SOVIET IDEAS ON WAR AND THE PEACETIME USES OF MILITARY POWER
memorandum has been prepared in support of
NIEt deals with Soviet strategic thought on -Marailitary power in tine of general peace. The memorandum has three parts: basic Soviet attitudes toward war; Soviet management of political and military crises, including the problem of local war; and the Soviet reappraisal of the strategic situation of the USSR and of steps to be taken to improve the Soviet
2. This memorandum will be followed shortly by another (also prepared in support of) which deals with Soviet strategic thought on the problems of preparing for andeneral war.
SUBJECT: Basic Soviet Ideas on War and tbe Peacetime Uses of Military Power
Attitude Toward General War
It ls our estimate that the present Soviet regime will wish to avoid general wax in the coming years. We believe that while the regime will continue to prepare its forces toeneral war, it will not initiate war unless faced with the prospect of lossital national interest, orestern attack on the USSR seemed or if the regime came to the conclusion that the USSR couldassive surprise attack against the West with near impunity. We do expect that strategic power will continue toentral role in Soviet foreign policy, that strategic threats will be used to advance Soviet national interests, and that the USSR may at times embark on daring though limited political and military ventures. But we believe that Soviet initiatives will continue to be taken only on the calculation that the riskshigh orbe kept under continuous control by the USSR leadership.
There is nothing in current Soviet ideology or strategic doctrine to suggest that the USSR contemplatesremeditated nuclear war against the West in the foreseeable future. Communist doctrine injects hostility and conflict into Soviet policy, but it does not propel the USSR toward general war. The present regime
in the past six years or so bas remolded its fundamental ideological positions to makeunder Chineseaversion to war between East and West. Thus, in recent years, public expressions of basic Soviet policy have stressed the possibility and need toeneral war from erupting in the future. Soviet spokesmen have repeatedly assertedorld war, which would inevitablyhermonuclear conflict, should be avoided because it would bring unprecedented destruction to all mankind. Thep have conceded that the world Communist
movement would be gravely set back byar, and have even betrayed uncertainty over whether the USSR might emerge from ltajor world power. And they have insisted, to the dismay of the Chinese Communists, that war between states is not necessary for the victory of the Communist movement.
alsoabout the future and confidence in their ability
to advance their national position and tbe worldwithout resort to general war. "When the USSRthe first industrial power and the socialist systemtransformed into the decisive factor of worldKhrushchev said atd CPSUorld war will have passed forever." Thisin the international situation, the Sovietstake place within ten
the same time, Soviet optimism has beenthe warning that thereeal danger that themight yethermonuclear war. Publicmade over the past year have reflected somewhatas regards the unlikelihood of war than They sometimes assert that theis "preparing" toeneral war, andthe exclusion of war largely dependent upon theeffect of Soviet military might, calling for thestrengthening of the Soviet armed forces "as long
as thereanger of war."
pragmatic basis for their expressedwar is the Soviet leadership's Judgment thatcannot be an expedient or feasible course of actionpresent composition and correlation of militarythe major powers. Although the Soviets arebuilding their military power, bothdefensive, they almost certainly do not countat any foreseeable point in time an advantageas to permit them to launch general warwhich would not gravely menace their regime Objectively, there is little prospect fora decisive overall military superiority infive years, however great an effort they may make, of the magnitude, reliability, and low vulnerability
of the existing and. strategic attack forces.
Hence, excluding the possibility of the emergence of a
more adventuristlc leadership given to grave miscalculation,.
we surmise that the Soviets will not choose to risk
their entire future byevastating nuclear war.
preference of the Soviet regime to pursuepolicy objectives without resort to general warof course, provide assurance that the regime mightcertain conditions elect to initiate war against If at some point the Soviets became convincedwar was imminent, and could not be avoided short
of capitulationital national interest, they would probably initiate war to deny the enemy the advantages of initiative, irrespective of the real power balance.
Soviet interests are nox static. Theychanges In time, personalities, the overall and the balance of power. They are not and there may be divisions in judgment amongas to which Interests are vital. The hardinterest is, of course, the USSR itself. Wemost of the East European satellites are regardedvital interests. We are not certain
to what degree--Albania and the Soviet allies to the East are now regarded by the USSR as vital interests, theloss of which would lead to direct Soviet military intervention or general war. However, we do not believe that there now exists any real estateonsiderable distance from the Bloc, the lose of which wouldosaital Soviet interest. Sovietin the recent crisis makes it clear that the USSR does not regard Cubaital interest.
Soviets may have forsaken world war as aaInstrument of policy. Tet strategic militarytoentral role in Soviet foreignprevent the West from taking military action againstand its allies is, of course, the paramount mission
of the country's military power in peacetime. The Soviets alsoariety of Indirect uses of Soviet military power in support of foreign policy goals. In addition to deterring direct nuclear attack, tbey regard their forceseans to deter lesser provocations; to inhibit the West from intervening militarily ln areas outside the bloc; to deter the West from undertaking Initiatives to check developments adverse to Western Interests; to maintain security within the Bloc; to lend weight to their political demands ln cold-war bargaining; and to demonstrate the success and growing power of their cause.
9. The Soviet Union has made indirect use of itspower to promote the erosion of the NATO alliance and the expansion of Soviet political influence far beyond its borders. Moscow has threatened European (among other) countries 'which. military bases with extermination in the event of war. Elsewhere, they have sold weapons tocountries with the expectation that the purchaser would probably use them either militarily or politicallyember of NATO, CENTO, or SEATO. And with uneven results, the USSR has used the presence of its military power to convey assurances of backing to the leaders of national liberation or pro-Communist movements.
Soviet Mananesicnt of Crises
10. Khrushchev's foreign policy has been aggressive; lt basolicy of pressing forward wherever weakness is sensed in the opponent's camp. The USSR haa madeuse of strategic threats in the past aod we can expect the Soviet regime to be strongly inclined on occasion to make strategic threats in the future ln order to promote its policies.* But as there are forces which tend to propel Soviet policy forward, there axe also forces of restraint operative ln Soviet strategic thought.
ublic statement made in connection with the Berlin crisis inhrushchev succinctly expressed his philosophy of the political uses of strategic power ln terms which can, of course, be applied to the USSR: "When ansees that no rebuff is given to bin, he grows more brazen, and conversely, when he isebuff he calms down. It is this historic experience tbat should guide us ln our actions."
The residual Soviet fear of general war serves to regulate the peacetime exploitation of the country's military power, especially ia the management of political orcrises. This built-in element of constraint isin public expressions of concern over theof global war being set offocal conflagration or heightened international tensions. This constraint may operate independently of any. resolve toonflict. And it has been in evidence in aof Soviet foreign policy initiatives, including the late Cuban crisis.
In recent years, the Soviets have been willing to take risks which in their view are not necessarily low but which (as conceived) axe always controllable. They have also sought to reduce the extent to which the West is willing to take risks by. apprehension about theof political crises or limited military action. But, as in the Cuban crisis, they have beea motivated at times to acteassuring way in order to avert anwar. They haveillingness totohowdown and to cut losses in the midst
of crises when Western resoluteness has been made plain. In short, their fear of escalationrisis into general war has imposed restraints on their use of military power to advance the Communist movement in peacetime, and almost certainly will continue to do so ln the future.
The Soviets consider that the initiation of limlt*rt war with the Warsaw Pact forces would, as. ule, entail unnecessarily high risks and political liabilities. Soviet doctrine allows for the involvement of socialist countries in local war, but states that should the opposing nuclear powers become directly involved in it, the war wouldassume global, nuclear proportions. This postulate, in our view, underlies current Soviet strategic planning.
At least in Europe, the Soviets vould wish to avoid extreme provocations or engagement in limited combat because their acts mighteliberate American decision to inititate general war or provoke an inadvertent war. If the West were to use armed force in some local situation or seemed about to introduce forces, the Soviets could be expected to threaten countermeasures but would not intervene with their own troops unless loss -of their interest which was threatened was deemed important enough toigh riskeneral war.
15. Tbe Soviet vie* of the extreme unlikelihood of local war in Europe, la importantly influenced. and NATO doctrine. The Soviets have made plain in public statements their awareness of the President's threat to initiate nuclear-war under certain circumstances; and in available classified documents they haveairly accurate thoughdated picture of NATO strategy. Classified sources have pointed out that NATO has no limited war doctrine, that it does aot plan to fight any serious conventional war, that the conventional strength of NATO is inferior, and that all calculations of the NATO command are based on the use of nuclear weapons.
16. From all indications, Soviet leaders do aotarmed conflict between Soviet and Western forces in areas of contentionistance from Soviet bloc territory. The recent Cuban episode was not an exception to the rule but additional evidence of It. The attempt to base in Cuba strategic offensive weapons under strict Soviet control was almost certainly made with the expectation that. would not act militarily against them when suddenlywith their presence. The Soviets plainlyon this account. When apprisedo remove the missile bases by force if necessary, the USSB backed down and acted to withdraw them. The Cuban gambit thus waseparture from the strategicof avoidance of combat between Western aod Soviet troops; at least as conceived, the risk, while high, wasby Moscow at each stage. The buildup of offensive systems in Cuba was not intended for local war, with ornuclears, butreat and much-needed increment to the Soviet strategic posture.
17. In point of fact, the Soviets do not have, nor give any sign of developing, the kind of forces that would enable them to carry out major military operations in Cuba or other distant areas. In other words, the USSR is not yet preparedits military strategy andprotect its expanded influence at points at great distances from the Bloc. Thus only political means would be available to the USSR to cope with an internal "counter-revolution" of6 Hungarian typeountry far from Soviet borders.
the USSR became directly involved lnon the bloc periphery or in some remote place,almost certainly wish to minimize the chancesto general war. Hence, we estimate thatwould not take the initiative in mostexpand the scopeonflict; it would not testresolve to use nuclear weapons, for example,advantageocal preponderance of Sovietforces to overrun important Western positionsEurope; it would not initiate the use of nuclearsconflict intended to be limited in scope. Andhasasic change in Soviet strategicUSSR would not try to match. ln the eventnuclearsocal situation. In such aUSSR would either expand the scope of the conflict to
a strategic scale orettlement.
in all, the Soviet attitude towardwill probably continue to be one of avoidance ofof Spviet forces. Their decision in anywill, of course, be governed by their estimate
of that situation, in its political as well as its military aspect. There is, of course, the continuing danger that the Soviets might underestimate the risks arising from some Initiative. In particular instances of serious political involvement, such as in Berlin, they may from time to time increase pressures and thus raise the likelihood of But we believe that the Soviets will draw back in almostitalwhich they estimate that they are about to lose control of the risk of general war.
20. The Soviets put much store by the world image of their military poweris the West. They see military forceymbol and instrument of their total power They expect the world to see in the growth of their military power proof of the success and invincibility of their social system. They expect that their ability to advance the cause of Communism worldwide will be enhanced with the increase of their military power. It appears toasic policya sounda world
belief in Soviet military superiority would be extremely helpful to the success of the Communist movement and the stability of deterrence. In this respect,orollary assumption evidently isorld image of Sovietinferiorityis the West, woulderious liability.
What matters in regard to the power balancein peacetime, of course, is not the actual military capabilitiestate, but what others think about the state's capabllities--or more accurately, what one state's beliefs are about another-'s. the Sovietstheir rocket capabilities against. because they were aware of actual Soviet inferiority in strategic forces, but were confident that their claims would be generally believed. When the Soviet deception was finally exposed, the credibility of Soviet strategic claims was put in question, as was the image which the Soviets had fostered of their military superiority.
Thus, , the USSReneralof its peacetime military posture and strategic situation. Soviet leaders became conscious of slippage both in respect to the power balance and the stability of Soviet strategic deterrence. They concluded, it seems, that their strategy--of building deterrence and pursuing foreign policy objectives on the basis of bluffing the West about Soviet long-range attack capabilities, while holding Europe hostage under the threat of massby Sovietno longer adequate.
The new strategic situation had the potential of being costly to the Soviets politically. Despite periodic efforts on the part of propagandists to restore the image of preponderant Soviet strength, Soviet leaders have felt obliged in cold war bargaining to exchange claims of an asymmetrical power arrangement for claimsoreone. Since the Soviets In public statements have explicitlyeadiness to accept strategic parity as the basis from which political settlements should proceed.
Over roughly the same span of time, Sovietin tbe stability of deterrence also tended to dimioisb. This is suggestedombination of interrelated factors:
top ^tc ret
(a) the renewal of charges In major policy statements inhat the West is preparing toar against tha USSR (this coincided with new emphasis in professional military writings on the possible decisive effectsurprise attack against the USSR).; (b) tbe waning1 of the strident confidence of the preceding year in an assured Soviet retaliatory capability; (c) the extreme sensitivity. claims to military superiority which have been made since
the Sovietsumber of measures Intended to improve the general strategic situation (and the specific bargaining positions of the USSR lnome of these measures were demonstrations or counter-demonstrations; others amouated to real increments in Soviet military power. To help obscure or compensate for their strategic deficiencies, the Soviets emphasized super-bombs, manned bombers, and nuclear submarines. They resumed nuclear testing, suspended the troop reduction program, deferred transfer of specialized categories of servicemen to the reserves, and announced increases in the overt military budget. They frustrated efforts from within the USSR (mainly Khrushchev's) to divert resources from heavyto consumer welfare.
In ajor policy speech atd CPSU Congress, the Defense Ministericturearge and versatile military establishment that was prepared tore-emptive attackould-be aggressor and to fighthortrotracted war ln Eurasia
if necessary. Mallnovsky's speech also gave doctrinalto the policy measures bearing on the size andof the armed forces, thereby indicating that the changes were intended to have greater permanence than was suggested by previous Soviet public statements.
decision to make public ln thinly veiledthe doctrine of pre-emptive action waswith the aim of countering. follow up its new claims to military superiority withaggressive foreign policy. The Soviets, into headolder turn. foreign policythat the USSR has lowered the threshholdwar.
23. Also the Soviets began to take new secret measures to correct actual deficiencies ln the field of strategic rocket weapons. For one thing, they sought to improve their pre-emptive capability. This took the formtepping up the construction of sites for, andthe readiness of, second and third generationressing forward with the development of ABMs. They also sought to improve their retaliatory capability by hardening new launch sites. Hardening would appear to bo desirable in Soviet eyes on several accounts. It makes the need for pre-emptive actions less compelling; it tends to stabilize mutualdeterrence; and it makesore credible Soviet deterrent by giving greater assurance than presently existsoviet capability to strike second.
Such measuresong time to implement and are very costly. In view of the urgency which they attached to the problem of redressing the strategic imbalance, the Soviets attempted tohort cut. Having estimated that their action would not. intervention, or that if. were about to intervene the USSR could withdraw without irretrievable political loss, the Soviet leadershance this year on establishing MRBM and IRBM sites ln Cuba. Had this gamble succeeded, theirstrategic strength would have significantly altered the general strategic situation.
Having failed to establish the forward bases in Cuba, the USSR will now have to rely on other methods to redress the Imbalance. They may add substantially to existing strategic forces, or if that course seemsew strategy or workealisticarrangement. We think that in any case the Soviets will not stand still on this matter. Their confidence in their deterrence of. and their estimate of the chances of attaining their foreign policy objectives turn on the balance of power question.
Despite their retreat in the recent Cuban venture, the Soviet leaders may try to acquire public recognition of Soviet military "superiority." Failing that, they will probably settleorld image of parity with. To the extent that they can do so, they will try to parlay captivating space feats and qualitative advances in weapons as evidence of military prowess. But they will have to make
greater actual increments ln strategic weapons than ln the past, for purposes of bolstering their peacetime strategic position, owing to the decreased willingness of the world to accept Soviet claims at face value.