PROMPTED by the abortive coup attempt, the Soviet revolution of August 1991 has opened a new chapter in Soviet military affairs. Although accurate predictions of ultimate effects on the Soviet armed forces are impossible until the situation stabilizes, one can make rudimentary judgments regarding basic forces and general tendencies. Written before the coup attempt, this article nevertheless provides the basis for such judgments by examining both long-term trends in Soviet military thought and recent lessons learned from the Persian Gulf war.
Issues of national security and geopolitics--whether of the Soviet Union, Russia, or numerous successor states--will continue to be a major concern to those nations themselves and the rest of the world. Nuclear deterrence, supplemented by a smaller and leaner conventional military establishment, will likely emerge as the military component that will back up strategic concepts. The great Soviet strategic debates of the 1980s and 1990s will leave a lasting imprint on the future. Current lags in the military-technical sphere will therefore remain a central concern, while obstacles to implementing the new military-technical revolution may initially multiply. The Soviet General Staff will likely remain both a viable structure and the chief articulator of the nature of future war. Defense Minister Ye. I. Shaposhnikov and Chief of the General Staff V.N. Lobov, for example, have long supported technological modernization of the Soviet armed forces to cope with the high-tech nature of future warfare--especially as exemplified in the Gulf war.
Soviet Views on
In Soviet military thought, the armed forces must be structured according to the nature
of future war. Soviet military doctrine is thus riveted to future military capabilities
and environments even in the era of "new thinking" and perestroika. Although the
Soviet military establishment has undergone substantial changes under President Mikhail
Gorbachev, mainstream views on future war reflect the same focus on emerging military
technologies that Marshal N. V. Ogarkov initiated in the early 1980s. Despite a noticeable
degree of civil-military divergence regarding the future of the Soviet armed forces, the
civilian leadership has not sought to impede the development of technologies perceived to
be at the heart of future Soviet military capabilities. Weapons that employ these
technologies include advanced conventional munitions (ACM), directed-energy weapons, and
space-based systems. Convinced that the wide-scale deployment of these weapons was
inevitable, the Soviet military developed a comprehensive and revolutionary vision of
future war long before the Persian Gulf conflict.
According to prominent military scientists, the ongoing development of nuclear and nonnuclear strategic offensive forces provides a basis for predicting a near-term shift toward the waging of an "essentially new type of war--the aerospace war."1 Such a war is characterized by a massive employment of cutting-edge technologies: ballistic missiles with maneuvering warheads, long-range cruise missiles, ACMs, reconnaissance-strike complexes, orbital aircraft, wide-scale application of stealth technology, directed-energy weapons, space-based strike weapons, and third-generation nuclear weapons. Gen-Maj V. I. Slipchenko believes that by the year 2000 the space-based layer alone will be capable of destroying 30-50 percent of the opponent's retaliatory strike means.2
Proceeding from such analyses, Soviet military theorists envision a future war whose politico-military objectives are achieved not by seizing and occupying territory, but by destroying the opponent's military capabilities and military infrastructure. General Slipchenko maintains that the three criteria for achieving victory are (1) destruction of the opponent's armed forces, (2) destruction of the opponent's military-economic potential, and (3) overthrow of the opponent's political system. In the past, achieving these objectives was said to be impossible without capturing and occupying the opponent's territory. Today, however, the capture and occupation of territory are unnecessary. With the help of ACMs alone, it is possible to deliver powerful strikes against important strategic targets and to destroy the opponent's military infrastructure. As a result, the political system will not survive.3
Air- and space-based systems now give war a new dimension, and the Soviets assert that while they lack sufficient quantities, they have already developed the technologies required to wage such a war. These technologies are reflected in air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, remotely piloted vehicles, and space-based means of supporting ground actions. The Soviets predict that by the year 2000, both sides will have accumulated these systems in sufficient numbers to conduct the aerospace war. During the ongoing transition period, warfare will resemble that conducted in the Persian Gulf, with a declining role for piloted aircraft and a growing role for air-, sea-, and space-based directed-energy weapons.4
Through the Prism of
In the Persian Gulf war, the Soviet military has seen the nature of future warfare--and
it works. Representatives of the General Staff Academy term the Gulf war a technological
operation and therefore a prototype of future war. As a result, the development of the
Soviet armed forces will now be planned through the prism of the Persian Gulf. The Soviet
military has been quick to link the coalition's victory to the achievement of surprise and
air superiority at the outset of war. Military experts have thus begun to argue that the
Gulf war dictates significant changes in Moscow's defensive doctrine.
the Persian Gulf
According to the Soviets, the operations in the Persian Gulf represent the first concrete example of "intellectualized" warfare. General Slipchenko thus explains that the Persian Gulf war was a clash between two concepts of war: the past (Iraq) and the future (the US-led coalition). The coalition forces won because they were fighting in the future, and Iraq lost because it was fighting in the past.5 The Soviets, therefore, view the war as a transition between old and new, a stage that has now arrived because the basis of victory was the action of air-attack weapons. Marshal Ogarkov's prescient demands for a rapid incorporation of emerging technologies into Soviet military theory and practice have now been vindicated.
The Soviet military's assessments of its own doctrine and strategy in light of the Gulf war cover a spectrum ranging from obsolete to prophetic. Col A. Tsalko, for example, observed that the crushing defeat of the Iraqi army demonstrated the obsolescence of not only Soviet military doctrine, but also the entire model of military development.6 Speakers at a conference of the Moscow City Council noted that the war revealed "considerable drawbacks" in Soviet doctrine and its principles of military development and pointed up the outdated quality of prevailing Soviet views on modern war.7 In a milder vein, Marshal V. Kulikov, former commander in chief of the Warsaw Pact, has acknowledged that the Gulf operations "modified the ideas we had on the nature of modern military operations." A deeper analysis is necessary, he concluded, "but one point is already clear: the Soviet Armed Forces will have to take a closer look at the quality of their weapons, their equipment, and their strategy."8
On the other hand, prominent Soviet military scientists argue that the impressive performance of high-tech weaponry in the Gulf represents the realization of the qualitative revolution in military affairs that Ogarkov forecast nearly a decade ago. In his 1984 interview in Krasnaya zvezda (Red Star), for example, Ogarkov noted that the emergence of automated search-and-destroy complexes; long-range, high-precision, terminally guided combat systems; remotely piloted vehicles; and qualitatively new electronic control systems will inevitably alter the nature of modern operations.9 All of the developments that Ogarkov highlighted were used in the Gulf war, including the automated search-and-destroy complex or reconnaissance-strike complex (i.e., joint surveillance target attack radar system [JSTARS] aircraft in combination with the multiple launch rocket system [MLRS]).
Soviet military experts have stressed repeatedly that the coalition won so quickly and with minimal losses because of its "overwhelming superiority in contemporary methods of warfare: in aviation, ACMs, and means of reconnaissance, communication, command and control, and electronic warfare."10 Also telling was the coalition's superiority in strategy and tactics; the skillful combination of fire and maneuver; and coordination among tank, motorized infantry, artillery, aviation, and marine units. Further, according to analysts such as Gen-Lt V. Gorbachev, the centerpiece lesson of the Gulf conflict is the allied achievement of surprise and command of the air at the very outset of war.11
Prominent military scientists such as General Slipchenko have characterized the Gulf war as prototypical of an air war.12 Col M. Ponomarev, for example, has described the allied air operation as a contemporary version of Giulio Douhet's strategy of command of the air, but applied in this case to create an "aerial blitzkrieg."13 Gen-Lt A. Malyukov writes that the Gulf war was conceived from the outset as an air war to wear out the opponent by means of air strikes, disorganize his command and control (C2) systems, destroy his air defenses, and weaken the strike power of the ground forces. In terms of choice of objectives, it was therefore more a classical air offensive than an airland battle.14
The Soviets contend that the United States used the theory of the air war against Japan in World War II. But the capabilities of air-attack forces and means were then insufficient. Today, however, these capabilities have grown immeasurably--to the point that air forces can actualize the theory of air war.
In such a war, say the Soviets, tens of thousands of precision guided cruise missiles capable of striking point targets at long ranges can be used simultaneously to destroy thousands of targets. The air war can include the delivery of tens and even hundreds of massed strikes by ACMs from a variety of axes. In the intervals between massed strikes, air forces can deliver pinpoint ACM strikes against the most important targets not destroyed by massed strikes. Furthermore, one can extensively employ remotely piloted vehicles plus ground- and air-based radio-electronic warfare systems to blind the opponent's air defense systems.
Such an air war can include delivering unpiloted air strikes to disable state and military C2 points, interdict lines of communications and supplies, and paralyze both the rear area and the country's economy. Targets would include vulnerable areas of the economy, C2 centers, road networks, bridges, and so forth. The destruction of up to 50 percent of such important targets could plunge even the Soviet Union or the United States into a crisis. Strikes will also be delivered against military targets during an air war--above all, against airfields, naval bases, missile launch positions, and battlefield C2 points. The military can extensively employ space-based reconnaissance, communications, and attack means to support the air war; in the future, it can employ means of destroying targets from space.
Military experts such as General Slipchenko describe the Gulf conflict as prototypical of a war to be conducted with massive employment of advanced technologies. Opponents will use remotely piloted vehicles, robotics, electronic warfare systems, long-range guided weapons systems with artificial intelligence, and space-based weapons, as well as reconnaissance and deception.15
Soviet experts argue that all of this is radically changing the nature of future war. Large groupings of ground troops will not be employed. Massive strikes will be delivered by remotely piloted, precision guided weapons and reconnaissance-strike systems capable of automatically finding and destroying the target to any depth of the opponent's territory. The entire country being subjected to precision strikes will become the battlefield, and the war will proceed without borders or flanks. The terms front and rear will be replaced by the concepts of subject to strikes and not subject to strikes (i.e., targets and nontargets). First-priority targets will be state and military C2 points, energy sources, and military targets--especially retaliatory strike means.
By concentrating the enormous might of strikes on the farthest depth of the opponent's territory, air forces can now achieve both operational-strategic and strategic objectives. In fact, the Soviets say that in such a war the lines between tactics, operational art, and strategy disappear. The war can begin and end with a powerful strike by precision guided weapons--painstakingly planned and precisely executed within a designated period of time.
General Slipchenko notes further that the Gulf war dictates essential changes in the employment of ground forces. Warfare has shifted from reliance on these forces to reliance on air-attack weapons.16 The role of piloted aircraft has also changed--from accomplishing missions over enemy territory to delivering standoff weapons. The Gulf war demonstrated that an air war alone can be conducted to achieve victory. The introduction of such novel elements as ACMs--especially cruise missiles--permitted the execution of a technological operation that was not massive but sufficient to prove its effectiveness.
Gen-Maj N. Kutsenko, deputy chief of staff of the General Staff's Center for
Operational-Strategic Studies, observes that the NATO leadership exploited the Gulf war as
an opportunity for testing the latest weapons systems and military technologies, many of
which have already entered the arsenals of NATO armies.17 These include the
F-117A stealth fighter-bomber; the Patriot air defense missile complex with its
antimissile missiles; the E3A airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft with
its radar system for ground-target reconnaissance and target designation;
reconnaissance-strike complexes; air- and sea-launched cruise missiles; laser-guided
bombs; and new armored equipment. Equipped with targeting lasers, the Patriot and Hawk
missiles were highly protected against interference. Indeed, to remark that "this is
very promising weaponry the Americans have" seems an understatement.18 But
Kutsenko also notes that the desert terrain and climate revealed serious deficiencies in
coalition equipment.19 Further, Gen-Maj S. Bogdanov has noted that the war was
a proving ground for employment concepts of high-tech weapons against an opponent who
could not field appropriate countermeasures.20
in the Gulf
According to Rear Adm A. Pauk, the sea-based Tomahawk cruise missiles demonstrated a high degree of combat effectiveness. In just the first days of the air operation, US ships launched about 100 of these missiles against ground targets. The launches were coordinated with the actions of carrier-based and tactical aviation, while computerized trajectories allowed the missiles to approach heavily defended targets from different directions. Targets of the Tomahawks included the command posts of the Iraqi armed forces, posts and centers for surveilling the air situation, administrative and industrial structures, electrical stations, and the communications system.21 Remarkably, the Tomahawk is said to have a circular error probability of about 30 centimeters. Rear Admiral Pauk also praised the performance of sea-based remotely piloted vehicles. They accomplished such tasks as final reconnaissance of targets, adjustment of artillery fire against the shore, damage assessment, and so forth.22
In addition to ACMs, the Soviet military points to the role of space-based systems in the allied victory. According to General Kutsenko, allied forces of battalion size and higher utilized space-based communications systems, and allied staffs used satellite reconnaissance to monitor developments along the front.23 In fact, the first article in Voyennaya mysl' (Military Thought) to examine Gulf operations focused on the performance of space-based systems. The authors of the article, Cols V. V. Romanov and V. P. Chigak, declare that these systems constituted "the basis of all technical reconnaissance" in the war.24 With a resolution of about half a meter, electro-optical means provided the capability to swiftly and reliably detect changes in the operational configuration of Iraqi armed forces.
In addition, the US is said to have experimented with ways of expanding the application of space-based reconnaissance means. For example, space-based systems proved effective in detecting ballistic missile launches, thereby increasing warning time from one to five minutes. These systems also proved effective in correcting the trajectories of airborne and cruise missiles. Further, space systems functioned effectively at all levels of coalition forces, including the tactical. Because the Iraqis lacked radio-electronic means of suppression, space-based systems ensured uninterrupted and undetected C2 of troops and weapons.25 At the same time, Romanov and Chigak note that the effectiveness of space-based systems was reduced by the Iraqis' use of decoys; measures of disinformation and operational maskirovka (cover, concealment, and deception); the dispersal and concealment of equipment and supplies; and poor meteorological conditions. Moreover, the war is said to have refuted the assertions of "American specialists" that space-based systems could detect dug-in targets.26
On the whole, however, authoritative Soviet analyses stress that the Gulf war was the first example of the significant--if not decisive--role that space can play in modern warfare. General Slipchenko notes that past warfare had two dimensions--latitudinal and longitudinal--but that air- and space-based systems are giving war a new, third dimension.27 Before the Gulf war, space-based systems were said to increase combat effectiveness by 50 to 100 percent. However, according to Gen-Maj A. N. Bazhenov, editor of Military Thought, the Gulf war demonstrated that these systems can increase combat effectiveness by 150 to 200 percent. He also observes that the Gulf war confirms the need to shift warfare to theaters of military operations in space.28
The head of the strategy section of the General Staff Academy argues that with the Gulf war, so-called duels--which use only strike means--have become a phenomenon of the past for civilized states. Now one must take all weapons into account--not only strike means, but also means of reconnaissance, radio-electronic combat, guidance, and effective defense. Iraq's lack of such systems greatly reduced the capability of its strike means, which were unprotected, and led to great losses in the Iraqi army.29
The performance of coalition weaponry in the Gulf war has triggered Soviet concerns over the future of arms control. According to the Soviet military, the war demonstrated the obsolescence of current formulas for US-Soviet arms control. The coalition victory invalidated the quantitative paradigm that is the heart of current treaties and proved that a qualitative paradigm will determine the balance of forces in future warfare. The Soviets have long argued that emerging technologies are negating many of the traditional measures of military power and are generating a revolution in future warfare. In the Gulf war, a smaller, technologically superior force was thus able to defeat a much larger, technologically inferior one.
Speaking shortly after the outbreak of the war, General Lobov warned that US testing of advanced weapons such as cruise missiles and stealth aircraft could "disturb the qualitative parity in the weapons sector and have serious consequences for the future."30 Among others, Marshal S. F. Akhromeyev has pinpointed the performance of stealth technology; automated command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) systems; ACMs; cruise missiles; and laser-guided aviation bombs.31 "A crisis had only to break out in the Persian Gulf region," argues Maj M. Zheglov, "for NATO to begin putting the brakes on programs to reduce armed forces and armaments, and to call for the creation of new mobile forces capable of operating in any region."32 This Western response to the coalition victory is said to undermine all arms control progress of the recent past.33
A senior defense ministry official comments that the Soviet armed forces possess weapons similar to most of those used by the US forces in the Gulf.34 On the other hand, Gen-Maj V. Chepurnoi stresses that the Gulf war demonstrated the necessity of "technically re-equipping" the Soviet armed forces on the basis of the latest weaponry.35
The Soviet military believes that ACMs have generated an enhanced role for surprise in
modern warfare. In discussing the impact of ACMs on combat operations, for example,
Gen-Maj I. Vorob'yev notes that in the past, one achieved surprise by using passive
methods: all types of maskirovka, decoy targets, demonstrative moves, smoke screens, and
so forth. Today, however, active measures are more important and include surprise
maneuvers on land and in the air, unexpected offensive and nonstereotypical battle
formations, and novel systems of fire destruction. Automated reconnaissance systems and
computer-based homing ammunition are now used to disrupt the opponent's troop- and
weapon-control systems. The idea is to blind the opponent before the onset of action by a
massive use of electronic warfare against his reconnaissance, warning, and C2
According to Vorob'yev, ACMs facilitate the use of surprise on a much wider scale than before. Surprise ACM strikes ensure the achievement of not only the operational-tactical but also the strategic initiative on the future battlefield.37 Prominent theorists such as General of the Army Lobov have gone so far as to argue that the incorporation of ACMs "raises the issue of achieving surprise in both the defense and the offense"38 (italics added). If achieved, wrote Gen-Lt N. G. Popov, surprise can exert a "decisive" influence on the course of the war.39 Long before the Gulf war, Vorob'yev asserted that the skillful application of the principle "guarantees a victory."40
Zarubezhnoye voyennoye obozreniye (Foreign Military Review) reports that the coalition used the factor of surprise to suppress Iraq's air defense, disrupt its military C2, disable nuclear and chemical centers, achieve overwhelming command of the air, and seize the initiative.41 Among others, Gen-Maj G. Zhivista of the General Staff's Center for Operational-Strategic Studies has reiterated that the US used the element of surprise to almost completely disable Iraq's air defense and C2 systems, thereby disrupting the operations of Iraqi ground forces. In addition, the US gained total command of the air while sustaining minimal losses.42
Before the Gulf war, says General Slipchenko, achieving surprise was not really possible because of the need to mass large ground forces and because of the lack of sufficient ACMs. But the Gulf war showed that achieving surprise with ACMs and aviation is now realistic. For the first time in nonnuclear warfare, surprise is now said to be "decisive for the course and outcome of the war."43 The best means of deterring the temptation to launch a surprise strike, the Soviets say, is to ensure that the armed forces of both sides are fully prepared to fight such a war--in other words, to ensure parity in nonnuclear strategic offensive forces.
Coincidentally with the US adoption of the AirLand Battle, Soviet military writers began to link the importance of a future war's initial period with the combat characteristics of ACMs. Writing in late 1985, for example, Gen-Lt A. I. Yevseyev asserted that if a war begins with ACMs, the initial period can exert an "enormous influence on the subsequent course of military actions."44 By 1988, however, prominent military scientists argued that an initial period with ACMs can exert a "decisive influence on the course and outcome" of the war45 (italics added). Long before the Gulf war, then, the Soviets were already viewing a high-tech initial period as the decisive factor in victory.
General Yevseyev also made a statement unprecedented for Soviet military thought. In contrast to past wars, he wrote, "the main content of the initial period in present-day conditions can be the delivery by the belligerents of nuclear strikes or strikes with conventional means of destruction . . . for achieving the war's main objectives"46 (italics added). By Soviet definition, the war's main objectives are to destroy the opponent's war-fighting potential and war economy. In the past, therefore, only an initial period with nuclear weapons was said to achieve these main objectives. But since 1985, Soviet military thought has explicitly acknowledged the potential of ACMs to accomplish these nuclear tasks in a future war.47 For all practical purposes, the achievement of these objectives signifies victory.
General Gorbachev states that the outcome of the Gulf war was determined "in its first few minutes" by the ability of allied air forces to seize the initiative in the air and win command of the air at the outset. Having no opposition in the air, the coalition was able to compensate for Iraq's superiority in tanks.48
Experts assert that the Gulf war thus illustrates that future warfare will involve a massive use of technology and will be over quickly. In fact, say the Soviets, the conflict demonstrated that war's "course" and "outcome" are now "a single phenomenon." Indeed, General Slipchenko declares that the initial period is "essentially the only period in future war."49
Changing Force StructureIn general, initial Soviet commentary on the Gulf war has confirmed earlier predictions of a declining role for ground forces and growing roles for air, air defense, and naval forces. But this commentary in particular is clearly influenced by the parochial and budgetary factors endemic to any military organization.
Soviet military assessments of the impact of Gulf operations on the role of ground forces span a predictably wide spectrum. According to Col A. Tsalko, for example, it is "sheer madness" to believe--as some military authorities in the Soviet Union continue to do--that "the outcome of a war is determined by a clash of huge masses of ground troops." The Gulf war clearly demonstrated that "the Iraqi army was simply overwhelmed by airstrikes and the troops had to keep their noses buried in the sand." Tsalko goes so far as to argue that the main lesson of the war is that huge numbers of tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces were "absolutely useless."50
On the other hand, the head of the Military Academy of Armor Troops insists that the Gulf war reveals the impossibility of accomplishing all missions without a large-scale use of ground forces.51 In addition, General Bogdanov asserts that the war graphically demonstrated the "determining role" of ground forces in achieving the war's ultimate objectives.52
Even before the Gulf war, Foreign Military Review noted that, according to the foreign press, the Air Force was the only branch of the US armed forces capable of concentrating its efforts on the scale required by a future war waged with cutting-edge technologies. "American specialists" therefore focus on (1) perfecting the capability for delivering precision air strikes on fixed and mobile targets in the opponent's deep rear without entering the range of his air defense and (2) continuing the development of space-based offensive and defensive systems and systems for controlling them.53 Among others, General of the Army I. M. Tretyak has stressed that air defense is also a critical element of the conventional "aero-space war."54
According to General Gorbachev, superior US technical intelligence and highly accurate weapons played a key role in neutralizing Iraq's air defense system.55 In addressing the USSR Supreme Soviet, Defense Minister D. T. Yazov thus admitted that the allied victory in the Gulf war had prompted the Ministry of Defense to reexamine its air defense capability. He warned that, while the Soviet Union is currently capable of repelling attacks, this might not be true in two or three years. Yazov even admitted that Soviet air defense systems already have "weak spots."56 Col-Gen R. Akchurin was equally direct: "Today our anti-aircraft defenses are capable of repelling the attacks of any air targets." But he warned that "the echo of missile thunder in the desert must put us on our guard."57
Soviet air defense (PVO) officials state that the allies employed several new means of avoiding air defenses: space-based reconnaissance systems, universal use of electronic warfare systems, and the preventive cruise missile strike. Further, the high-speed antiradiation missile (HARM) was another new type of weapon employed. Altogether, allied air power exceeded the Iraqi air defense potential tenfold.58 Soviet PVO officials highlight the lack of automated fire control as the main reason for the relatively low level of Iraqi air defense activity. These experts point out that modern battle management is impossible without automated systems. The lack of these systems could reduce Iraqi air defense capability by about 40 percent.59
PVO officials also note that by the year 2000, the Pentagon plans to have tens of thousands of strategic and tactical supersonic cruise and operational-tactical missiles. The role of air- and space-attack forces will keep growing, which makes the Soviet air defense capability an extremely important factor. Only armed forces equipped with modern weapons and modern air defense technology will be able to withstand massive aviation strikes at the outset of future wars.60 Most Soviet experts agree that a critical lesson of the Gulf war is the need for a high degree of combat readiness and air defense assets that can fight against the new, most advanced air and space means of attack at any moment.61 These experts assert that the PVO badly needs to be upgraded with the most advanced systems. Obsolete models of weapons, which accomplished little in the Gulf war, should be retired. Clearly, as ground troops are reduced, PVO power should increase and its combat deployment made denser.62 PVO officials maintain that combat operations in modern war will undoubtedly start with the destruction of reconnoitered military targets by air force operations. To fight more effectively in such conditions, the Soviets are said to require different types of surface-to-air missiles and radar systems, as well as a high degree of automation in battle management, reconnaissance, and target guidance. Neither the Patriot nor the Hawk would have performed as effectively as they did without reconnaissance, including space-based reconnaissance.63
Soviet military experts from all of the branches agree that the Gulf war suggests that all future military operations will begin with a massive use of air power. On the whole, however, their analyses conclude that air power alone was insufficient to accomplish all of the war's final objectives.
General Malyukov notes that the Gulf war was the first wherein aviation accomplished almost all of the main missions. But it also demonstrated that having modern aviation in the arsenal is not enough--one must also ensure operational, materiel, and technical support. From its first days, the Gulf war was clearly a war of modern high-tech systems--that is, of everything that modern aviation represents. "He who does not realize this runs the risk of falling hopelessly behind in the qualitative improvement of aviation equipment--with all the ensuing consequences."64
The success of the war as a whole, according to General Bogdanov, turned on the outcome of the struggle to achieve command of the air. In other words, it depended on the result of the air operation. The apparent trends in modern warfare "really do predetermine to a certain degree the priority of aircraft as the most long-range and maneuverable means of combat."65 As a result, General Malyukov insists that "major [Soviet] investments" are necessary to keep up with high-tech US air power.66
The Soviets are convinced that the Gulf war was determined by air forces, marine corps units, and naval aviation, which should "vividly show us what lies in store in the near future in local clashes or any other potential combat operations."67 General Slipchenko offers that the Soviet forces of the future are the Strategic Rocket Forces, the air force, the navy, and the Air Defense Forces. The Soviets had discussed the diminishing role of ground forces for years, "but now we have proof."68 On the other hand, General Chepurnoi argues that in the future the Soviet armed forces could consist of three branches: the "Aero-Space Forces," the navy, and the Group Troops.69
Whither the Soviet
According to prominent military scientists, the Gulf war dictates several specific
directions for the qualitative improvement of the Soviet armed forces. These include (1)
the development of a rapid-deployment capability for the ground troops, (2) major
investments in high-tech air power, (3) a review of the national air defense network and
systems, (4) a higher degree of automation in C3I and weapons guidance, and (5)
an overall technical reequipping of the Soviet armed forces.
In addition, authoritative Soviet analyses highlight the impact of the Gulf war on specific dimensions of future warfare. First, military experts assert that the war portends a new type of arms race--one emphasizing capabilities for implementing strategic mobilization and deployment in theaters remote from the homeland. Observers thus stress the US ability to move a sizeable force and conduct an impressive logistical buildup in a distant region that lacked a well-developed communications infrastructure.
Second, Soviet military assessments of the Gulf war focus on the role of surprise as the key to victory in modern warfare. According to Defense Minister Shaposhnikov, the Gulf war demonstrated that air power is the "main means" of achieving surprise--now said to be the decisive factor in determining both the course and the outcome of the war.70 Indeed, the course and outcome of war are now said to be a single phenomenon. Thus, as previously mentioned, the war's initial period is now said to be the only period in future warfare.
Third, Soviet military experts stress that the Gulf war is the prototype of the so-called technological operation. Characterized by a massive use of technology, such a war will be short. Because advanced nonnuclear technologies will accomplish all of the missions previously reserved to strategic nuclear forces, these systems can achieve all of the objectives once envisioned for a nuclear war. In addition, one will achieve these objectives without the collateral damage and political complications associated with the use of nuclear weapons.
Initial Soviet commentary also highlighted several larger and more long-term lessons of the Gulf war. First, the war confirms Marshal Ogarkov's forecasts on the nature of future war. In the early 1980s, Ogarkov predicted that the order-of-magnitude improvements in emerging nonnuclear technologies were making these systems equal to nuclear weapons and were generating a revolution in the methods of conducting combat operations.
Second, the Gulf war is said to invalidate Moscow's 1987 defensive doctrine, which is now viewed as extremely dangerous for both the armed forces and the country. Soviet military doctrine has always been defined as having two aspects: the sociopolitical and the military-technical. Since the early 1980s, the sociopolitical side of doctrine was described as defensive because the Soviet Union would never launch aggression against any nation. For the first time, however, the 1987 defensive doctrine proclaimed that henceforth the military-technical side of doctrine would also be defensive: the Soviet armed forces would eliminate the capability for launching surprise attacks and mounting offensive operations in general. But since the Gulf war, the Soviet military has redefined the defensive doctrine to include only the sociopolitical side: the defensive doctrine, they argue, means neither a defensive strategy nor a rejection of the offensive.
Third, the Gulf war has prompted the Soviet military to redefine the whole concept of deterrence. While nuclear parity remains the linchpin of strategic stability, the performance of ACMs in the war is said to prove that the new nonnuclear technologies are threatening the old strategic equation. The Soviets now believe that deterrence requires not only nuclear parity, but also parity in high-tech nonnuclear forces.
Finally, the Gulf war has generated serious Soviet concerns over the future of US-Soviet arms control negotiations. The crushing weight of advanced technologies confirmed that high-tech weapons and the systems employed to integrate them could negate the more traditional measures of military power and revolutionize combined-arms concepts. The arms control process must therefore include such critical elements of future warfare as electronic warfare systems. In short, the Gulf war demonstrated that a qualitative future has replaced the quantitative past of warfare. According to Soviet military experts, the heart of current arms control treaties belongs to that past.
In the chaotic aftermath of the August 1991 coup, it is impossible to predict whether or not the Soviet military will ultimately implement its new vision of future war. It is significant, however, that Chief of the General Staff Lobov has long called for a rapid qualitative development of the Soviet armed forces to cope with the high-tech nature of future warfare--much as Marshal Ogarkov did a decade ago. In September 1991, Ogarkov wrote that
the Gulf war, which many military men regrettably regarded as merely an episode, demonstrated in my view that victory in modern warfare can be achieved not only by quantity, but mainly by quality. We must see this and learn from it. Our country must also adopt definite decisions on this.71According to Defense Minister Shaposhnikov, there is no sense in cutting R&D because of the current Soviet lag in ACMs and stealth technology. "Here we should not be second best," he argued, "as far as our partners are concerned."72
1. Gen-Maj V. I. Slipchenko, "Impending Changes from Reform Plans for Employing the Soviet Armed Forces," presentation at National Defense University, Washington, D.C., 15 and 20 March 1991.
6. Moscow Tass International Service in Russian, 1 March 1991.
7. Moscow Tass International Service in Russian, 3 March 1991.
8. "Kulikov Defends Soviet Weaponry," Foreign Broadcast Information Service Soviet Union (FBIS-SOV)-91-042, 4 March 1991, 43.
9. "Defense of Socialism: The Experience of History and the Present," Krasnaya zvezda, 9 May 1984.
10. Maj M. Pogorelyi, "From a Military Observer's Viewpoint: What the War Showed," Krasnaya zvezda, 8 March 1991.
11. Gen-Lt V. Gorbachev, "Tanks Will Not Save the Day," Izvestiya, 21 January 1991.
12. Slipchenko presentation.
13. Col M. Ponomarev, "The Picture Begins to Clear," Krasnaya zvezda, 25 January 1991.
14. Gen-Lt A. Malyukov, "Gulf War: Initial Conclusions; Air Power Predetermined Outcome," Krasnaya zvezda, 14 March 1991.
15. Slipchenko presentation.
17. Quoted in Maj Yu. Rubtsov, "A Unified Armed Forces for a Unified State," Krasnaya zvezda, 23 February 1991.
18. Col O. Falichev, "The Shilka vs. the B-52: Experience Gained from the Gulf War," Krasnaya zvezda, 5 April 1991.
19. Quoted in Rubtsov.
20. Gen-Maj S. Bogdanov, "The General Staff Is Attentively Watching the Development of the Situation," Krasnaya zvezda, 31 January 1991.
21. Rear Adm A. Pauk, "The Gulf War: Conclusions and Lessons; The Naval Aspect," Krasnaya zvezda, 23 April 1991.
23. Quoted in Barbara Starr, "Satellites Paved the Way to Victory," Jane's Defence Weekly, 9 March 1991, 330.
24. Cols V. V. Romanov and V. P. Chigak, "On the Use of Space-Based Means in the Persian Gulf," Voyennaya mysl' 3 (1991): 76.
25. Ibid., 78.
26. Ibid., 80.
27. Slipchenko presentation.
28. Gen-Maj A. N. Bazhenov, presentation at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., 25 March 1991.
29. "General Staff Officer Analyzes Gulf War Results," FBIS-SOV-91-046, 8 March 1991, 25-26.
30. Quoted in "Military Forced Soviet Initiative," Washington Times, 20 February 1991, A11.
31. Marshal S. F. Akhromeyev, "Soviet Briefings Aided Allied Assault," Wall Street Journal, 11 April 1991.
32. Maj M. Zheglov, "The Warsaw Pact and European Security," Krasnaya zvezda, 22 February 1991.
33. Col I. Vladimirov, "Western Europe and the Crisis in the Persian Gulf," Zarubezhnoye voyennoye obozreniye 2 (1991): 11.
34. "Military Expert Views Iraqi Gulf War Lessons," FBIS-SOV-91-050, 14 March 1991, 16-19.
35. Gen-Maj V. Chepurnoi, "What Kind of Army Do We Need?" Krasnaya zvezda, 16 May 1991.
36. Gen-Maj I. Vorob'yev, "New Weapons and Principles of Tactics," Sovetskoe voennoe obozrenie 2 (1987): 18.
37. Quoted in "Lobov Criticizes NATO Stand," FBIS-SOV-89-086, 5 May 1989, 3.
38. Col-Gen V. N. Lobov, "On the Question of Surprise and Unexpectedness," Voyennaya mysl' 3 (1988): 8.
39. Gen-Lt N. G. Popov, "Surprise--An Important Factor of Success in Operations, Voyennaya mysl' 6 (1985): 18.
40. Vorob'yev, 18.
41. Col G. Vasil'yev, "The Military Operation `Desert Storm'," Zarubezhnoye voyennoye obozreniye 3 (1991): 11.
42. Gen-Maj G. Zhivista, "How Professionals Wage War," Izvestiya, 19 January 1991.
43. Slipchenko presentation.
44. Gen-Lt A. I. Yevseyev, "On Certain Trends in the Changing Content and Character of the War's Initial Period," Voyenno-Istoricheskiy zhurnal, no. 11 (1985): 17.
45. Gen-Maj V. A. Gidaspov, "The Influence of High-Precision Weapons on the Development of the Principles of Operational Art of NATO Joint Armed Forces," Voyennaya mysl' 10 (1988), 80.
46. Yevseyev, 14-15.
47. Gen-Lt N. G. Popov, "Characteristic Features of the Aggressor's First Operations in the War's Initial Period," Voyennaya mysl' 3 (1987): 16.
49. Slipchenko presentation.
50. Moscow Tass International Service in Russian, 1 March 1991.
51. Quoted in "Round Table: Military Reform and the Ground Troops," Krasnaya zvezda, 18 April 1991.
52. "Lessons of `Desert Storm'" (interview with Gen-Lt S. Bogdanov), Krasnaya zvezda, 17 May 1991.
53. Gen-Maj A. Sanin, "Views of the U.S. Politico-Military Leadership on Developing the Air Force in the 90s," Zarubezhnoye voyennoye obozreniye 1 (1991): 42.
54. "Defensive Sufficiency and Air Defense" (interview with General of the Army I.M. Tretyak), Voyennaya mysl', no. 12 (1990): 5.
56. Quoted in "Soviet Review," U.S.A. Today, 1 March 1991, 3A.
57. Reuters, 28 February 1991.
61. For example, see "Air Defense Forces Chief Tretyak Interviewed," FBIS-SOV-91-074, 17 April 1991, 65-66.
62. Col A. Ladin, "Prepared Statements from the Podium, Honest Talk in the Lobby," Krasnaya zvezda, 22 March 1991.
65. "Lessons of `Desert Storm'."
66. Quoted in "Comrades in Arms," Wall Street Journal, 12 April 1991.
67. "Navy Faces Budget, Conversion Issues," FBIS-SOV-91-067, 8 April 1991, 55-60.
68. Slipchenko presentation.
70. "The Air Force and State Security" (interview with Col-Gen Ye. I. Shaposhnikov), Voyennaya mysl', no. 6 (1991): 8-14.
71. "Appointments" (interview with General of the Army Victor N. Lobov), Izvestiya, 2 September 1991.
72. "Shaposhnikov Comments on Defense Ministry Tasks," in FBIS-SOV-91-183, 20 September 1991, 35.
Mary C. FitzGerald (BSFS, MS, and MA, Georgetown University) is a research fellow in Soviet military affairs at the Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C. She was recently appointed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to serve as a consultant on Soviet reactions to the Persian Gulf war. Ms FitzGerald has served as a researcher in Soviet military affairs at the Center for Naval Analyses, Alexandria, Virginia, and at Abbott Associates, Annandale, Virginia. Her articles on Soviet military affairs have appeared in such journals as Naval War College Review, Strategic Review, and Defense Analysis. She is the author of Soviet Views on SDI (1987) and Changing Soviet Doctrine on Nuclear War (1989)