent Increase In Chinesehas been due in part to diplomatic aeocaaaei luUj Into the UN,ew image of respectability and rcsnoroibility in the West, and most impor-tandy, its cordial relations with the US. In some measure this confidence also derives from pi ogress in the deployment of strategic weapons. Even with the present limitedof operational MRBMs aud IRBMs, China has the beginningsredibleThe missiles are deployed Into make them hard to find and

modest Chinese advances Inweapons have, of course, doneafter the vast and growing strategicof the USSR. The Sovietsup strategic reconnaissancebuilt ballistic missllo earlyoriented toward China, andICBM capabilities by deployingSS-lls so that China Is la their

II. THE LIKELIHOOD AND POSSIBLE FORMS OF MILITARY CONFLICT

view of Soviet militaryas well as in the border areab extremely unlikely that China wouldinitiative to attack Soviet forces oracross the border. Even Chinesein the disputed border areas isbe relatively cautious because of theSoviet capacity and demonstratedto respondore powerful levelDamanskiy Island inaving learned the virtues of(heir experiences along the borderseem likely to resist any temptationMoscow's patience and tolerance. Inand foreign policies sinceave shown that they takethreat seriously. They have(he posturehreatened state, and

TOP ecencT

while tlioy have not changed their basicpositions or territorial claims because of the Soviet threat, they have restrained their actions along the border.

hus. If conflict were to develop, it would be more likely to resultoviet initiative. At the lower levels of possibleSoviet action might be motivated by the simple dcsiie to inflict local punishment aud humiliation on Chinese border forces in response lo Chinese patrolling In disputed tcrrilory. In this case, Soviet military action might be limitedeavy artillery barrages with no involvement of Soviet troops Interritory. If the provocation were more serious, however, Soviet forces might cross tbe border to inflict reprisals and toSoviet resolve- But the decision to do this would almost certainly be reserved to Moscow.

Military action of this sort certainly cannol be ruled out over the nest few years, but Moscow has shown an interest inborder tensions and would not wish to get embroiledrawn-out series of potentially explosive border exchanges that might lead to deeper involvementajor conflict Simply put, neither side has enough to gain by limited military initiatives along the border to justify the larger risks, including that of putting in Jeopardy the momentum of their rorpective policies of detente andrelations with tbe US.

Various motivations are conceivable for major Soviet military actions against China. In the highly improbable event that China continued border harassrnents in the face of local Soviet reprisals, the Soviets might move across the border in considerable strength in an effort to halt these provocations once and for all. Limited objective "military operations in Manchuria and Sinkiang could beto exert pressure on the ChineseDeeper penetrations, involvingof additional Soviet forces, would have the basic purpose of solving the more basic "Chinan opportunity for such action might occur In the contingencyhina sharply divided by an internal struggle for power. Id this case, the Soviets might intervene with the aim of supporting ora faction more favorably disposed to cooperation with tho USSR.

his and other possible pretexts forinvasion

feasible

from the military planners' point of view in termsigh assurance of initialut allumber of serious questions in terms of possible risks, snowballingbroader implications, and endAs the Soviets themselves have stressed, toar is easy, ending it is much more difficult

hatever (ho circ umstancesoviet io vision, Soviet political leaders would almost certiinly expect Chinese resistance to develop and to be stubborn. They would have no(hat the war could be brought to an end on (heir terms and that they would not get bogged downrotracted and costly struggle. Moscow might foresee beingeventuallyhoice betweenor (he use of nuclear weapons in an effortecisive end to the conflict. The latter action, even if it were successful, could have many and far-reaching adverse repercussions for tho USSR's position In the world.

he growing Chinese nuclear strike capability would be given foremost contidera-tionoviet decision to attack China.it is probable that the Soviets have alreadyisarming nuclear strike against that growingfrom any groundit is the most dramatic and potentially effective military aspect of tho Chinese challenge to tlte USSR as the dominant power In Asia. But theprobably believe they could not now completely eliminate the threathinese second strike against Soviet Asian population centers, particularly from missile launchers they may not have located, and theirwould incline them toward worst-case assumptions. Consequently, they now face the prospect that several oi China's missiles could destroy military targets or cities inAsia evenoviet first strike.

he Soviet leadership could, of course, simply disregard the possibility of Chinese retaliation and proceedisarmingattack on the assumption that (bewould follow the rational course and refrain from retaliating with their few re-niainingact of pure vengeance which would only guarantee that ihcy would sustain even greater damage in retribution. The Soviets could scarcely count on suchrestraint, however, and would beto jeopardize some of their major citiesthey came to believe that inactiongreater risks than proceeding with the attack. To date the manifold uncertainties and risks in any military action against China have clearly outweighed any possible advantages, and the growth of the Chinese deterrent will continue to increase the risks

he military risks are not the onlywhichajor Soviet attack on China, whether by nuclear strike or on the ground. Choice of the military coursewould intensify and solidify Chinese hostility for years to come. It would greatly lessen whatever chance may existew generation of Chinese leaders. Moscow's general policy of detente with iheand most Importantly Its effort to foster economic tics, especially withWestern countries, would also beThe Soviet attempt to portray the USSRorce for peacerotector of the poor, the weak, and (heould be undermined, especially in tho Third World So long as the Soviets were militarily involved with China, they would be concerned about possible ways that other powers, especially the US, might seek to take advantage of their reduced influence in other areas of the world. They would also have to consider thethat the US wouldew aggressiveness or instability in Soviet policy and alter its policies toward the USSR,even taking steps to improve its strategicprogram- In addition, the Soviets wouldoncerned that their first use of nuclear weapons, even if militarilymight fundamentally alter world opinion against the USSR.

top- srcnE-r

12

slxuct

These political, strategic, and military considerations, when taken together, argue stronglyremeditated large-scale Soviet attack oa China. While Moscow isto punish the Chinese at any point on the frontier where the Chinese might act forcibly to assert territorial claims, the main Soviet policy to counter China is centered on diplomatic efforts and on activities within the Communist movement. These efforts will not cause the USSR's "China problem* to go away, and military action,isarming nuclear strike, may continue toertain appeal to some Soviet leaders. But whenin light of the calculable andrisks of military action, the argumentsore measured course which holds open the possibility of some accommodation and even reconciliation over the longer term arc far more likely to prevail within the topleadership, Thus, while the possibility of large-scale conflict will continue to exist, the chances ofonflict appear to be quite low. say on the orderostin this Estimate feel that thisent applies toarge-scaleisarming nuclear strike. While the latter course probably rates more serious consideration by Soviet planners, the chances still seem low thatourse wouldbe approved and implemented. DIA, however, would differentiatearge-scale invasionisarming strike, rating the likelihoodisarming strike asgreater than that of an invasion.

III. FUTURE FORCE RELATIONSHIPS

ust as the prospective generalbetween the USSR and China is'one of continuing confrontation and contest, but with no major military conflict, so theforce relationship is one in which each side maintains its forces opposite the

Other, butevel which docs riot disrupt or distort its total military conunitrnents. Planned Soviet divisional deployments along the Sino-Soviet border appear to be close to being realized; there is thus little prospect that future border requirements will impinge noticeably on force requirements in Europe and mutual force reduction talks. Thebuildup of support forces will also be undertaken with little effect on forcesNATO.

To the present time, the guiding strategy of the Chinese military leadership has been to maintain Chinas capability lo defend against attacks from all directions, and not to give preferential treatment to defense againstattack from the north to the detriment of China's defense posture elsewhere. Now that US forces are withdrawing fromAsia, it is possible that the issue will again arise as to whether the limited Chinese forces and resources siiouid be concentratedreater degree against the USSR. To date, however, there is no evidenceasicof Chinese forces is under way, and any rapid large-scale shift seems unlikely. In part because of Chinese concern not to alarm the Soviets unduly. China's likely course is to continue the construction of strongpositions well back fromrder while picceccUng with its longstandingto modernize its armed forces.

It is, of course, possible that if Sino-Soviet tensions grow in Ihe future, both sides will intensify their military preparations. If the Soviets intend toorce along the border designed for major groundagainst China, they would probablyby settingtructurevt-froni force andheaterhinese reaction to increased lens km and evidenceurther Soviet buildup would probably take the form of an increased effort

ior uLlhlt-

strengthen its northern defenses. Chinese ground forces, if they were to ho prepared to undertake offensive opera Hons away from their bases, would need enlarged logistics support and additional ground supportAlthough Chinese forces will improve ova the next few years, there is little chance that the improvement would be so great as toapability to undertake majoragainst the USSR.

eightened tension would also have an influence on the strategic weapons postures of the two powers. It might cause the USSR to be more reluctant to sign an offensive armswith the US; it would certainly make the USSR more determined to negotiate anthat would permit it to keep what it regarded as ait adequate deterrent against both China and then the eventS-Soviet agreement bnsrting ICBMs and intercontinental bombers, the Soviets might feel the need to develop and deploy larger numbers of regional weapon systems to cope with the still growing Chinese strategicusing resources freed by the US-Soviet agreement to do this- As for theheightened tensions would probably cause them, among other things, to push the deployment ol their regional deterrent more rapidly, to improve air defenses againstfrom the north and west, and tounderground shelters and defenses in even greater numbers. Chinaj limited techikological capabilities and high development coststouccessful effort toan ABM in the next decade, although ballistic missile early warning radnrs would probably be deployed.

'The effect ol the growing Chinese missilelon Soviet conceptions of "auf-fieteocy" requires continuing analysisomplex mix of iactort. Ho new and useful findings anfor treatment In thia paper.

ituation of lessened tension, it is possible that the USSR would reduce its forces along the border, though probably not to the levels existingut evenondition of general detente, the maintenance of current force levels at lower levels ofwould be more likely than any substantial reductions In those force levels. The Soviets, havingubstantial Investment in equipment and facilities in Soviet Asia, would probably be inclined to allow unit personnel strength levels to decline, rather than to close bases and remove equipment.

Assuming neither groatly heightened nor greatly lessened tension, the anticipated gradual growth in ihe firepower and mobilityhina's general rxirpose forces will do Utile to overcome Soviet superiority within the next few years. Nonetheless, these improvement will tend to Increase the deterrent capability of Chinese lorces in Soviet eyes.

During the period of, theUnion will also remain far ahead of China in the strategic balance. Soviet strategicforces arc growing in flexibility andagainst China. Tho" new Backfire bomber will be able to cover all of China un-refueled from Far East bases, an option not open to the Badger. Thehich is probably being retrofitted to silos in Soviet Asia, willuch broader target sector than the oldernd will probably thus include Cruna in its target sector, whereas many older SS-lIs did not. Finally, theill be able to target all of Chinalass home ports, an option not open to older Soviet ballistic missile submarines.

Increases in Soviet weaponsto an already overwhelming strategic ca-

TOP SECRET

14

SSCflET

but will not make for anychange in the balance. Our projections of Chinese missile forces, however. Indicate that China will be able in theo target several hundred Soviet targets. Soviet projections almost certainly "worst case" this development Relatively speaking, therefore, the small growth in tho Chinese retaliatory capability will carry more significance In the strategic relationship between the twothan the more extensive Soviet growth.

orce developments on the border and in tbe strategic forces thus indicate that the optimal time has passed for tbe Soviets to use military force to disarm China or to coerce Peking, and that likely future Chinese force developments will further reduce Soviet mill-tary optionsis China.

TOP SCCRCT

mm

EIGEDISSEMINATION: NOTICE;

. -

p>"

an

1ono* qIJjAdditioncI essentialne^^eipectiYQ dcportmsnli:,

CiriJCtor?of;ln1elliflence ond Research,-lor trie'Departm

'1e pa rfmo nlgSsEy]

force's/*it

,,Director. FBI, for the Federal BureauIrectof)of.NSA, for'the National Security Agency

J'l Special, Assistanto Secretary oi theo^rtment*'of the- '

iroctorof ^itonal Estimates, OA, tor'any otherncy^^^

eturned'- to: Ihe^CeirlotiorKil

disseminated bc *dc stroyed"a^

2be related, or eeztroyod by burning-jn^ocinrdorKb^iih^eturned to the'

11!

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA