Soviet Union Table of Contents
UNDERSTANDING THE STANCE that the Soviet Union has adopted on military affairs requires analyzing the meaning the Soviet regime has given to concepts such as military doctrine, military policy, and military science, as well as comprehending the ideological basis of these terms. In Soviet military writings, these concepts overlapped considerably, and Soviet military theorists stressed their interdependence. Military doctrine represented the official view on the nature of future wars and on the methods of fighting them. Military policy offered practical guidelines for structuring the Soviet armed forces and for building up Soviet defenses. Military science--the study of concepts of warfare and of the weapons needed to accomplish military missions--supported the formulation of doctrine and policy. Military doctrine and military policy directed the findings of military science toward fulfillment of the political goals of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
Soviet military doctrine was grounded in Marxist-Leninist (see Glossary) theory as the CPSU interpreted it. The party understood the world as a battleground of classes and social systems and predicted the "inevitable victory of socialism." Thus the party's interpretation of Marxist-Leninist doctrine provided the Soviet military with a framework for developing strategic and operational concepts for winning wars.
Soviet military doctrine was the most fundamental and the most influential of the theoretical concepts that governed the conduct of Soviet military affairs. It influenced procurement of weapons, colored threat assessments, and provides a theoretical basis for the party's military policy. It determined Soviet arms control proposals and the kinds of arms control agreements that the Soviet Union would be willing to sign. Together with the government's military policy, military doctrine shaped Soviet military-strategic initiatives abroad.
Until 1956 Soviet doctrine was based on Lenin's thesis on the "inevitability of war" between capitalism and socialism (see Glossary). Such a war would be fought in defense of the socialist motherland and end with the clear-cut victory of socialism. Thus, it would be both defensive and victory oriented. The development and deployment of nuclear weapons changed doctrinal views on war's inevitability. It soon became clear that nuclear war would cause such widespread destruction that it could not be a rational tool of policy, that victory in a nuclear war was problematic, and that a nuclear power ought to deter rather than fight such a war. Soviet civilian leaders and military theorists expressed their belief in nuclear deterrence by declaring that a world war with capitalism was no longer unavoidable. They also argued that the shift in the correlation of forces and resources (see Glossary) in favor of socialism has made war avoidable. But Soviet political and military leaders did not condemn the use of nuclear weapons for fighting a war, and they did not relinquish the requirement to win. As a result, Soviet military doctrine combined the concepts of nuclear deterrence, nuclear war, and victory.
Consequently, even in the nuclear era, Soviet military science remained, in the words of the eighteenth-century Russian commander Aleksandr Suvorov, a "science of victory" in armed conflict. The most important component of military science, military art, and the latter's highest level, Soviet military strategy, continued to aim at complete defeat of the adversary. The drive to prevail at all costs and under all circumstances directed the other two components of military art: operational art and tactics. In the late 1980s, theoretical concepts for the study and conduct of armed warfare-- such as the laws of war, the laws of armed conflict, and the principles of military art--continued to emphasize victory.
Marxist-Leninist military doctrine has had considerable effect on arms control. On all levels--strategic nuclear, theater nuclear, and conventional--the doctrine's orientation toward victory has demanded capabilities for fighting and winning wars. The Soviet Union never allowed arms control to interfere with achievement of its military objectives nor to constrain the strategic goals of the armed forces. Even in the late 1980s, in spite of General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev's "new thinking" (see Glossary) and his strong emphasis on arms reductions, the military remained mistrustful of political solutions and reluctant to accept sweeping changes in doctrine and strategy.
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents