Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Strategic Defense

The Air Defense Forces, known until their l980 reorganization as the National Air Defense Forces, was the one service whose mission was almost entirely defensive (see Air Defense Forces , ch. 18). These forces were to protect the country from nuclear attack. Formed in 1948 to counter the threat of strategic bombers, the National Air Defense Forces had no capability against ballistic missiles, which became the main threat in the l960s. The preemptive mission of the Strategic Rocket Forces filled this gap and lightened the burden of the National Air Defense Forces.

The principal mission of the Air Defense Forces has remained practically unchanged since the 1950s. However, according to Sokolovskii's Military Strategy, air defense included both defense against ballistic missiles and space defense. In l989 one antiballistic missile site around Moscow protected both the capital and the National Command Authority housed there. Extensive Soviet research on defense against ballistic missiles, however, pointed to a possible change in Soviet reliance on strategic offense.

In addition to the active defense that the mission of the Air Defense Forces has called for, the Soviet Union has invested heavily in civil defense. The declared mission of civil defense has been to provide "reliable protection for the population against weapons of mass destruction in wartime" through construction of shelters for the leadership, hardening and dispersal of industry, and evacuation of leadership and civilians from cities. Such efforts continued in the l980s, despite civilian leaders' statements denying the viability of defense against nuclear weapons and acknowledging that nuclear war would be suicidal.

Data as of May 1989