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Soviet Union

Threat Assessments and Force Requirements

Since the nuclear era began, worst-case threat assessments have dominated Soviet military thinking. As a result, even during the years of détente and strategic arms control, Soviet military policy and doctrine have called for disproportionately large forces for the fulfillment of strategic missions, and Soviet military planners have drawn up plans in response to doctrinal requirements.

In the l980s, Soviet worst-case scenarios have centered on the modernization of the United States ICBMs, on United States deployment of the Trident ballistic missile submarine armed with long-range, accurate nuclear missiles, and on United States procurement of low-flying ground-, sea-, and air-launched cruise missiles. Soviet spokesmen also have persisted in portraying the SDI as an offensive system and have claimed that it would enable the United States to launch a first strike against Soviet territory with impunity.

Dmitrii Iazov, appointed minister of defense in 1987, adopted a contradictory position on Soviet military planning and threat assessment. Implying that the Soviet Union was willing to scale down its military expenditures and would modify its military doctrine and strategy, Iazov publicly endorsed reductions in the nuclear and conventional armaments of both the United States and the Soviet Union to a level commensurate with a defense-oriented doctrine and strategy. Yet he retained the traditional worst-case scenario when he called for a robust Soviet nuclear capability that could punish an attacker "even under the most unfavorable circumstances." Although he relied on "reasonable sufficiency" rather than on superiority, Iazov also defined "reasonable sufficiency" in traditional terms as the ability to "reliably guarantee the defense of the Socialist Community" with armed forces structured and equipped for offensive action.

Data as of May 1989