Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


The General Staff had the responsibility for formulating the strategic missions of the five services of the Soviet armed forces. The Soviet military has defined a strategic mission as one "whose fulfillment in the course of an armed conflict leads to an abrupt change in the operational strategic situation . . . . Successful accomplishment of a strategic mission usually results in attainment of numerical superiority over the enemy, in seizure of important areas and installations on his territory . . . . Successful accomplishment of a series of strategic missions leads to the attainment of intermediate and ultimate strategic goals." Because the ultimate strategic goal of war is victory over the adversary, the successful accomplishment of strategic missions is indispensable.

The General Staff had the responsibility for assessing external threats and drawing up Soviet war plans. It reconciled its plans with Soviet military doctrine and policy. The General Staff also determined the nature of strategic missions, as well as the weapons used and the size of forces needed to accomplish these missions (see table 53, Appendix A).

Traditionally, the Soviet military has structured its armed forces offensively, on the basis of worst-case threat assessments. The primacy of offense over defense was challenged in the nuclear age, when strategic offense was often combined with strategic defense. In 1989, in spite of the new doctrinal emphasis on defense, most branches of the Soviet armed forces, such as the Strategic Rocket Forces, the Air Forces, the Naval Forces, and the Ground Forces, still had mainly offensive missions. The Ground Forces played a leading role in the combined arms strategic operation in a TVD. By contrast, the Air Defense Forces were to carry out active defense of the homeland by destroying the enemy's weapons and aircraft, whereas Civil Defense was to protect the country from nuclear devastation. In the 1980s, the Soviet military reinforced the combined arms concept on the strategic level by reorganizing and restructuring the Soviet armed forces.

Data as of May 1989