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Soviet Union

Strategic Operation in a Theater of Military Operations

The concept of the combined arms operational offensive in a theater of military operations (teatr voennykh deistvii-- TVD) developed in the l920s as the theory of the deep offensive operation (see Military Art , this ch.). According to this theory, Soviet infantry, armor, and artillery would coordinate to achieve operational goals with operational breakthroughs and firepower. The deep offensive operation concept underlies the modern, expanded theater operation, which, according to Marshal Ogarkov, is "no longer a front or group of fronts, but a strategic operation in a TVD" and can lead directly to the achievement of strategic objectives. Since the mid-1970s, such an operation in the Western TVD, covering NATO's Central Region, was expected to be fought mainly with new, improved conventional weapons. Although primarily offensive, the modern strategic operation also incorporated defensive concepts because of changes in NATO strategy.

American military expert Phillip Petersen believed that a conventional air operation against NATO's airfields and nuclear weapons sites would substitute aviation and the fire of conventional missiles for nuclear strikes. The air operation could neutralize NATO's air defense assets, destroy nuclear weapons, and disrupt command and control capabilities. Highly mobile first- and second-echelon ground forces, known as operational maneuver groups, could break through the forward defenses and penetrate deep into the enemy's rear. If NATO's nuclear weapons could be successfully destroyed, Warsaw Pact tanks and armored personnel carriers could advance rapidly across Western Europe to the North Sea coast and to the Danish Straits before NATO could mobilize fully and bring reinforcements from North America. Similar operations would take place in the Northwestern and Southwestern TVDs and would continue until Soviet troops achieved the strategic objective of victory in Europe.

Although Soviet military theorists traditionally have deemphasized defensive operations, in the 1980s they have paid more attention to defensive concepts on the strategic, operational, and tactical levels and have called defense "an essential form of combat action." In the l980s, Soviet military writers also have emphasized the increased depth of operational defenses in connection with the deep-strike concepts incorporated in the United States Army's AirLand Battle doctrine (see Glossary) and in NATO's Follow-on-Forces-Attack ( FOFA--see Glossary) concept. The Soviet concept of defense has been distinguished by extreme "combat activeness," i.e., using massive firepower to destroy the enemy's aircraft and attacking ground forces while Soviet forces prepare a counterattack.

Data as of May 1989