SUBJECT: RECENT TRENDS IN SOVIET STRATEGIC THOUGHT ON FUTURE WAR
1. This memorandumompanion piece.Basic Soviet Ideas on War and the Peacetime Uses of Military Both were prepared in support of.
The two memoranda other materials in i
be combined with
Distribution of this memorandum within should be confined to the normal audience The memorandum may not be quoted in briefings or without prior consultation with the originator.
Recent Trends ln Soviet Strategic Thought on Future War
Soviet strategic thought on future war proceeds from the premise that should the USSR become involvedeneral war, the armed forces of the country must be capable of fighting it effectively and ensuring the survival of the Soviet state. Beyond this general premise, Soviet thiokiog has not always been uniform and clearcut on the matter of preparing for future war. Soviet defense policy, which is hopelessly entangled with economic policy, over the past year or so has been the subject of considerable controversy in the USSR. Strategic theory has not yet been worked out in all its aspects and is even somewhat contradictory in some places. Not surprisinglyomplex bureaucracy, the Soviet Union hasong time been living with internal conflicts, compromises and adjustments in the sphere of strategic military planning. And there hasistinct tendency in such planning to postpone as long as possible very difficult decisions.
Official Soviet thinking on the problem of preparing for future war finds expression in military doctrine, which the Soviets useuide to defense planning. The doctrine describes the characterrobable future war, outlines basic strategy for the war, and indicates the kind of force structure needed to fight the war envisioned. The doctrine isar plan that defines specific missions of unitslueprint that dictates precise numbers and types of We are not privy to either Soviet war plans or detailed blueprints. But we have good information on official military doctrine and on trends in Soviet thinking that may influence the shape of that doctrine in the future.
Of course, the conclusions drawo in Soviet military doctrine for force structure do not necessarily mean that commensurate policy decisions will be taken. There ls acompetition for Soviet resources among militaryas well as between them and importantprograms. Whether one or another military program is selected
will depend upon the interact ion of at least these factors: the force of argument which various interest groups brlog to bear on the politicalhe leaderships assessment of the international situation in general and the strategic power balance in particular; the regime's commitment tointernal non-military programs; the degree of confidence Soviet leaders have in deceptive measures, such as secrecy and propaganda, to substitute for actual military gocds.**
Ferment in Soviet Military Thinking
4. Official doctrine in its current stateompromise between the competing interests in the Soviet bureaucracy. It lsroduct of thebetween Khrushchev's ideas and the prevailing military viewpoints, the latter arising out of debate among the military This accounts for the tortuous development of
that the development of weapons systems in thep until this time has been mainly determined by the parochial interests of each branch of the armed forces. Be wrote that there has been little objective research on the optimum means ofmain strategic tasks, on the selection of the optimum weapon system for performing these tasks, or on theof operational doctrines for the weapons sytems selected.
**Thus, inovember October Revolution parade, the USSRallistic missile which IZVESTIYA claimed "cao be fired from any position both above and below the water." entative analysis of observer reports indicates that thels too long to be used in any known Soviet submarinea stage were removed.
ecent Soviet Defense Ministry boos, on military strategy, obscuring Khrushchev's rolerincipal framer of doctrine, notes that military doctrine is "not thought out or compiledingle person or group ofut Is an expression of generally accepted views among the state leaders onof national defense. (Military strategy ls said to be subordinate to military doctrine: "While military doctrine defines principal positions, strategy works outcesc positions concrete problems.")
the official doctrine between0 and the present. Current doctrine is, as it has been an amalgam of the competing viewpoints. It bears Khrushchev's strongnotably his emphasis on nuclear/rocket weapons, but it also registers successes by the military, who after much persevering, managed to retrieve some previously discarded ideas bearing on the older arms of service, as well as to get authorization for new concepts.
5. Khrushchev did not inherit tbe role of military pundit from Stalin. He appropriated it. In the yearsfollowing Stalin'sodus operandi was reached whereby questions of war and peace were designated the exclusive preserve of tbe political leadership; and questions of military doctrine, the prerogative of thecorps. In the,evolution indoctrine took place that originated with the military and was almost entirely carried out by them. But byhrushchev, fresh from crushing his political enemies, stood firmly at the helm of power. At that time, the new super-long-range-rocket was test-fired, symbolizing for him the end. vulnerability to attack from abroad. Then the party chief made the firstong series of inroads into the military's province of military science.* He
"One ot his rirst major trespasses was indirect: hiswas carriedery Important RED STAR article inhich was signed by Marshal Vershinin, and which was the first ever toirect assessment of the relative military strength of the USSR and the United States. Only many months later did Khrushchev reveal, in private discussion with an American statesman, that he had actually been the author of the Vershinin article. Moreover, one might conjecture that Marshal Zhukov was fired from his CPSU Presidium and Defense Ministry posts in7 not so much because of the steps he had takenong span of time to erode party controls over the army, as because of his opposition to Khrushchev's obtruding into the military's sphere of competence.
gradually stepped up his efforts to influence changes in doctrine (and forceirectly contradicting established military positions umber of instances. He capped his presumptions inithew military doctrine that contained some bitter pills for the officer corps to swallow.
Downgrading the importance of conventional forces on the grounds that nuclear/missile firepower is theof the country's military might, Khrushchev succeeded in foisting upon theevere unilateral troopprogram. He also tried to saddle the militaryigid doctrine of excessive reliance on nuclear weapons. Had he had his way entirely, the Soviet forces might have been structured as an inflexible, nuclear annihilating force. But the military,eriod of time and with the help of fortuitousucceeded in impressing theleadership with the importance ofreater degree of doctrinal and operational flexibility. Theirwas capsulized in the heavily publicized "combined forces" slogan, and later the "mass armies" slogan. The suspension of the troop cut and the emphasis which Malinovsky's1 presentation of the official military doctrine placed on large, versatile forces vindicated the positions which the military had long espoused.
Among the military officers themselves, strategic doctrine hasively and argumentative field ofstudy. Khrushchev's bold reformulation of doctrine in0 had an electrifying effect on the thinking
of Soviet officers. His remarks brought into question the viability and applicability to future war conditions of many of the established military tenets and procedures. At the direction of the Defense Ministry, vigorous controversial discussionside range of military questions were held in both open and closed forums. The military literature burgeoned consequently to an unprecedented degree withviewpoints on how future war will be waged and on ways to prepare for it.
2iscussion of the "fortuitous circumstances" and other reasons for the changes in Soviet defense policy and doctrine,.
on by their leaders, the military haveto perceive, comprehend and then to integrateand tactical doctrines the Implications ofnuclear/missile weapons being placed at their They have been trying to bridge the longas several Soviet writers bave put it, betweentheory and developments in nuclear weaponsmeans of delivery. In this effort, they havesuch questions as the relative roles andnuclear and conventional forces, the nature of combatwar, its probable duration, alternative the effects of the first nuclear attack, andof substrategic matters such as positional warfare,of field forces, and the use of tacticalin various types of operations.
on questions of strategic consequence, to fae'^w^
as not gone unbridled
Common assumptions are made about who the probable enemy will be, on what scale the war will be fought, and what the basic weapons in the war will be. Questions of such extreme sensitivity as the weapons, role, and mission of the intercontinental attack forces of the USSR have not been discussed in much detail
10. Early ln the debate, harp dichotomy was apparent in the strategic thought of the military discussants One distinct tendency was to resist changing time-tested principles and practices and to rely heavily on the lessons of World War II. Adherents of this school emphasized the limitations on modern weapons; theyuture war as likely to be protracted and not unlike World War IIumber of respects. Though they expected the massive use of nuclear weapons, they believed that even under thesea general war would entail ground combatass scale and multl-aillion man armies. The opposite tendency was to striveomplete break with past conceptions of warfare. Those inclined in this direction felt that the changes in doctrine have not kept pace with developments in technology; and they urged the adoption of bold new concepts for future war that give an almost exclusive combat role to nuclear missile weapons. Among this group were officers who maintaineduture war willapid, blitzkrieg character; that lt is not necessary toultimillion
man army for waging war; aad that the basic function of ground troops should not be extended combat but occupation of enemy territory. As the debate developed and fresh officialpositions were elaborated, the opposing schools have tended to move closer together, the sharpness of their differences on strategic questions having diminished.
could also be distinguished in thevery small minority of officers who might be said toan "unrestrained war" school. This group has urgedreliance of nuclears, put great emphasis on high and advocated mass annihilation of the enemy onscale. Official military thinking thus far
has rejected this extreme view, at least as regards the European theater. But this view may have found acceptance as the most feasible strategy for war in the American theater. (More on this later.) The "unrestrained war" view, as applied by its exponents to future war in general, was most forcefullyln earlyafter Khrushchev'sanuary speech on futureappears to have been an effort to take Khrushchev's strategy to its logical conclusion. Thisof how future war should be waged virtually rules out the possibility of real victory for either side. They would have war be so destructive that it would be unfeasibleilitary point of view. For this reason, they paradoxically emerge as "no war" advocates, whose whole concern is withwar. This, it seems, is Khrushchev's philosophyut shell. It springs from his long dalliance with nuclear missile weapons, which in previous years brought him intowith Soviet military leaders; his self-esteemed deftness in using nuclear blackmail in support of foreign policyand his confidence in his "no-war" program of peaceful competition as the best road to the expansion ofinfluence.
of the military spokesmen could be said towar"road sense. All, of course,war to involve the use of nuclearsargethey eschew country-busting with regard to Europe,discrimination and deliberation ln the use of Their task, as they see it, ia to make warmanageable. For their professional purposes theywar will occur, and they drawheory of war andfor preparing for it that will permit them toeffectively, minimize their own losses, survivereat
power, andart of the world to preside over. Thus their insistenceajor combat role for enormous ground forces, equipped with tactical nuclears aodweapons.
The official Soviet conception of political and military war aims, however, is incompatible with the notioncontrolled war" in the sense currently in use in the United States. That is, the doctrinal emphasis on "decisive political and military goals" aad "toialIs said to make "any sort of compromise almostto preclude the possibility of continued bargaining and deterrence in the courseuture general war. Thisof total victory is ideological in origin:' ic springs from assumptions about the "irreconcilable contradictions between the socialist and capitalist systems." whether it is also an operative military estimate of the Soviet General Staff that the opposing sides will strive for total victory isatter for conjecture. (In the mass. statementstrategy forossible future war have been derided and held up as evidence. desire to make war feasible.) In any case it is notthat Soviet military thinking might, at some point in the future, follow. pattern of thought onwar. Soviet military thinking in the past bas, albeit belatedly, adjusted to changes. strategic doctrine. And the ideaontrolled war has only recently gained currency in official 'circles in this country,
Summing up, there appears toundamentalof interests between the Khrushchev circle and the bulk at the officer corps. There is firsr; of all andifference in focus between them. Khrushchev and his coterie tend to concentrate on peacetime military the most important of which is deterrence. The by and large, tend to focus on wartime requirements, which may be substantially greater than peacetime needs. Thus, while Khrushchev may be confident that there will notuture general war and reason that the USSR needs
only to butld up its strategic forces for deterrence of the "est. the military, if only for professional reasons, do not share that confidence and tend to argueeal war-winning capability. The USSR probably cannot undertake the creationrue war-winning capability without gravely curtailing the program of peaceful economic competition with the West.*
Official Strategic Doctrine for General War
Official Soviet strategic thought has notull circle to itstate, as one mightin the light of traditionalist amendments to Khrushchev's new military course, but has beea making spiral-like advances forward. There has been no change ln the assumptions, made about the general character of future war as outlined byin war will inevitably involve the massive use of nuclear weapons; it will be global ln scope andlash of coalitions; it will begin, most likely, by surprise attack and will develop almost simultaneously along fronts and in the rear areas of the combatant countries and it will result ln unprecedented destruction. Also, theretaliation doctrine has in essence been retained.
The changes effected in Khrushchev's new course comply with these basic assumptions. The decision to have large ground forces was made out of consideration of the nuclear war requirements and the problem of correcting tbe perceived general strategic imbalance. The decision did not share the rationale of. decisions to strengthen its conventional that this was needed for fighting local wars. Nor did ithanged Soviet estimate on the impossibility, given the present correlation of forces,onventional or near-conventional general war. Despite the new emphasis given the older branches of service in the doctrine, there has been no trace of thoughtuture general war might be limited to the use of conventional forces.uture general war will "inevitably" involve the massive
recent Defease Ministry book on military strategy made the telling observation that "No country, however wealthy it may be, can afford to keep in peacetime the forces needed to attain the basic aims of the initial periodruture general/ war."
use of nuclear/miss lie weapons is andisarmament agreement) almost certainly will continue to be, tbe guiding concept underlying contemporary Soviet military doctrine during tbe coming years.
17. The forward look of official doctrine, as modified is especially evident in the greater emphasis now placed on the effects of the first strike and the initial phase of war_on the outcome of the war. There is good openevidence tha: Soviet military planners havetrategy designed in the first place to end the war in the shortest possible time, primarily by means of massive nuclear strikes.* It Is also plain that theSj^ continues to hedge against this strategy by planninganeouslyossible protracted war on the Eurasion Thus, calculated to finish the war in the shortest possible time, the doctrine is predicated upon thethat the strategic missile forces will play the decisive and principal role ln the war. But considering the possibility that the strategic missile forces might fail to conclude the war in the short run, the doctrine calls for the maintenance of other types of forces equipped with nuclear weapons and operating as combined arms which would be prepared to wage extended war.
18. onclusion which the Soviets have drawn from the adjudged possible decisiveness of the first all-out attack is that it is of paramount importance to deny the enemy the opportunity to strike first. Hence, preparedness for dealing with an attempted enemy surprise attack has been made the pivotal problem in military planning and training. And the USSR has added to its strategic concepts for future war the doctrine of pre-emptive attack.
"Thus,ecent Defense Ministry book on strategy stated that (a) strategic means can "often" attain decisive results in the warhole without the employment of tactical and operational forces; (b) ountry subjected to heavy nuclear attack may out of necessity capitulate even though itsforces in the field are still intact; and (c) the initial periodeneral nuclear war will definitely be the main and decisive one.
19. Pre-emption lstrategyremeditated wareaningful course of action in tbe event deterrence fails or is thought to bave failed. The doctrine ofdoes not replace the doctrine of deterrence but lsto reinforce lt in view of reduced Soviet confidence in its deterrent capability. It is ln effect, strike-flrst-ix-necessary-and-lf-possible doctrine. It is designed not so much to vanquish withrobable enemy as to blunt substantially the enemy's attack forces in order to permit the L'SSH to survive the initial nuclear phaseuture war. Put another way, the USSR has sought the doctrine outeeling not of strength but of relative weakness. The Soviets were also strongly motivated to adopt the doctrine out ofof the importance of speed and Initiative in the use of nuclears; he possible decisiveness of tbe first massed nuclear attack; he growing size and power. long-range attack forces; thef the small size and vulnerability of the Soviet long-range attack forces;he diminishing degree of secrecy protecting the deployed Soviet strategic rockets.
20. The fact the Soviet regime has settledoctrine of pre-emption does not necessarily mean that the leadership is of one mind on the size and type of forces needed to achieve an effective pre-emptive action. There has, in fact, been recent evidence that controversy and indecision continue in Soviet ruling circles on important defense questions. (In the spring and summer of this year,umber of open military sources made thinly veiled pleas for greater increments to the Soviet strategic forces.) The question of what kind and size of force structure to buy turns on the need to deal with. threat from. and Polaris submarines; the threat emanating from Europe presents no real problem for Soviet strategy. The Soviets havear-winning type of strategyassive versatile capability forwith Europe; but they have not yet, to our knowledge, workedomprehensive war-winning strategy for dealing with the threat from the American continent.
21. Though the Soviets speak In terms of the war being wagedlobal scale, they have evidentlyheater warfare doctrine which is really applicable only to the Eurasian theater. The focus of discussion in
pen Soviet military materials has beeauclear warin the European theater, witheneralizedof strategic attack against the. The strategic concept which Soviet officialdom has adopted for the European theater represents the moderate "military viewpoint" which had long resisted the logic of Khrushchev's new military course and, for the time being, successfully obstructed it. The extant official concept for war in Europe rejects the extreme minority argument for knocking out whole countries with area-devastating, large-yield attacks. It calls insteadajor combatant role for multlmillion man armies "saturated" with tactical nuclears as well as conventional
arms to follow up the strikes of strategic rocket forces and avlation.
22. The paradox here is Inescapable. On the one hand, Soviet officialdom has rejected the extreme recommendations that the USSRountry-busting policy for Europe and radically reorganize the country's forces (that is, severely cut back or even eliminate the conventional arms ofn the other hand, current doctrine calls for ending the war ln the "shortest possible time" primarily by means ofnuclear strikes. More important, the country'sforces for attack against Europe have been overdeveloped to the degree that they could (as Ualinovsky once boasted) reduce whole countries to "radioactive deserts." It is no wonder then that withapability Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders could not see the logic of the militarythat multimillion man armies willajor combat roleuture war. Also, while tbe regime's decision to suspend the troop cut plan1 was taken at least in partemonstration of Soviet power with the aim of righting the imbalance in the general strategic situation, arger standing army may have the effect of watering down the Soviet strategic missile threat of area annihilation in Europe.
23. According to tbe strategic operational concept for Soviet theater forces, the combined arms attack against NATO forces would be launched simultaneously with or Immediatelytrategic attack againsttrategic NATO bases, and otber European targets that would contribute tc the Immediate strategic alms of the war. The concept call* for the rapid advance of Soviet forces across Western Europe with tbe aim of gaining control of the European continent in
the first few weeks of the wax. The strategy at the sane time provides for measures to prevent NATO from beingfron the outside. This involves the interdiction of sea lanes, the destruction of Western task forces and port facilities, attacks against residual long-range Western retaliatory capabilities.
ground war envisaged will be predominantlyrapid maneuver. In the Soviet concept there willbe any continuous fronts; combat operations willseparate axes; deep breakthroughs by troop groupings
of both sides will eliminate the linear front and the mass use of nuclears will cause large gaps between major military formations. While the vastly expanded scope of operations will involve the use of large ground forces, nuclear war conditions will see fewer fronts, the number of armiesront will be "somewhat smaller" than ln World War II, and the size of military units will be smaller than in the past.
traditional military stress on the need toenemy's territory has survived the criticism of theof high yield weapons. According to thedoctrine, lt will not be enough to destroymeans of nuclear attack and to disorganize histhe attainment of the "decisive" political andof the Soviet allies in war, it will also be necessary
to smash completely the surviving enemy armed forces, deprive him of bis strategic positions, liquidate his military bases, and occupy strategically important areas on his territory. Such strategic tasks, according to the doctrine, can only be accomplished with the use of numerous ground forces.
regards the American theater, there seems toa comprehensive doctrine nor an existing orfor waging war against the. long-range ground, air or submarine missile strikesdelivered. The theater warfare conceptajor role for the ground forces, isto. theater. The war envisagedU.S. ia, in effect,ar quite different from theEuropean war. We cannot say with certaintySoviets have really faced up to the question ofwar against. after the initial nuclear exchange
or whether they have deferred making decisions on thisquestion. Argument can be brought to bear on behalf
of either conclusion. But we are inclined to think that the problem has not yet been resolved by the Soviets.
27. Had Soviet military planners thought out the problem, they might have concluded .that there is no alternative to the strategy of breaking tho back of. in the strategic attack phase of the war, and that there was hence no need tooctrine for waging ground warfare la North America. This reasoning, in turn, suggests that they might have adopted the view of the extremists (and Khrushchev) who called for knocking. out of the war with an area-devastating, large yield attack that would destroy the command and control. forces, severely deraage its industry, and crush the will to resist.
28. On the other hand, the likelihood that thehave not yet resolved the problem of carryingwar against America is suggested by the complaints ofmilitary officers that the American theater hasln Soviet thioking and military preparations. of fact,andful of coutributors to the open^-vidI military materials have even raisedabout what to do with regard to carrying the warU.S. after the long-range attack. Proceeding fromthat the war would be lengthy, an admiral wrote
r. iv oe necessary to dropeed to land troops on transoceanic countries.
nother Soviet flag officer,ackgroundilitary planning, was similarly exercised over the alleged tailure_to_come to grips with. jthgater problem.
he voice^pessimismaDou^The possibility ofarge-scale surface or underwater transoceanic transport capability. "Calculations show that If we wantede said, "we could create such forces no earlier than IS orears from now, and this is clearly useless." This course would be useless, he said, because in ten years, theatlonal' situation will have chaaged so radically as tc make tbe threat of war virtuallyhe only realistic possibilityransoceanic transport capability, ln his view, lay la the creation of an autonomous air
that lt will be limited"to^TTope; that the "liberation" of Europe alone will lead to downfall of imperialist camp; and that it will only be necessary to dropombs, with no-need to land troooq
be used not only for the direct Job of transport by air. but also for screening whatever transportation Is carried out by sea. Because such aircraft are needed for other purposes as well, he concluded, "all efforts should be made toward its creation, the more so because we cannotthe Americans to outstrip us in this field."
30. whether or not the recommendationubstantial buildup in the air transportation has been or will be adoptedatter for further study and conjecture. If such ais undertaken, that fact will be an important indicator of Soviet intentions and strategy. In any event, it seems, we can rule out the possibility of any Soviet effort toarge surface or underwater transport capability in the coming decade.
31. ransoceanic transport capability, the Sovietsontinue to postpone making the critical decisions (if they have not already made them); elyeterrent/pre-emptive strategy of area-annihilation by meanselatively modest nuaber of very large yield weapons (backed up by substantial active defenseompete with. in the size and types of strategic forces. emphasizing counterforce (pre-emption) and active defense as wellapability to retaliate. (Making the third choice. . the Soviets could hopetate ol mutual, deterrence in the formong-range nuclear standoff after an Initial strategic nuclear exchange, while making Europe the effective battlefield in the war.)
32. Whichever course is followed, Soviet strategicwill of course determinereat degree theof Soviet forces in coming years. We are likely to see increasing attention being turned ln Soviet militaryto the problem of the main enemy across the sea. For one thing, Soviet confidence in the deterrent effect of the 'hostage Europe" strategy has declined in recent years. At the same time, we haverowing emphasis on the forces capable of bringing Soviet military power to bear directly on. ln tha form of multiplication of ICBMs and tha developmentong-range, submarine-launchedcapability.Original document.