Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


Defense Establishment: Based on Marxist-Leninist theory of war, CPSU determined missions and directed management of world's largest military organization. Defense Council provided strategic leadership. Five armed services, numbering about 3,750,000 out of a total of nearly 6 million troops in uniform in 1989, and numerous logistical and support services. Of the 6 million, 75 percent conscripts, 5 percent career enlisted, and 20 percent officers. Compulsory premilitary training; military conscription of males at age eighteen, with few exceptions.

Strategic Rocket Forces: Primary strategic offensive forces, numbering about 300,000 in 1989. Controlled all groundbased nuclear missiles and operations in space.

Ground Forces: Largest of services, with a force of about 2 million troops in 1989 and comprising 150 motorized rifle and 52 tank divisions, in three states of readiness, as well as rocket and artillery troops, air defense troops, and other combat and support troops.

Air Forces: In 1989 numbered about 450,000. Consisted of Strategic Air Armies, for long-range bombing; Frontal Aviation, for support of Ground Forces; and Military Transport Aviation, for strategic mobility of armed services.

Air Defense Forces: Numbered about 500,000 in 1989. Operated extensive air defense forces, controlling surface-to-air missile launchers, air defense aircraft and missiles, and space defenses.

Naval Forces: In 1989 numbered about 500,000. Consisted of substantial numbers of surface combatants and support ships, missile and attack submarines, and naval aircraft. Organized into four fleets and several flotillas with shore-based support facilities in strategic locations.

Paramilitary Forces: Seven airborne divisions subordinate to Supreme High Command. Elite Special-Purpose Forces subordinate to General Staff. Internal Troops and Border Troops organized, equipped, and trained as military forces but assigned to Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerstvo vnutrennykh del--MVD) and to Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti- -KGB), respectively.

Defense Spending: Estimated between 15 and 17 percent of gross national product (GNP) in 1989. Military matériel production, supervised by military, received best available managers, workers, technology, and materials.

Military Presence Overseas: Naval combatants in Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean with limited presence, mainly submarines, elsewhere. Ground Forces in Afghanistan numbered 115,000 until withdrawal in 1989; withdrawals announced in German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and elsewhere but, as of 1989, substantial forces remained in East Germany, and some forces remained in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Mongolia, and Cuba. Military advisers in several Third World nations.

Security Police: Substantial political and regular police protected authoritarian CPSU from perceived internal and external threats and combated ordinary crimes. KGB maintained internal and external espionage and counterintelligence networks and controlled Border Troops and other specialized security troops. MVD investigated nonpolitical crime, operated labor camps for prisoners, and controlled militarized Internal Troops.

Data as of May 1989