The Soviet Defense Council and Military Policy Making Volume I. Form and Functions
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence2
The Soviet Defense Council and Military Policy Ma icing
The ultimate decision-making authority in the USSR for defense issues, as for other issues of national policy, israan Politburo of the Communist Party's Central Committee. Major questions and often details relating to Soviet militaryare discussed, and final decisions arrived at, within this body. Occupiedide range of issues and interests, however, the Politburosome of its authority to other bodies. The most important of these for military policyody known as the Defense Council.
Until recently the name and nature of theCouncil, even its existence, have beenand the Soviets have treated sucha state secret. Several
have confirmed its existence, however, and togetheride range of other evidence haveomposite picture of many of the Council's features and functions.
Certain aspects of the Defense Council'ssuggest that the Council could be characterized as the closest Soviet counterpart to the US National Security Council, but onlyery general and approximate sense, taking account of importantin composition and usage. Each council is
Note: Thia report was prepared by the Office of Strategic Research and coordinated within CIA.
more profitably understood in the context of its own national political system.
The Defensepermanent membership may be limited to the top three political leaders, the minister of defense, andefenseto function in peacetime under party leader Brezhnev's chairmanshiplexible defense advisory committee for the Politburo. In wartime the Defense Council may be transformed into the nucleusupreme agency for overall direction of the national war effort. Brezhnev, as party leader and Defense Council chairman, wouldcertainly become the "Supreme Commander in Chief."
This report assembles and evaluates information available on the Defense Council1 The purpose of the study is to establish what is known and with what degree of certainty, and what is not known, about the Defense Council. Knowledge of tho Council's nature and functions bears directly on the continuing effort to understand more fully how Soviet defense policies and programs are formulated and what the Soviet strategic command system would be during crises or in wartime. Knowledge of the Council's operation alsoigh-level institutional context within which to consider the question of the senior military leadership's influence on andin defense policy formulation.
Institutional relationships are far from thestory, however. The human dimension is partly revealed by the Defense Council'sparticular the central role of Brezhnev as chairman and tho manner in which helexibility and personal orientation to the Council's operation. Another dimension, largely implicit in this report, consists of the major developments in Soviet strategic weaponry and the introduction of new command andprocedures during the Brezhnev-Kosygin regime.
intelligence nas oeen incorporated into the study, where appropriate.
The report is published in two parts. Volume I, "Form andomposite picture of the Council's features and functions asfrom the most reliable evidence. Volume II, "Evidence andays out the evidential basis for judgments on the evolution, composition, hierarchical status, functions, and procedures of the Defense Council and identifies major issues which the oporation ofody presents for the Soviet leadership. For comparative purposes, the text of laws establishing the Romanian Defense Council and the Czechoslovak State Defense Council9 are reproduced at Annex.
Volume I. Form and Functions
Deliberation and Reccoaendations
Relationship With Other Bodies
Volume II. Evidence and Issues
The Defense Council Under Khrushchev
The Higher or Main Military
The Military Press
The Scjna Testimony
The Defense Council Meeting8
"Far From Being Everything"
Brezhnev at Exercise)
Remarks by V. M. Kulish
The Defense Council Meeting on0 .
The Visit to Vladimirovka
"Voted on by the Three"
Law creating the Romanian Defense
Council, March 77
Law Creating the Czechoslovak state
Defense Council, March9 80
Volume I. Form and Functions
The Defense Councilivilian-militarybody situated between the Politburo and the Ministry of Defense and charged in peacetime with providing recommendations to the Politburo on major military policy issues. Its high-level membership, which includes at least the three top political leaders and the defense minister, suggestsouncil recommendation would exert strong influence within the Politburo. The Council is the most important single body in the USSR dealing primarily withpolicy.
The size of the Defense Council is uncertain, but it is known tomall core of at least four or five permanent members. These include party General Secretary Brezhnev as chairman, Premier Kosygin, President Podgornyy, Defense Minister Grechko, and possibly defense industries overseer Ustinov. Other top civilian and militaryas the KGB chairman, the Warsaw Pact commander in chief, and the strategic Rocket Forces commander inattend Defense Council sessions on invitation.
ormal peacetime institution, the Defense Council is one of at least four (including the Politburo, the Military-Industrial Commission, and the General Staff) major leverage points at which varying high-level military views and pressures come together. The permanent memberships ensure that the major political, economic, and military interests are represented in the Council's policy discussions. onsultative forum, the Defense Council provides the military and the defense industries with formal access to the political leadership and thus with an opportunity to exert pressure through argumentation.
The Defense Council's agenda apparently iswith virtually all major political-military questions.
A Defense Council meeting in8 may have concerned the deteriorating state of Soviet-Czech relations and possibly the movement of Warsaw Pact forces to the Czech border. The agenda for another meeting, inonsisted of four major items, possiblyontentious issue arising from the Strategic Arms Limitationeview of Soviet relief flights to aid Peruvian earthquake victims, and the delivery and use of Soviet military equipment in the Middle East.
Other evidence on the nature of the Council's business is difficult to corroborate. Individual items variously reported to have been discussed by the Council or which would fall within the Council's purview include: ongoing strategic issues such as ABM development and deployment, revision of theconscription law, national mobilization plans, military doctrine, military intelligence activities, world crisis situations, and the Soviet "war plan."
Brezhneventral role in the Defense Council's operation. Ho is empowered to convene the Council and to determine the time, location,and agendaiven meeting. Whether the Council meetsegular basis is unknown. It has been reported as meeting "irregularly" and as meeting every four to six weeks. T
The it could
easily convene prior to Politburo meetings,if the permanent members metimited attendance session.
The Minister of Defense, supported by elements of the General Staff, has important administrative responsibilities for Defense Council meetings. Whether these responsibilities are fulfilled on an ad hoc basis or as continuing functions is unclear. On one known occasion, Grechko evidently had the authority to schedule the order in which topics would be discussed, and possibly to limit attendance, but in these functions he probably was only implementing Brezhnev's instructions.
The General Staff, through its Main Operations Directorate, supports the Minister of Defense in making arrangements for Council meetings. The support extends not only to procedural matters such as attendance lists but also to substantive support in the form of briefings and position papers, and ensuring the presence of specialists. Theseare evidently made with strong and detailed guidance from Grechko. The Main Operations Directorate probably servesecretariat for the Defense Council.
Evidence on the inner proceedings of the Council is sparse. There are indications that discussions can be conducted in the form of debates, that reports from various individuals and studies from various groups are considered, and that the chairmanubstantive contributor as well as moderator. of at least one Council meeting priorolitburo meeting on the same day suggests that the first meeting was intended to be preparatory and advisory to the second; but it is unknown what forms the results of Council discussions may take, how differences are resolved, whether votes are taken, or whether the membersouncil position as such.
There are tenuous indications that the Council may have some decision-making powers, but further evidence is needed to confirm and clarify this
The Defense Council's status in wartime is Brezhnev, as both party loader and Defense Council chairman, would almost certainly become "Supreme Commander in Chief" of the armed forces. The Council's permanent members may form the nucleusupreme state agency, possibly similar in functions to the State Defense Committee of World War II, responsible for directing the Soviet war effort.
Bat: kg round
The Defense Council hashadowy existence at or near the highest level of the Soviet political system for at least the past decade. Informative and reliable evidence on the Defense Council became available onlyow-ever, i
of secrecy with which tho Brezhnev-Kosygin regime has covered the Defense Council is believed to result from the politically sensitive issues raisedigh-level political-military body functioningollective leadership. Among such issues inherited by the post-Khrushchev leadership are the followinq:
What shall the membership of the Council bo? How shall the inclusion and exclusion of the various civilian and military leaders be justified?
Who shall serve as chairman, and thus bepecial position to shape the Council's role, to court the military leadership's favor, and to enjoy the authority andof the post?
What shall the powers and procedures of the Council be in peacetime and wartime? And how shall the Council relate to other bodies, in particular the Politburo?
Some of these issues arising from the operation of the Defense Council have evidently remained contentious, and modifications of the Council's role have been proposed and debated at the highest levels over the past several years.
The exact size of the Defense Council isbut it is believed tomall core of four or five permanent members,ariety of high-level civilian and military officialsirregularly, on invitation.
The permanent members include party leader h. I. Brezhnev, Premier A. N. Kosygin, President N. V. Podgornyy, Minister of Defense A. A. Grechko fseend possibly defense industriesD. F. Ustinov. The specific basis for permanent membership is unknown, but evidence on severalbodies in East European countries suggests that the Defense Council was established formally, with membership designated by official function.
Brezhnev, for example, as General Secretary of the Central Committee, is the de facto chairman of
the Politburo* as well as head of the partyody which supervises the implementation ofpolicy decisions. As party leader, Brezhnevost which traditionally entails leadership over defense affairs. His authority in the defense field is reflected in his personal supervision of the Central Committee's Administrative Organs(which oversees the military, security, and judicial establishments on behalf of the Central Committee) and the military's Chief Political (which functionsentral Committeeresponsible for ensuring the political reliability of the armed forces).
Kosygin, as chairman of the Council of Ministers, has constitutional authority over the Ministry of Defense and the eight defense industries. In addition, tho Military-Industrial Commission, which oversees the various ministries and agencies involved in defense production, is attached to the Council of Ministers.
Chief of state Podgornyy has not been as clearly or closely identified with defense affairs as the other suspected permanent Defense Council members, but as President of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (the USSR's legislature) he has nominal constitutional authority under Articleo appoint and remove the high command of the USSR's armed forces and to order general or partial mobilization.
andidate member of the Politburoarty secretary, is the party's overseer for military-industrial affairs. He apparently has
There is no known de jure basis for describing Brezhnev's position as head of the Politburo. on how the Politburo operateo makes it clear, however, that Brezhnev has in fact functioned at Politburo chairman since replacing Khrushchev as party leader, and as General Secretary is recognised as head of the Politburo in practice. Brezhnev has responsibility for convening Politburo sessions, determining who should participate, and presiding at the sessions, during which he has summarized discussions and made rulings on policy issues.
direct supervisory authority over theCommission and generally over theof advanced weapons. TheL. V. Smirnov, has been shown n" ' ' ' o be subordinate to Ustinov,
who servesersonal link from thethe Politburo and the Defense Council, andthe Politburo monitors defense
| |Ustinov has contacts with at least two defense-reed departments of the CentralAdministrative Organs Department and the Defense Industry Department.
Grechko, as Minister of Defense, would represent the interests of the professional military, presenting its recommendations and requests to party andleaders.
Some Defense Council meetings aresessions, restricted to the Tho additional participation ofin an "enlarged.session" isaccording to the agenda, and theirbe restricted eitheriven session ordiscussioningle item on the agenda. however, invitations appear to beto Brezhnev's (or possibly at timesjudgment on the appropriateness ofgiven official attend. KGB chairman Andropov,was pointedly excluded by Grechko frommeetingalthough the General
Staff officer who1 was to issue the invitations had assumed that Andropov would be invited. Whether this episode reflected personal animosity, rivalry between the KGB and military intelligence services,
or just the agenda is unknown, and whether Grechko was acting on his own or implementing priorfrom Brezhnev is uncertain. The distinction between Defense Council menbers and other participants has been further highlighted through Grechko's use of the term "outsiders" to characterize invited civilian and military officials.
Some officials who have attended known Defense Council meetings but who are not believed to be permanent members include Warsaw Pact Commander in Chief. Yakubovskiy, KGB Chairman Yu. V. Andropov, and the late Strategic Rocket Forces Commander in Chief N. I. Krylov. The following officialsalso participate in Defense Council meetings on occasion:
chairman of the Military-Industrial
Commission, L. V. Smirnov
chairman of the State Planning Committee
. K. Baybakov
head of the chief Political Directorate
of the armed forces, A. A. Yepishev
the chief of the General Staff, V. G. Kulikov
the chiefs of the General Staff's Main Opera-
tions Directorate, M. M. Kozlov, and Main Intelligence Directorate, P. I. Ivashutin
Warsaw Pact chief of staff, S. M.
Presumably, other high-level officials are alsoto attend some Defense Council meetings as ad hoc participants.
Whether consideredmall nucleus of permanent members or as an expandable forumariety of officials, the Defense Counciloint civilian-military body. Its permanent membership appears designed to ensure that Council meetings are attended by at least one representative from the party.
governmental, defense industries, and military And despite some uncertainties andin reports on the Council's membership, it is clearly civilian dominated.
The composition of the Defense Council suggests, further, that within the Soviet institutionalthe council is situated between the Politburo and the Ministry of Defense. It is uncertain,whether the Soviets considerarty body attached to the Politburo,overnment body attached to the Council of Ministers.
The chairman of the Defense Council is almost certainly Brezhnev. He
| |nas nimseii stated on two known seroipublic occasions that he is the chairman,
Thereonflicting suggestion, provided in
0 in remarks by
Council chairmanship may only reflect hisof the Council's operation or his intention to deceive his listeners. hird possiblefor the comment wouldotatingalternating between the two party and government leaders. This wouldighly unusual procedure for the Soviets, however, and consideration of
Brezhnev Reviews Troops in Exercise Dvina0
After reviewing the parade in Mini* following Exercise Ovina. the large-scale Soviet maneuvers held in Belorussia inrezhnev was
1ave identified himself as chairman ol the "Committee foi the Defense of thedding That he keeps his mililary uniformrominent place in huready fo< donning should ihe occasion
" onrccrs reviewing iroopi which
re maneuvers. Brezhnev was tte only civilian Delenie Council member IOExerciwt Dvma. The diher civilian, filth from. M. Masherov. lirst secretary Ol the Beto'uisian central committeeolitburo candidate member
[Red Star nhoioiraph.
In the firn half ofhe massive Mm combined-arms maneuvers were conducted on the territory of Belorussia under the leadership of theof Defense of the USSR. Marshal of the Soviet Union A. A. Grechko. Their purpose was to test and further perfect the level of combat training of troops and the operational training ot staffs.
The armed forces of the USSR are growing and becoming stronger along with the entire country. From year to year the economic and defensive might of our motherland is increasing. The Communist Party, the Soviet government, awl the Sonet people are devoting the most intense attention to the guardians of the motherland and are daily concerned about them.
A new and sinking manifestation of this was the presence in Minsk of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU. Comrade L. I. Brerheonid ll'ich Brerhncv showed exceptionally great interest in the maneu- -vers. Hepeech before itsndeview ol
From ihe Soviel book Tlir Dvim Maneuvers
Brezhnev's political style renders the possibility remote.*
Two of Brezhnev's major objectives have been to achieve preeminence within the collective leadership and to win support from the military leadership. The authority and influence inherent inody such as the Defense Council bear directly on both objectives. Brezhnev would recognize the Defense Council's potentialormal butinstrument for exercising control over the senior military leadership's participation in defense policy deliberations. He would also see in the Council'seans to ensurerominent role in those deliberations. Although there is no available evidence on the Defense Council as an arena of political competition, the chairmanship of the Council can reasonably be presumed toatter of contention within the Soviet leadership and toolitical prize. Brezhnev has been successful in gaining the preeminent position in the Politburo, and he probably would not be content to share the chairmanship of the Defense Council. Although the dominant figure in the Soviet leadership, Brezhnev is nevertheless not omnipotent. Furthermore, evidence bearing on the Defense Council chairmanship has been received at wide intervals.**
The Defense Council involves itselfide range of policy matters related to the military aspects of national security, if the laws and statutes formally establishing similar bodies in Eastern Europeeliable indication, the Council probably has broad statutory sanctions for its scope of activities.*
Evidence on the Council's exact agenda isto corroborate. Subjects variouslythe past several years to have beenCouncil meetings include strategic issuesthe development and deployment ofrevisions in the military conscriptiondoctrine, weapons development andmobilization plans and problems offor mobilization, the Strategic ArmsTalks, military intelligence activities,situations, and the "war plan." Morecouncil has been reported as having ain virtually all major military-political
Volume-II of this report, ,iscussion of these East European bodies, andummary comparison of their similarities.
Deliberation and Recommendations. The member-Ship and agenda ot the Defense Council indicate that it is the highest-level Soviet body concernedwith defense policies. eacetimeforum, the Defense Council ensures that maior party, government, military, and defense industries interests are considered and coordinated in the formulation of those policies.
Most reports characterize the Defense Councileliberative andecision-making body, charged in peacetime with providing recommendations to the
Politburo. fima irkdi.
nature of the topics discussed by the Defense Council suggests that the results of the deliberations would be reviewed by the Politburohole.
The description of the Defense Council as an advisory or deliberative body may nevertheless be
Advice to Politburo Permaneml memDarship Ad hoc participants
Other.mlnislfiejJiifSi tonommJttets, acadeVnies^ ; arid institutes '
incomplete. The Council's three top civilians are also senior members of the Politburo, suggestingistinction between the Defense Council as an advisory body and the Politburo as the ultimateauthority may not be easily maintained in practice. Many of the recommendations advanced by the Council to the Politburo for finalprobably encounter little, if any, opposition. The influence exertedolicy recommendation endorsed by Brezhnev, Kosygin, Podgornyy, Grechko, Ustinov, and possibly other officials, would seemmany matters--to constitute adecision.
The Politburo is by no means,ubber stamp for the Defense Council or any other group. It is believed to arrive at many decisions by majority vote among theull members, and some clandestine reports strongly suggest that onajority of the members have disagreed with and voted against measures backed by one or more of the top three leaders.
There is some slight evidence
that Defense Council meetings do iW always result
in recommendations orouncil position, as such, and that some meetings may be solely deliberative. The determining factor may be the amount ofevident. In such instances, and possibly at other times also, the Council may restrict itself to preparing optionsiven issue. Contentious issues would then presumably be resolved within the Politburo.
Decision-Making Authority? There are somethat with regard to certain issuesCouncil may have some decision-makingdelegated to it. One Soviet , laimed in0 that theon "military doctrine" are final andall organs affected. The same officialthe Council makes decisions onfrom the Ministry of Defense for theand all production of military equipment. indications of some kind offor the Defpnup Council have been he existence of such author-
Icy is aiso suggested by the example of Khrushchev's Main Military Council, whioh evidently had the authority to issue certain "requirements" which were to be "strictly fulfilled" by commanders and .party organizations in the armed forces, and by theof certain high-level political-military bodies in East European countries.**
Political-Military Consultation. eacetime consultative forum, the Defense Council allows the
Information on Khrushchev's council and on the East European defense councils and committees is only analogical evidence, at best, and does not necessarily indicate anything about the Defense Council in the Soviet Union today. There are several similarities in all these councils, however, suggesting that fuller evidence mightloser correspondence of functions and features than is now evident.
defense minister and, upon invitation, otherformal access to at least the top threeleaders. For the senior militaryon the Politburoutto present their views to thatCouncil may be the most importantthrough which they can advocatea permanent member of the Council, Grechkoable to present and argue views of In preparation for the DefenseGrechko is known to have
uei lu uu writtenroup of weapons specialists and slantedarticular line of reasoning. Other preparations made by Grechko for the meetingpecialtoey official involved in strategic missile production back to Moscow fromalso suggest that the military takes advantage of the opportunity for special pleading within the Council.
An opportunity to exert pressure throughdoes not, however, necessarily translategenuine influence on the decisions eventually arrived at. Formal access is only oneomplex of factors bearing on the matter ofnalysis of possible influencethat difficulties of definition, measurement, and evidence can beprobably best made by considering specific instances than by focusingiven institutional outlet.*
Relationship With Other Bodies. The Defense Council may also serveormal channel through which views and recommendations of the defenseperhaps as formulated in the Military-Industrial Commission, are forwarded to the political leadership, d. F. Ustinov would seem the logical
person to sum up and present commission views at Defense Council meetings, although there is no direct evidence he has done so.
Defense industries overseer D. F. Ustinov Ot lefll and party. Brezhnev (second from loft)wharfs in Leningrado the Leningrad naval baseeriod of reorganization for ihe defense industries. Toleft are the first secretary of the Leningrad oblasl. V. Tolstikov. the commander of the LeningradBase. Admiral I. Baykov. and then Minister of Defense R. Malinovskiy,
On one occasion, Grechko arrangedroupspecialists from the defense industriesdefense ministry to meet privately withubstantive brief for him prior toCouncil meetingAlthough
Grechko would clearly have autnority to draw upon the resources of his own ministry, the basis for his evident authority to request services and studies from the defense industries is less clear.
A possible explanation for this type ofand cooperation may be the formal attachmentcomponents to the Defense Council. of at least an economic defensethe Council is suggested (
economic component consists of the ministers of the defense industries and representatives ofthe chairman and his deputies. The functions of the component were not discussed, but the similarity of the component's reported membership with that of the Military Industrial Commission is striking. More reliable evidence will be needed, however, to clarify
( implication that the commission maytimesomponent of the Defense Council. relationship between these two bodies on abasis remains uncertain.
_,is true, Grechko may have been drawing upon the services of part of the Defense Council itself when he was preparing for the Council
The relationship between the Defense Council and several otheras the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the civilian and military intelligence (KGB andarious Soviet research institutes, and some of the Central Committee departments--is Defense-related documents, analytical studies, and personal testimony from these groups are presumably requested by the Defense Council and considered at its meetings. Evidence on the Councilecipient of such studies and reports.s largely inferential.
is largely inferential, f
Iwj.bv.umj un ujie occasion had
ujispecixieajom the Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered to him
The documents wtic pussimy intended tor
and considered by the Council.
According torelevant studies from
research institutes or the Academy of Sciences (such
as 1 i-; .i _
as the USA Institute and the Institute of World Economics and International Relations) are written for the Council, sometimes reaching it directly butbeing integrated with General Staff studies. Presumably the Council would also receive defense-related analytical and estimative intelligencefrom the International Department and the Bloc Department of the Central Committee, as well as factual or oven field reports of particular importance,
There is little direct and reliable evidence, however from which to trace the possible flow of intelligence' and defense policy-related papers to the Defense Counci1.
Evidonce on the Defense Council'srisis is sparse. Themembership and certain aspects ofoperation show that it can be convenedorder, and it may function in times ofan abbreviated Politburo with military One known meeting,[ did occur
ime of heightenedetween the USSR and Czechoslovakia andeek when several combat divisions of Warsaw Pact forces were being sent toch border. The meeting was called on one day's notice and concerned, in Podgornyy's words, "very serious questions." This meetingfollowedull Politburo meeting, however, suggesting that the Defense Council may function as an advisory body even in times of crisis.*
ational emergency calling for decisions within minutes rather than hours, party leader Brezhnev may be empowered to act on his own or, with more time (hours orould convene the Defense Council and the Politburo. The type of evidence
needed to confirm this possibility, [
* Whether the Defense Council met in the succeeding months prior to the Soviet intervention onugusts not known. On the other hand, there isevidence that the entire Politburo met often. Presumably, scheduling of Council meetings prior to Politburo sessions could be easily arranged,if the Council met in restricted attendance session.
In wartime, party leader Brezhnev, possibly by virtue of being the peacetimeCouncil chairman, will almost certainly become the Supreme Commander in Chief. And the permanent membersthe Defense Council (or perhaps only the civilian members) may form the nucleusupreme state agency,
similar in functions to the State Defenseof World War II, responsible forthe Soviet war effort.
The evidence ison these points, however, andprincipally of Soviet military writings. The post of Supremein Chief itself will, at any rate, exist in wartime, and some kind of strategicsystem, short of
relied heavily on the Minister of Defense to make arrangements such as issuing invitations, setting the order in which agenda items would be considered, and restricting attendanceouncil session on an item-by-item, "need to know" basis. Grechko in turn relied upon, and provided detailed guidance to, the chief of the General Staff's Main Operations Directorate, M. M. Kozlov, for implementing these arrangements.
On what basis and to what extent Grechko and the General Staff are normally involved infor Defense Council meetings is uncertain. of East European counterpart councils
;rd.rSP>ried rema?rks bvhowever,
that the Councilecretariat and that the
Ministry of Defense provides the staff. Some evidence
suggests that Kozlov, or even Grechko himself, may
be the Council's general secretary; other evidence
suggests that the chief of the General Staff would
normally serve as Council secretary. The General
Staff's Main Operations Directorate probably functions
as the Council's secretariat.
On occasion the General Department of themay also perform certainfor the Defense Council.
-.'Jim wmural Departmentiui notifying Politburo members of scheduled and unscheduled Politburo meetings, and Brezhnev may have elected to use this means of communication as an expedient P
Evidence on the inner proceedings of the Defense Council is sparse, urezhnev could reasonably be expected, however, to guide the Council's operation at least as fully as he does the activities of the Politburo and its executive arm, the Secretariat.*
top secretOriginal document.