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Soviet Military Doctrine

Courtesy Reuters

In the 1970s the Soviet Union won recognition as a full-fledged superpower. By the 1980s, however, some observers revised that judgment, calling it "a one-dimensional superpower," possessing only the military dimension. Whatever the validity of the new assessments of Soviet economic and political power, physical indices alone confirm the cogency of the new view of Soviet military power. No state in the world rivals the U.S.S.R. in its combination of size, sophistication and command and control of military forces.

—Soviet ground forces are composed of more than two hundred divisions, all mechanized, and organized under army, front and high commands in at least five theaters of military operations. They possess more than 53,000 main battle tanks, 48,000 tubes of artillery, mortars and multiple-rocket launchers, 4,600 surface-to-air missiles and 4,500 helicopters.

—The air forces include more than 4,900 tactical aircraft. Air defense forces have an additional 1,760 interceptor aircraft, 9,000 surface-to-air missile launchers, and 10,000 warning systems including satellites, radars and air surveillance systems. Under the terms of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the world’s only ABM system has been deployed around Moscow.

—The Soviet navy has 360 attack and cruise missile submarines, 274 principal surface combatants, and its own air arm of 390 bombers and 195 fighter aircraft.

—The bulk of the strategic nuclear forces is controlled by the strategic rocket forces, with 1,418 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and, until the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is fully implemented, 553 medium-range ballistic missiles. The navy has an additional 967 submarine-launched ballistic missiles in 76 submarines, and the air force contributes 1,182 bombers.

—Command and control facilities are hardened, numerous and supported by multiple communications modes.

The Soviet military manpower base is equally large, consisting of over five million on active service and a reserve pool of over 55 million. Perhaps more important, the quality of manpower has improved dramatically. A new, younger and well-educated officer corps now leads the Soviet armed forces. Over 75 percent of all officers have a "higher or specialized education," meaning four or five years at one of the more than 160 college-level military

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