Courtesy Reuters

Technology and the Military Balance

The United States stands at a crucial point in its relationship with the Soviet Union. George Kennan's latest prediction - widely echoed by other analysts - is that U.S. domestic reaction to the impending SALT II agreement will define a watershed in the U.S.-Soviet relationship. I would argue that the continuity or disruption of the détente relationship will turn on issues going far beyond arms control alone, issues involving subjective considerations and beliefs about the origins and nature of Soviet strategic objectives and the impact of technology on the military balance.

The military balance is not the only factor affecting the U.S.-Soviet political relationship. It may not even be the most important one. But it is not possible to discuss intelligently the overall relationship without due regard for the military component and the contribution that the technological element makes to national power.

The recent historical context of the U.S.-Soviet military relationship has been one of dynamic change. For at least the last 15 years the Soviet Union has invested heavily in military-related science and technology at the expense of investments in technology for all other sectors. At the same time, the Soviets have watched the United States divert its defense resources into Southeast Asia, defer service modernization programs and cut back on military research and development. During this period the Soviet Union has made great strides in exploiting technology for military purposes, has fundamentally altered the strategic balance by the deployment of large numbers of intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and has dramatically improved the quality of its conventional forces. The purpose of this article is to examine some of the factors that determine where, how, and how well technology is being exploited to enhance military capabilities. Technology warrants particular consideration at this time, not only because of SALT II, but because there is widespread speculation that new weapons technology may be further altering both the strategic and theater aspects of the military balance.

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