CAESAH XXIV Off. Ser. No. 18
THE HIGHER MILITARY COUNCIL OF THE USSR
Thisorking paper, the firstlanned series of reports on Soviet military policy-making.
He examine here the Higher Military Council and offer tentative conclusions about the use of thisby Khrushchev and the military for their various purposes.
A second study on military decision-making willthe roles of Individual presidium members andparty, government and military personnel in the policy-making process. hird study will reexamine the role of the military's main planning institution, the General Staff.
Although this paper has not been coordinated with other offices, the author has benefited much fromof the topic with colleagues in other offices of the Agency. The author alone is responsible for the paper's conclusions.
THB HIGHER MILITARY COUNCIL OF THE USSR CONTENTS
PART ONE: THE COUNCIL
Khrushchev's Use of Military
The Lower Level Military
The Council and. National
PART TWO: THE EVOLUTION OF THE
Tho Origin of the Military Council As
The Military Purge and Stalin's Assumption of Direct Control of
Role of Military Councils Assumed by State Defense Committee and Stavka During
Establishmentingle Main Military
Council System Stripped of Former
Diminished Role of Council System
resent: Khrushchev Revitalizes Council
Till; HIGHER. UILITAHY COUNCIL OF THE USSR Summary ami Conclusions
Tho highest-level body formally charged withdefense recommendations to the decision-makingin the Soviet Union Is called the "Higher (Vysshyy Voyenny Sovet*). This body issecrecy and is rarely mentioned in unclassified However, by examining the occasionalreferences to military urea Die to illuminate the following features 'ofMilitary Council:
it is an institution created and used byto maintain direct operational and administrative control over the entire Soviet military establishmentj
it provides the professional military, who are not represented in tho ruling party presidium, with direct access to Khrushchev and his "inner-presidium" military team, and, hence, an opportunity to influence decisions
at an early stage ln the policy-making process;
t isonsultative body, which dealside range of strategic and administrativebut apparently has some decision-making authority (for example, "requirements" of an unknown kind are Issued in the name of the Council);
*The Higher "HiTlTaryVoyenny Sovet"
j Soviet military uiclionafles generally-g
two English meanings forhe preferredand the one used innd tho second meaning Is "supreme."
is not bound to act on thoof the military members of the Council (some ofopposed0 troop cutut onhe has reportedly followed the military'syielded to their pressure1 resumption
of nuclear testing);
composition and function of the Councilthat it is one device used by Khrushchev toruling party presidiumhole on certainmatters. Khrushchev himself convokes theserves as its chairman, and dominates it. the matter at hand, participants in Councilincluded presidium members who appear to bemilitary advisors (Brezhnev, Mikoyan, andthe only ones specifically identified inhe principal Soviet military his deputies, and other senior military
officers and advisors) and high-level party andindividuals Involved in defense-related matters;
Council's high-powered membership andin the Soviet hierarchicaloutside and above the Defenseit
a unique institution in the Soviet system today;
the Council has antecedentsSoviet past, and bears some functionalremains distinct ln both usage and composition)National Security Council of the United States.
Stalin, too, established institutions like the Higher Military Council to ensure his dominance in tho realm of decision-making and policy execution. Stalin's retention of the military policy prerogative in the post war years, however, did not depend upon the maintenance of an active and powerful council system, which hecurtailed. Khrushchev, after Marshal Zhukov's fall, revitalized the entire council system and formed the Higher Military Council to ensure for himself the powers which Stalin had wielded in the military sphere. But, unlike Stalin's institutions, Khrushchev's council system is moreepressive devico to retain personal dominance
over the military; it; provides the professional soldierigh-level lobbying forum to recommend policyo the complex questions of modern war to the presidium decision-makers.
- ill -
PART ONE: THE COUNCIL TODAY
It has been characteristic of Khrushchev's style of rule, since he took firm hold of the helm of stateo place himself at the head of tbe major party and government departments while methodically dividing responsibilities among his associates in order to prevent any of them from acquiring enougha bureaucratic basis for achievingrival his. Not content with his direct, personal control over the professional party apparatus, the USSR Council of Ministers, and theRSFSR Buro, Khrushchev also assumed personal control over the military. It is not surprising then that his voice is the dominant one on military questions ln the ruling presidium, and, with rare exceptions, the only party voice heard on that subject outside the Kremlin walls. The most Important developments in militaryand advanced weapons in recent years have beento his personal initiative.
To assure himselfominant role in the military decision-making process, Khrushchev assumed two keyposts which bad antecedents in Stalin's time but which were created aneworm more suitable toparticular circumstancos and style of rule. Sometime after his showdown with Marshalhrushchev establishedecret party decree, weo-called Higher Military Council, consisting of key military and party personnel, to serve as his personal advisory group on matters relating to defense. Two or three years later, evidently, he alao donned the lofty title of Supreme High Commander. Thin latter office combined, ln effect, the highest political and military authority and gave Khrushchev personally powers and stature comparable to those of the President of tbe United States, or to those enjoyed by Stalin during the Second World War.
By virtue of hie position of Supreme High Commander, Khrushchev gained ultimate operational control over the Strategic Rocket Forces, and, presumably, the power to react to orulcear strike without the prior approval of the other partynd by virtue of his position of Chairman of the Higher Military Council Khrushchev may bypass the Presidiumhole from the first stages of presumably any military-political venture.
We do not know whether Khrushchev, considers, himself fully capable of making "final" military decisionsprior consultation with leading party and military figures. We do know that he actively seeks out theofcolleagues, governmentand military professionals in the process of policy formulation. The principal advisory forum is the Higher Military Council. But tbe Council, as we shalltranscends its advisory role and assumes some executive and decision-making powers in Its own right. Moreover, while Khrushchev uses the Council as anfor exercising his personal control over the the same organ provides the military with anto bring pressure (by force of argumentation) directly to bear on the party leadership for purposes of influencing policy decisions.
The Higher Military Council, as distinct from Its predecessor institutionimilar name or other
a study on tbe streamlining of the strategicmachinery in peacetime, see CAESAR XVISoviet Strategic Doctrine for the Start of. Recently, Marshal Malinovsky, noting Khrushchev's exclusive control of tbe SRF, stated in RED STAR on4 that "on his initiative, and under bis directew type of armedstrategic rocketcreated." (Our omphasis.)
The extraordinary position of the Council canby (and. Indeed, mav stem from) itsmembership.
the Council as an "operational" and "very flexible" group of high-level party, government, and military officials under the Jurisdiction of Commander-in-Chief Khrushchev. In addition to Khrushchev, vho chairs the meetings ofuneil. the only civilian members f
were Mikoyan and
mjateu tuat other-presidium members attend meetings" oxCouncil. jdid not disclose their names. on the matter at hand, mem-
bers of the central committee, representatives from the State Committees for Electronics or Defense Technology, or scientists from the Academy of Sciences may beto attend Council meetings.
On the military side, according to all commanders-in-chief of the various brancnes ox ser-vice are automatically members of the Council, and the Council may have an attached advisory group consisting of other high-ranking military advisors.* In addition,
he expressed the view that Khrushchev's political power was such that he couldember or head of anycouncil, or other official body, at any time.
e Council, as explained
is entirely under Khrushchev's domination and iunctions at his discretion. Tho Council holdsscheduled meetings but also meets frequently when-over the needstatement consistent8 military dictionary's definition ofpermanent, or temporarily convokedorgan attached to the supreme stateouncil sessions do not require the assemblinguorum. All that is necessaryession of the Council is for Khrushchev to meet with several of his advisors on military questions. (We do not knoweeting of the Council could bo held in the absence of its chairman, Khrushchev.)
We have no information as to whether or not the members of the Council have voting rights, to tho extent that decisions are made at meetings of the Council or in its name.* The flexible and varlogated membership of the Council, and the manner in which its meetings are reportedly conducted, suggest that the members do notormal vote but seek toingle arbiter, Khrushchev, by force of argumentation.
From the little evidence at our disposal, it would seem that the breadth of defense-related questions taken up at meetings of the Council Is considerable. 8 dictionary of military terms cited earlier stated that
ol command level military councils do have voting rights. Decisions at this level, however,concern day-to-day administrative chores.
the Council was an organ "for the consideration ofproblems concerning the preparation for and waging
of war and military
promotions ana cnanges in Top cotcraana positions in the armed forces; foreignthe German question; military strategy; and the structure and size of Soviet forces. The range of permissible questions is probably limited only by Khrushchev's interests.
Although lt isonsultative body at the disposal of the supreme leadership, the Council also performs more direct functions in theprocess. For instance, some of the reports on the activities of the Council suggest that Khrushchevuses itorum for the announcement of his personalas changes in the military highfor the preliminary airing of proposals, prior to presenting them to the presidium or centralfor final approval.
There is also some evidence which suggests to us that certain types of decisions are actually made at meetings of the Council or circulated in privatein the name of the Council. eference in
"requirements" of the Main Military "strictly fulfilled" by commanders and
uncil to be
party organizations in the armed forces indicates that the Council performs some policy functions and issues directives in the military sphere. The "requirements" are impossible to define becauseack of evidence. We have not turned up any references to specificissued in the name of the Higher Military Council.*
is evidence of issuances In the name of lower-level military councils, but these institutionspecies quite different from the unique Higher Military Council.
of the Higher Mili-
tary Council as an "operational" group also imputes to it executive authority. Thus, tbe Council may be charged with the task ol determining the ways in which certain basiconigher level either by Khrushchev personally, by the presidium inner sanctum or by other informalught to be carried out. It is probably ln this sense that the Councilormal rolo In the policy-making process. For it is doubtful that any of the abovo-mentioned higher authorities would wish to share their formal decision-making powers with the military and scientific elite, who have beenregarded as primarily technicians andof tbe civilian party leadership. (This is not to underestimate the considerable indirect or Informal role which the military plays in policy formulation. Moro on this shortly.)
Khrushchev, as almost all of the availableconvokes meetings of the Council primarilyto seek out the advice of the specialists onof national Importance. In describing theof tho Council,related thatchairs the meeting, ooainates it entirely,Its members directly, withoutlnui ^ummanuor-in-uniei,as the effective head of the militaryln this Council.
Open publications do not mention the Higher Military Council by name, and the rare public accounts of thedecision-making process provide us with few insights into the various factors which shapo the final choice. Rather, the sporadic references to policy-making ln the public media intentionally obfuscate the actualmachinery by surrounding it in vague references to the "collectivity" of party leadership. (Khrushchev himselfoscow ceremony onpril this year stated
that "not everything depends on me;ork ln a Authoritative military references mention only the "official" decision-making bodies in tbe party, and stop short (as might be expected) of mentioning Khrushchev's actual decision-making machinery.
Host notable among the attempts to intentionallythe Soviet policy proceas under Khrushchev are two recent articles by Marshal Malinovsky (in RED STAR) and Marshal Grechko (in IZVESTIYA) that appeared on tbeof Khrushchev's seventieth birthday inoth Marshals portrayed the dominance of Khrushchev and the party (central committee andnd portrayed the professional military as the group which advises and provides other forms of support in the policy-making are description of "conferences" (soveshchanyy) of presidium members and leading military officers, Marshal Grechko seemed to be writing about meetings of the Higher Military Council:
In the past ten years all those basic changostho structure of our armed forces have taken place under tbe leadership of theCentral Committee of our Party and. Khrushchev personally. In these years, at the initiative. Khrushchev, the Presidium of the CPSU Central Committee haseries of conferences with theof leading military figures at which the most Importantto the (level opmcnt of eacEtype of armed force ancTch of troops have been carefully. Khrushchev has most actively partici-pated ln the work of these conferences and given proofrofound and specificof military matters. Ho has been the initiator of many valuable undertakings which have considerably strengthened the defense capability of our state. It was at histhat the strategic rocket troops were created, which now form the backbone of the military power of the Soviet Union and of the entire socialist camp. (Our emphasis.)
Grechko's reference to the "ten-sear" length of thewith the "presidium" seems to be calculated to fit the party theme of collectivity. He doos not, of course, provide his readers with the dates that Khrushchev waso dominate the "conferences" and thusdirect personal control over the militaryando deprive his associates in the ruling presidium from acquiring enough military author-ttty-tto challenge his. rief reference to decision making is even less specific than Grechko's. In the context of praising Khrushchev's leadership and scoring the "lifeless canons and dogmasalinovsky wrote that
before deciding on any problem anda practical decision on it, members of the party Central Committee, members of the CPSU Central Committee Presidum,etailed study of the state of affairs in the Army and Navy, of the urgent problems in consolidating the country's defense capacity, of the urgent problems of military development, and consultmilitary cadres. Afteroncrete decision is reached.
While redundant, Malinovsky's last sentence empha.-sizes his point that military cadres are consulted on any problemconcrete decision" is reached. PRAVDA's version"of Malinovsky's article7 April Moscow domestic service broadcast on the article deleted this sentence, as if to play tiown the policy-maker's dependence on the military. (PRAVDA, for reasonsto us, also deleted Malinovsky's reference tohchev as "Supreme Highnd referred tosimply as "comrade.")
The Military Influence
This brings usonsideration of the important indirect or informal role which the military plays in the
formulation of policy ln the USSR. We frequently sooln our Intelligence publications to tho success or failure of the Soviet military in checking this or that policy which Khrushchev has publicly championed. But we seldom, if ever, see an explanation of how the military manage to make their influence on policy felt. Clearly, the question is not an easy one, especially ln view of the facts that no professional military man has sat in the party presidiumnd the military representation ln the party central committee constitutes less than ten percent of tbe total membership of that body.
Tbe answer which we offer for consideration is that the Higher Military Council is the military's principal forum for applying pressure on the supreme leadership to act on policy. The military chieftains oome to meetings of tbe Council as advisors. But the line between "advice" and special pleading or lobbying is slight and easily transgressed. In tbe meetings of tbe Council, theare afforded direct access to Khrushchev and other key presidium members and discuss with them the most urgent defense-related problems of the day. Here the military chiefs have an opportunity, provided by tbe highest level forum to which they have access, to bring their viewpoints directly to bear on policy makers at an early stage Aa the decision-making process.* While not specifically mentioning the Higher Military Council as the "lobbying" forum, Khrushchev himself (at ain New York as reported by TASS onommented on the Influence of the military and weapon specialists on determining policy:
*The force component' military councils, which welater, mightpecialized alternative forum for the branch commanders to influence, at an early stage in policy formulation, individual central committeewho reportedly head secret military sections within the CC apparatus.
. President? told me that he is often asked by the military for money to manufacture this new type of weapons or another. They told him that the Russians would outstrip them in armaments unless he gave the money. The President asked me how this was done in our country. eplied that approximately the same thing happens. Military men and scientiststhe government and ask for money to manufacture new rockets. We give, them money. Six months later the same men come again and say: We have designed better rockets, give us money for these rockets. We tell them: But recently we allocated funds for new rockets. And they reply: Now we have designed still better rockets, give us money, otherwise the Americans will outstrip us. So we have to allocate money again.
Another example of the influanfl* of tha professional
role in tbe uuxxmuru ueuimon to resume nuclear weapons testing1oratorium of several years. Ac-
cordingthe matter was discussed at a
meeting of tbe Higher Military Council and the decision emanated from tbat discussion. The military, it was reported, exerted pressure on Khrushchev in thatto resume testingy arguing convincingly that "they could not be fully prepared for war without testing ln order to know how delivery vehicles would perform with nuclear warheads."
Khrushchev's Use of Professional Military Advice
Khrushchev (and his close advisors in the presidium) are, of course, not bound to act on the advice tendered by members of the Higher Military Council. Khrushchev has in the past acted contrary to the Judgment of various members of the professional military leaders whose advice he had sought.
Aase in point was the unilateral troop-cut plan announced by Khrushchev ln his Supreae Soviet speech on Khrushchev declared, with respect to the decision taken to reduce Soviet forces by one-third, tbat
We have studied this question ln detail iron every angle, consulted with the military and tho generaln3 unlu'wi't afingly reply:will be fully sufficient, and wo have realistically taken everything into account. (Our emphasis.)
Khrushchev implied tbat the opinion given by thethe general staff" was one of support for thelt has since been revealed that the second andmilitaryChief of the Warsawand the Chief Of the Generalopposedourcuring tne time of docisIontroop cut issue, Marshal Sokolovsky, then thethe Oeneral Staff, protested to Khrushchev that,result of Khrushchev's budgetary cuts, he couldthe Soviet forces at tbe level vhlch wouldto defeat the great numbers available to Overriding the opposition of MarshalsKonev (then Warsaw Pacthrushchevtroop cut program through and replaced thewith some he thought to be more amenable in army posts.*
*Othcr senior military advisors also were opposed to the troop-cut plan but were evidently not as adamant as
Konev and Sokolovsky. For example,
recalled that "when Marshal Grechko aarea roionnS strong opposition to the partial demobilization plans several years ago, Khrushchev throw him out of theand Grechko went on an extended leave. Grechko was subsequently restored to grace, of course."
The Lower Military Councils
There are, of course, other means used by theto express their viewpoints, the most notable being large, body of doctrinal writings.
And there is evidence suggesrums other than the Higher Military Council used by the military to convey their views directly to high-level policy makers.
Other such adivsory centers may bo found in the military councils on the levels of the major fieldand force component headquarters.
Command Level Military Councils:include those at the group of forces, military district, army, PVOfleet and flotilla level. Tbey generallyof at least three formal members: he commander (or commander-in-chief) of the command,is deputy or staff chief,he chief of the Main Political Administration (the top political officer in thesubdivision.) Members have reportedly included other senior officers of the military subdivision,to tho MPA chief, and, significantly, leading representatives of local party organs.* In addition to professional military and party members, civilians engaged
0 Novembermilitary pamphlet entitled "Political Organs and Party Organizations of the Soviet Army andy Col. Gen. Ealashnik, states tbat "it is known that all first secretaries of central committees of Communist parties in union republics, first secretaries of kray committees, and many first secretaries of oblast party committees are members of military councils ofdistricts, fleets, and PVO districts." The SMALL SOVIETn discussing the military council on district, fleet and army level, states that "the council carries out its work in close contact with the local party organization."
In essential military support activities in thebeen reported as having attended meetings ofdistrict
The command military councils have powerfulresponsibilities In addition to serving as. consultative organs for the commander. Accordingoviet Defense Ministry book, FOUNDATIONS OFilitary councils "possess the right guaranteed by law to examine and decide all important matters in troop life and activities." (Ourhe range of decision-making powers is broadly described in Soviet military articles as including "military and political preparation, administrative and mobilizational work and training of troops." Decisions.at thiswhich appear to fall into the routine day-to-day category, in contrast to the Higher Military Council's broaderreportedly subjectajority vote by the members of the command level military councils. amphlet by Larkov and Filippov, entitled "One-Man Command in the Soviet Armed Forces and Methods of Further Consolidation" ,
the resolutions of military councils are passedajority vote afterof each question on the basisusiness-like criticism and are brought into effect by order of the commander, (commander-in-chief).
Thus the voting rightignificant chock by the party on the local commander's freedom of: maneuver.*
"That the military councils continue to act as aon the commander's freedom of maneuver is made clear4 RED STAR article by General Kurochkin. Evincing sensitivity on this point, Kurochkin attempts to rebut the views he says he occasionally finds "in our military-politicalhat in the Soviet Armed Forces there is no 'full* one-man command, since there are collective leading organs, the militaryurochkin makes the weak argument that military councils do not annul tho principle of one-man command since (footnote continued on
The command-level military councils, as Indicated in open press items, are subordinated to both the Defense Ministry and the central committee. They are under the Defense Ministry inhe chairman of the local military council, the commander. Is subordinate to the Defense Minister,he military council'sare executed by the order of the commander. At the same time, the military councils are responsible to the party's central committee in that the Main Political Administration (an Independent central committeeplaces leading officials on the councils as voting members.
Force Component Military Councils appeared for the first time in the military pressear after the fall of Zhukov. Since then, unfortunately,mall amount of information regarding membership and functions of the five Military Councils has been uncovered from
The composition of the five councils at this level has not been revealed in available material. But if the composition of force component councils consistentlythe Navy's pattern (and the announced personnel in the Military Councils of the Air Defense and Strategic Rocket Forces lends support to thishewould consisthe Commanders-in-Chief of the force components, who head their respective Councils (Strategic Rocket Forces, Krylov; Navy, Gorshkov; Air Defense Forces, Sudets; Army Air Force, Vershinin; Ground Forces, Chuykov); heir deputies and staff chiefs;igh-ranking Main Political Administration officers. (Deputy Chiefs of the MPA are known to be members of the Navy and Air Defense Councils.)
(footnote continued from
he discussion of major problems in the councils "only helps the commander to avoid errors and to feel more convinced of the correctness of the decisionhe decisions of the military council are put into practice by tho commander.
The functions of the force component councils, as reflected In the military press, seem to parallel the. duties of the command level military councils (discussed above). And the membership of the two types of councils appears to follow the same patternhe commander, his staff chief,igh-ranking MPA officer). But we do not know how rigidly this parallel is followed. For example, we know that leading local partyare members of the command level militarybut we do not know whether senior central members arc represented in force component military councils. And we do not know whether the members of force component councils have voting rights similar to the majority-vote principle of the command levelcouncils.
The Council and. National Security Council
Although itnique Institution in Soviet society, the Higher Military Council, to the degree that itsfunctions are known to us, seems to bear someto the US. National Security Council. In both cases, the chief of state has ultimate decision-making authority on strategic military Issues. And ln both cases, the duties of the two Councils are to assist the chief of state in the determination of and preparation for national security matters. omparison of thedefined general tasks of the two councils alsoertain similarity:
"The duties of the Council are to assess and appraise thecommitments, and risks of the United States in relation to its actual andmilitary power, ln'tbe Interest of national security, for the purpose of makingto the President,
USSR Military Council
ermanent, or temporarily convoked, consultative organ attached to the supreme state authority for theof important problems concerning the preparation for and waging of war/and military measures." (Short Dictionary of Operational,
and to consider policies on matters of common interest to the departments and
Tactical and GeneralTerms, MilitaryHouse of tho
of the Government concerned with the national
Ministry of Defense. p.)
and to maketo theActivities of the National Security Council, United States,
Vhile the advisory functions are apparently somewhat similar, the parallel breaks down regarding the current usage and composition of the two institutions. Regarding usage, the NSC which met somewhat regularly ins is,esult of different styles of leadership, only occasionally called together today. Khrushchev, while using the Higher Military Council as an advisory body, may not rely upon it for consultation concerning apolitical-military matterduring2 Cuban missile crisis, Khrushchev reportedly reliedew experiencedormal consultativerelated advice). Regarding composition, tbe. Secretary of Defense (an NSC member) appears to wield more decision-making power than his Sovietthe professional military Defense Minister. Inwe have found no Higher Military Council link with the Soviet Foreign Ministry (which seems toinor policy-makingndomparison with. Secretary of State (an NSC member) cannot be drawn.
*The participation of the presidium and other high-level party, state and military individuals in military policy formulation will be tho subject of our second study on decision making.
While the Higher Military Council bears somevith the National Security Council, we feel that the former must be examined within the Soviet system in-order to draw Its present-day mission into sharper focus. Thus we have searched out the highlights of the council system over the last thirty years and present our findings in the following part in an attempt to increase ourof the processes of military consultation and policy recommendation in the Soviet Union.
PAJtT TWO: THE EVOLUTION OF THE COUNCIL
In this portion of the study, we shall try to place the Higher Military Council ln historical perspective. The military council system, in brief outline, has evolved In tho following way:
a Military Council under the Defense Commissar was formed4igh-level consultative organ and was subsequently abolished, presumably between the end7 and tho beginning of World War II;
ubordinate military councils were created and given administrative functionsole directly related to the military purge) as well asroles;
talin established two Main Militarylavnyy Voyennyo run the Army and Navy;
the powers of the two Main Military Councils were assumed by the State Defense Committee and Stavka during World War II, and lower-level military councils were subordinated to the Stavka;
shortly after the war,ingle. Main Military Council (presumably combining the role of the8 Main Military Councils)ilitary Council under the Defonse Minister (somewhat similar to that formedere rocreated;
(B) after0 military reorganization,to Stalin's postwar Main Military Councilfrom view and the command-level military councils apparently were stripped of their administrative duties;
ncollective party leadership" period, the high-level military council was ignored and the work of lower level military councils was (according to antl-Zhukov articles) curtailed;
inally, with the fall of Zhukov and theof supremo power by Khrushchev, lower-level military councils were revitalized with administrative and consultative tasks; force component militarywere introduced;igher Military Council was formed to accommodate Khrushchev's style of rule.
The Origin of the Military Council As A
The origins of the Higher Military Council may be traced back4 decree of the party's central executive committee which formally abolished.theMilitary Council (Rewoecsovet) and established tbe more centralized People's Commissariat ofhe decree also setMilitary Council" under the new People's Commissariat of Defense, ln the capacityconsultative organ." This organ, we think, was aof tho present "Higher Military Council."
Unlike the present Higher Military Council, however,
the earlier version was subordinated to theof Defense, of which it was an organic part; and
the membership of the earlier version was limited to
*The Revvoensovet (RVS) was the governing body of the Military Commissariat from the early days of the Civil War, and the RVS possessed ultimate executive andcontrol over the Soviet armed forces. The RVS as the "nerve center" of the command was composed of military men acceptable to tbe central committee and vas directly subordinate to this body. hich abolished the RVS was aimed, first, atStalin's control over the Soviet militaryand, second, at promoting the more efficientof tbe military over the operational, administrative and technical aspects of the questions with which they wore involved. (See Erickson's THE SOVIET HIGH COMMAND, London,hapter Seven).
the official head of tho military establishment, theof Defense, and his deputies.* Thus; the Military Council of the lato 'thirties met and worked under the command of Voroshilov (the People's Commissar forppointments to the Council were made by the Sovnarkom (Council of People's Commissars) on Voroshilov'sand the Council's decisions and recommendations were put into effect by Voroshilov who reported directly to Stalin.
Military Purge and Stalin's Assumption or Direct Control of the Military Council
While4 Military Council wasexclusively of military personnel (aroundenior party officials apparently had direct access to the.minutes of the sessions. And when party officials occasionally attended meetings of the Council, they dominated it.
The Council was virtually decimated by the military purge. unonsession of the Council was held in which the head of the NKVD, Tezhov,eport on an alleged "counter-revolutionary and treasonable organization" in the Red Army. Withinonths of Yezhov's announcement,f theembers of the Council were purged, to Soviot sources. esult of the purge, the role of the Military Council was gradually decreased and it was abolished, evidently late8 or not long afterwards.
In the meantime, Stalin made two principal moves with the aim of tightening policial controls over the army, at the expense of the authority and prestige of
the professional officer corps. Firstly, inubordinate military councils, composedommander and two other members, were introduced into thedistricts, fleets and armies. In each- of these commands, the new military council, according to the book MILITARY STRATEGY, was mado the "highest organ of administration." It had "complete responsibility" both for the morale-political condition of the troops and for their "constant combat and mobilization The factolitical commissar wasember of each council gave him the power to intervene in the control and administration of the major operational commands. Thus, on the major command level, Stalin was able to annul the principle of unity of command that had been in force4 In the spheres of combat, supply and administration. Latertalin formally abolished the one-man command system and restored the equality of the commissars with commanding personnel on all levels in the armed forces. Secondly, talin set up his own small,groups of party and military men loyal to himself, and nominally responsible to the party central committee, to supervise the running of the Red Army and Navy. These groups were officially called "the Main Military Council Cf the Red Armyand the Main Military Council of the Navy." (LARGE SOVIET ENCYCLOPEDIA, In terms of their stature, authority, and functions,.these councils more closely resembled the present-day Higher Military Council than did theCouncil which had been set up under the Defense Commissar
The Army's Main Military Council consistedtaff of eleven members; Voroshilov was Chairman of the group, which included Stalin himself, Blyukher, Budenny, Mekhlis, Shaposhnikov, and Shchadenko. The Army's Main Military Council bore some similarity to the Stavka of the Supreme High Command of World War II, particularly In Its practice of sending members to militaryA case ln point is Blyukher's command in the Lake Khasan operations of. Longer-range warprobablyigh degree of coordination with the Defense Committee (Komltet Oborony) of the politburo,
was also aa activity of the Main Military Councils in the period preceding World War II.
The Navy's Main Military Council was under theof politburo memberln reality, both councils were under the control of Stalin to whom Zhdanov and VoroBhilov reported. The Main Military Councils took over all the administrative functions of the debilitated Military Council (also under Voroshilov) which is said to have continued to functiononsultative organit was eventually abolished. (LARGE SOVIET ENCYCLOPEIDA,)
The second odltlon of MILITARY STRATEGY expanded on the original in relating that "the Main Military Councils examined the basic problems of tbe structure of the Army and Navy, and directed all of their activity into the thorough preparation of the Army and Navy for thewar." As an example, both versions of the book told of an0 meeting of the Army's Main Militaryln which the "lessons of the war with Finland" wore discussedecree Introduced on reorganizing "many administrations of the People's Commissariat forone of the important administrative changes specifically mentioned involved the reorganization of the Soviet air defense directorateain directorate.)
It may bo of Interest to note that Soviet historical accounts of the failure of Soviet defense policy on the eve of World War II blame Stalin personally (anduch lesser degree Marshals Tlmoshenko andut nowhere to our knowledge criticize the military council system. In the current historical fare, Stalin Is accused of having Ignored the principles of by implication, he Ignored his military
and of having drawn the wrong conclusions for the strategic preparation of the country.*
Role of Military Councils Assumed by Stateand Stavka
The USSR was at wareek or soadical reorganization of the military, the government, and the party was undertaken. Ontalin established the State Defense Committee (Gosudarstvennyy Eomltet Oborony:s the "highest agency of command for the country and armed forces." In the GKO, government and party
Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Marshal Kryiov, dellverodommentary earlier this year: "It must be admitted that under the conditions of Stalin's personality cult, the potentialities of theand its armed forcos woro not fully exploited forrushing repulse totrong andenemy as the German fascist aggressors great power ln his own hands and misusing the confidence of the party and people, Stalin unilaterally decided on the most Important state problems and grossly ignored Lenin's principles of collective leadership. The reprisalsreat number of outstandingleaders who were faithful and loyal commanders to the party constituted one of the most serious consequences of his activity. Before the outbreak of the war Stalin was familiar with data on the concentration andof German fascist divisions on the Western borders of the USSR. But he considered thisrovocation.osult, the country and tho army found themselvesifficult position in the initial period of the war. It was only the unflinching will of the party and the courage of the Soviet poople which made it possible to survive that period, toreakthrough, and to win victory." (IZVESTIYA Interview, on the occasion of Armed Forces Day,)
functions were fused.* The GKO.almost overnight became the center of administrative and operational command over governmental, military and administrative organs in the Sovietresided over by Stalin, the GKO consisted of five to eight politburo members, including originally, Molotov, Voroshilov, Malenkov, and Beria. Later, Mlkoyan, Kaganovich, and Voznesensky Joined the group, and4 Bulganin replaced Voroshilov.
The individual members of the GKO were given direct responsibilities for the principal branches of thes war materielfor tanks, Beria for armaments and munitions, Malenkov for aircraft, and Mikoyan for food and fuel. (Mikoyan Is the only former State Defense Committee member still active in Soviot political life and, as wo have already pointed out, he
*The fusion was also personified by Stalin, who,the war, assumed the posts of loader of the party, head of tho government. Chairman of tho State Defense Committee, Chairman of the Stavka, People's Commissar of Defense and Supreme Commander-in-Chief.
"possible" future wartime organization of thestrategic leadership, according to.23 editions of the Defense Ministry's book MILITARY STRATEGY, would be delegated the same powers the State Defense Committee held during World War II. higher agency of command" (vysshiy organould be under the leadership of the first secretary of the CPSU central committee and head of "to whom the functions of Supreme Commander-in-Chief of all the Armed Forces" may be assigned. the Defense Ministry books suggest that tho Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee would actigh political organ for the coordination of the Satellite and Soviet forces. The leadership of Joint operations would be supplied by the Soviet Supremo High Command, in which the supreme commands of the satellite armies would be represented.
reportedly attends meetings of the preBent-day Higher Military Council.)
.'ui' the GEO was responsible for directing andthe overall var effort, another agency, the headquarters or Stavka of the Suprene High Command, was charged with the day-to-day presecution of the war and with developing the overall strategic plans for theforces. Created by the GKOort of joint chiefs of staff, the Stavka consisted of between twelve andtop military officers who advised Stalin, chairman of the Stavka and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. In addition to Zhukov, tbe effective military head of the Stavka during most of its existence, other chief members were Marshals Vasllevsky, Budenny, Tlmosbsnko, Voronov, and Shaposhnikov. Directly subordinate to the Stavka waa the General Staff (the Chief of which also sat on tbe Stavka) which actedourco of planning and data on order of battle.
Unfortunately, we do not have Information on the disposition of the two Main Military Councils during the war. We would deduce from the above accounts, however, that they were dissolved soon after the war began and their functions were taken over by tbe GKO and Stavka. In any case, we havo never encountered references to the existence of these councils during tho war. (The older Military Council in the Defense Commissariat had evidently been abolished by the time Hitler launched operation Barbarossa.)
On the other hand, the military councils of thefleets and armies that had been set upey role during the war. According to the LARGE SOVIET ENCYCLOPEDIA entryhey continued to"complete military and administrative authority in the front or army zone oflthough they were strictly subordinated to the Stavka. The military councils of fronts (the wartime equivalent of military districts) were beaded by the military front commander and were manned by senior partymostof whom wasinsured tight political control over major operational commands throughout the
war. (On lower-levels of command, the political control system underwent several changes. The politicalsystem, which had been abolished after tbe Finnish debacle, was restored following the disastrous first days of the war with Germany, but again gave way to the system of one-man command when the military situation improved in)
Tho methods of strategic command and control during tho war and their relation to policy formulation have sinceolitically charged issue within the Soviet Union, where historical writing is still made to serve the purposes of the current party leadership or to air tho grievances of dissenters from current or proposed policies. Thus principal credit for the planning of the successful Stalingrad operation in the fall2 has alternately passed from Stalin to tho Stavka (notablyo the frontKhrushchev servedember of the military council. By our own account of the machinery of military policy formulation during the war, there seems to have evolved (after an initial period of desperate innovation) an efficient "Stavka-front" system, consisting of an exchange of combatbetween the fronts and Stalin's Stavka and the transmission of directives from the "Supreme Highto the field commanders. The Stavka/Goneral Staff directives* provided the general concept of operations determined the forces to be committed and concentrated in its execution, and set the date for commencing tho operation. Front commanders enjoyed some latitude in applying their own specific requirements for the execution
making vital decisions, tho Stavka apparently rolled heavily on foreign intelligence sources as well as on the tactical information supplied from the Soviet fronts. See Erlckson, THE SOVIET HIGH COMMAND, for an excellentof the role of espionage nets on military policythe vital decisions based on reports from Sorge in Japan, Bote Kapelle in Germany, and Rossler in Switzerland
of the Stavka order, but rigid adherence to the front directive was the keynote of operations at the army level and below. In addition to Stavka directives, individual members of the Supreme High Command were frequently sent to the area of operations (Zhukov to Stalingrad for annd front commanders and their representatives were frequently summoned to the Stavka.
Establishmentingle Main Military Council
With the end of the war, Stalin abolished the State Defense Committeend the Stavka. He also relinquished his own title of Supreme High Commander, according to official Soviet histories, but remained the official as well as actual head of the military establishment untilhen he gave up the post of Minister of the Armed Forcesolitical marshal, Bulganln.
Again, lamentably, we have hardly any information on the military advisory bodies in the early postwar pe-0ne Soviet source, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW OF THEtates without elaboration:
To the central organs of the militarybelong: the Main Military Council /Glavnyy Voyenyyheof"the Armed Forces of the USSR, and the Militaryconsultative organ of the Minister of Armed Forcos of the USSR.
While we have found no Information stating that the two Main Military Coucnils formed8 were ever formv ally abolished, we are led to concludeew single Main Military Council, combining the roles of those set upas formed by Stalin inhen io!LKavy and Defense Commissariats were merged. (Ihhe unified defense commissariat was named the Min-
Jhe Armed Forcesthe USSR.) TheLAW BOOKhile failing to supply information
on the functions and membership of the new Main Military Council, revealed the supramllitary status of that organ by listing it before the Defense Ministry. (Our next explicit reference to the Main Military Council, some
IS years later ln the1
Jalsv pxacea meuoionse Ministryierarchicaladministrative agencies.) The membership ofCouncil under the Ministry of Defense hasdiscussedpresumably It in-
cluded at least Tne ueisnse Minister (vho probably reported directly tohe deputy defenseand representatives of the General Staff;
Council System Stripped of Former Powers
The Main Military Council noted6 was ignored ln official Soviet publications following the0 reorganization (ln which the USSR Ministry of tbe Armed Forces vas renamed "War Ministry of the USSR" and the control of the Naval Forcos was concentrated ln tbe "Ministry of the Navy of the USSR"). We have found no evidence to Indicate that0 reorganization of the Soviet military establishment Into the two ministries Involved the re-establisbment of two Main Militaryfor the two military ministries (as. It is possible that tho post-war Main Military Council was abolished at tbat time. Some twenty months after0 reorganization of the defense establishment, tbe LARGE SOVIET ENCYCLOPEDIA ignored the Main Militarybut spokeMilitary Council" which was similar to the post-war advisory organ under the Defense Minister
The Military Councilollegial,consultative, organ under the war Minister /who Iscommander of all Armed Forces of the stato.
Stalin may not have felt compelled to make much use of his post-war Main Military Council ln the first place. The Main Military Council, like so many of his formal
organizations, may not have been abolished and may have continued to existaper organization which seldom met. (In the early postwar period, for example, Stalin called only Irregular meetings of the politburo.) And ln view of the general stagnation in Soviet military doctrine in that period, it would appear that Stalin ruled over the armed forceseavy handeaf ear to his generals and marshals until his death (Marshal Grechko recentlyIZVESTIYA onprilStalin adopted incorrecton organizational problems while "remaining at the head of the armed forces after ihe war.")
In addition,0 reorganization apparently stripped the command-level military councils of the powers which they had wielded during and immediately after the war. The change in power and status from the military council to the local commander is strikingly evidentomparison of6 Evtikhiev-Vlasov book, ADMINISTRATIVE LAV USSR with0 Eutikhiev-Vlasov-Studeniken book, SOVIET ADMINISTRATIVE LAW:
dministrative LawSoviet Administrative Law*
"The commanderilitary district (fleet, flotilla, group of forces) is the highest authority of all the troops, military institutions and military training establishments on the territoryleet, flotilla, group of forces) and Is subordinated directly to the War Ministry of the USSR (Ministry of the Navy of the USSR)
"The military councililitary district (army, fleet) ie the highestof military power in the district (army,t is subordinated directly to the Ministry of Armed Forces of the USSR. Allunits and militarywhich are located on the territoryistrict (front, army) are subordinated to the military council. It consists of the commander of tho district troops (he Is also the chairman) and two members."
o work ignored the military council system
"Tbe military council has complete responsibility for tbe political-morale condition and constant battle and mobilization preparedness of the military institutions which are located in the It is entrusted with the leadership of combat political preparedness of the troopsistrict (army,raining and selection of cadres of command political and leading staffs of aunits and Institutions; the mobilization preparedness of the troopsistrict, the communication, routes and means of contact on theterritory; theof all personnel in the selfless spirit of dedication to the homeland and Soviet authority, ln the merciless spirit of struggle with the people's enemies, with spies, saboteurs, wreckers. The district military council is charged with ensuring the units and institutions with all types of technical and material supplies, sanitary and veterinary provisions, dofenslve and nondefensive construction onistrict. Tbe military council of atakes an active part In the work of civicregarding theof the rear areas and
"The commandor of the troops of district (fleet, flotilla, group of forces) has complete responsibility for the political-morale condition and constant battle and mobilization preparedness of the military units and institutions which are located in the district. He Is entrusted with the leadership of battle and political preparedness of the troopsistrict, training and selection of cadres of district units and institutions; thepreparedness of the troopsistrict, the communication routes and moans of contact on the territoryistrict; the training of all personnel in the selfless spirit of dedication to the homeland and Soviet authority,erciless spirit of struggle with the people's enemies, with spies, saboteurs, wreckers. The commander of the troopsistrict (floet, flotilla, group of forces) is charged with ensuring the units and Institutions all types of technical and material supplies, sanitary and veterinary provisions, defensive and nondofensive constructions on the territory of a
fulfilling other work which is directed towardtho defensiveof the)
district. Be takes an active part in the work of civic organizations regarding theof the rear areas and ln fulfilling otherwhich is directed tovard strengthening the defensive capabilities of the)
Stripped of their postwar status and powers, the command-level military councils nevertheless continued to exist after0 reorganization. "In1 LARGE SOVIET ENCYCLOPEDIA'S entry wont, "in the Soviet Army tho military council is preservodonsultativo organ under the district commandors."
Diminished Role of Council System Continuos
From the death of Stalin to the fall of marshal Zhukov the military council systom vas, as in earlier postwar days, rarely mentioned. Tho near silencecommand-level military councils is probably most clearly explained by7 CPSU CCand follow-up comment, which charged Zhukov with
pursuingolicy of curtailing the work
Soviet comment subsequent to tbe Zhukov indictment has suggested that during this period the lower-levelcouncils did not regain their wartime powers ofmilitary and administrativeut rather continued to serve only as advisory bodies. 0 Defense Ministry pamphlet, "One-man Command ln the Soviet Armed Forces and Methods of FurtherfterZhukov's alleged pursuit of military leadership as having been "void of chocks andtated:
ur party has energetically rejected all attempts to oliminate military
councils or to reduce their, rule toorgans without any rights at all.
The membership of the command-level military councils at this time has not been made clear
But on the basis of Soviet press articxmw ta tne posx-Zhukov period, we would surmise that the composition of the councils was stacked ln favor of tho professional military. For not until after Zhukov's dismissal were Chiefs of the Political Directorates Identified asof Military Councils at the military-district and group-of-forces level.* This new identificationthat the top political officer in the area had notember of the military council during at least the latter part of the "collective leadership" period.
In tho absence of Soviet references to any high-lovel military council during this period, the advisory and policy planning tasks appear to have fallen within the exclusive domain of the professional military chiefs and the General Staff. In support of this inference, some post-/hukov press Items indicate that during Zhukov's administration armed forces members were denied direct representation to the decision-makers. For example. Marshal Moskalenko wrote in an article ln RED STAB7 thatesult of Zhukov's "rudeof Leninist principles" of directing the armed forces, "the situation reached the point where Communists were actually not permitted to address the centralof the party, to express their proposals and ideas."
*The firsx identificationmember of the Military Council and Chief of the Political Directorate" occurred onhen Lt. Gen. N. M. Aleksandrov of tho Kiev Military District was so described. Since then this designation has been given to ihe top politicalin the other military districts.
resent: Khrushchev Revitalizes Council System
ear after the fall of Zhukov, threedevelopments (which we discussed ln Part One of this study) were brought about in the military council system of the Soviet Union.* The first involvedcreation of the Higher Military Council, first defined8 military dictionary (cited earlier)
inc primary reasons tor Khrushchev'h
TeaTlOn of the Higher Military Council, we feel,is felt need to ensure his assumption of direct operational and administrative control over the entire Soviet military establishmont,is desire toigh-level consultative body on defense matters at his Immediate disposal. An effect of this if not another aim, was to provide individual professional military leadersorum for direct access to the ultimate policy-makers.
-Two other changes ln the council system occurred at about the same time, and probably for the same One Involved tho creation of an unprecedented type ofcouncils at the force com-ponent level (ground forces, navy, anti-air defense,began to be mentioned ln the pressnother change, made apparent directly after the fall of Zhukov, involved the rovitallzatlon of the majorcommand level military councils which were given greater administrative powers ln addition to their former consultative rolo.
changesn the council system may be legally basedocument sporadically cited in the Soviet press entitled "Regulations on Military Councils" or tbe "Statute on Military Councils" which was lssuod sometime between the7 indictment of Zhukov and the end Tho document, unfortunately, remains unpublished and currently unavailable.Original document.