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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


Marxist-Leninist teaching on war and the armed forces defined the essence of wars, their origins, and the laws governing the conduct of war. In developing Soviet military doctrine and policy, the CPSU relied on this teaching and on its forecasts of the nature of future wars, as well as on the concepts and weapons proposals formulated by Soviet military science. Military doctrine was the party line on military affairs. It defined the potential adversaries, the nature of future wars, the force requirements, the general direction of military development, the preparation of the country for war, and even the type of weapons needed to fight a war. The party's military policy defined the political aims of the Soviet state and proposed concrete measures for developing and strengthening the state's military might by improving the organization and the armaments of the armed forces.

Soviet military theorists asserted that military doctrine had a military-political and a military-technical component and that doctrine overlapped with military science and strategy. MarxistLeninist teaching shaped the political aspect of doctrine, which defined the party's overriding military-political goals and was by far the more important of the two components. The technical dimension of military doctrine dealt with available means and capabilities, as well as with future technologies, and drew on the findings of Soviet military science. In its concern with capabilities, the technical aspect of doctrine also overlapped with the technical component of military policy and with military strategy. The latter coordinated technical means and methods with military concepts for the attainment of political goals.

Soviet leaders maintained that Soviet military doctrine always had been defensive, yet because it favored an offensive strategy and stressed the need to achieve victory, Western analysts have often termed Soviet military doctrine offensive. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Soviet armed forces not only caused disagreement over whether nuclear war could be a continuation of politics by violent means but also introduced divergence into Soviet views on the role nuclear weapons could play in deterring or fighting a war. Soviet military strategists appeared to endorse both nuclear deterrence and nuclear war-fighting (see Glossary) but placed a greater stress on war-fighting. Even the adoption of conventional options and the downgrading of the military utility of nuclear weapons by some military leaders in the 1980s did not remove the doctrinal requirement to fight and prevail in a nuclear war.

Data as of May 1989