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Soviet Union


Tactics is the aspect of military art concerned with the preparation and conduct of offensive and defensive combat actions by elements of the armed forces on land, in the air, and at sea. Soviet military writers distinguish four basic tactical combat actions: offense, the meeting engagement (in which both belligerents meet while advancing), defense, and withdrawal. They view defense as a temporary action, for only offense can bring about a complete rout of the enemy and victory.

In the early l960s, nuclear weapons became the "basic means of destruction on the field of battle." Soviet tacticians believed that nuclear strikes during an engagement would help the Soviet armed forces to seize and retain the initiative on a tactical level and achieve victory in battle. The new emphasis on nuclear weapons led to changes in tactical concepts. Instead of massive concentration of forces on the main direction of attack, theorists advocated concentration of nuclear strikes and maneuver by troops and by nuclear missiles.

Soviet military theorists came to realize that use of nuclear weapons by both belligerents could complicate offensive tactical combat by slowing down the Soviet advance while strengthening the enemy's defense. Because increased mobility and high rates of advance formed the most important Soviet operational and tactical principles, the Soviet military began to perceive nuclear weapons as problematic. Thus, in the late 1960s and the 1970s, Soviet military planners began to reorient tactics away from reliance on nuclear weapons toward reliance on new conventional weapons. Concepts such as the concentration of forces on the main axis, partial victory, and economy of force again assumed their prenuclear importance.

Soviet tactics in the l980s has experienced a resurgence, in part because improved conventional weapons with greater ranges and accuracies became available. Also, the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provided a training ground for tactical conventional combat in mountainous and desert terrain and drew the attention of Soviet military theorists to the importance of tactics in warfare. Two revised editions of Lieutenant General Vasilii G. Reznichenko's Tactics were published in the 1980s: one in 1984 and a revised and augmented one in 1987. Reznichenko described tactics as the most dynamic component of contemporary military art, a component that could influence the operational and even the strategic levels of war. In the 1987 edition of Tactics, Reznichenko included new defensive concepts but emphasized the offensive, supported by air superiority, fire superiority, and electronic warfare. He favored conventional rather than nuclear preemption, for, if used preemptively, long-range precision-guided munitions could predetermine the outcome of a combined arms battle.

Data as of May 1989