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Soviet Union


The armed forces had a peacetime territorial organization that would facilitate a rapid shift to a wartime footing. In 1989 the Soviet Union was divided into sixteen military districts, four fleets, and one flotilla (see fig. 30). In addition, two naval squadrons and six major groups of forces were stationed outside the Soviet Union.

Military Districts

Military districts were the basic units of Soviet military administration. The system of sixteen military districts had evolved in response to the Soviet Union's perception of threats to its security. For example, in 1969 the Turkestan Military District was divided to create the Central Asian Military District and enable the Soviet Union to double its military forces and infrastructure along the border with China. In wartime most military districts would become fronts (see Glossary).

Senior Ground Forces officers have always commanded military districts, and experience in commanding a military district was apparently a prerequisite for promotion to most of the important Ministry of Defense positions. Commanders of military districts have deputy commanders responsible for specific military activities. Each military district had a military council, which included the commander of the district, his first deputies--one of whom was also chief of staff--the chief of the political directorate for the district, and the first secretary of the party bureau of the union republic in which the district is located.

Military districts were combined arms formations. A military district commander controlled not only the Ground Forces in the district but also the Air Forces and the Air Defense Forces (see fig. 31). The commanders of the Air Forces and the Air Defense Forces reported to the district commander on operational matters as well as to the main staffs of their services. The military district's officers worked closely with party and government officials to plan wartime mobilization and rear services, civil defense, and military training for civilians. They supervised military training in both civilian and military education establishments located in the district. Military districts coordinated activities with the Border Troops, which had a system of ten districts organized separately from the military districts.

In 1989 twelve of Frontal Aviation's sixteen air armies were stationed in the most important military districts. Western experts disagreed over the system of air defense districts. Some argued that as many as ten air defense districts, separate from military districts, still existed. It seemed more likely, however, that when the National Air Defense Forces became the Air Defense Forces after 1980, all remaining air defense districts were integrated into the military districts. At that time, commanders of the Air Defense Forces became deputy commanders of the military districts. Only the Moscow Air Defense District continued to be mentioned in the press, possibly because it operated the ABM system that protected the capital city and the National Command Authority.

In 1989 the Ground Forces had sixty-five divisions, kept at between 50 and 75 percent of their projected wartime strengths, in the westernmost military districts of the Soviet Union; fifty-two divisions at less than half their wartime levels in the Siberian, Transbaykal, Central Asian, and Far East military districts along the border with China; and twenty-six low-readiness divisions in the Transcaucasus, North Caucasus, and Turkestan military districts.

Data as of May 1989