Saturday, April 14, 2001

Inside the Soviet Army ( I ) by Victor Suvorov (1982)

To Andrei Andreevich Vlasov


Foreword by Sir John Hackett

Part I: The higher military leadership
Why did the Soviet Tanks not threaten Romania?
Why was the Warsaw Treaty Organisation set up later than NATO?
The Bermuda Triangle
Why does the system of higher military control appear complicated?
Why is the make-up of the Defence Council kept secret?
The Organisation of the Soviet Armed Forces
High Commands in the Strategic Directions

Part II: Types of armed services
How the Red Army is divided in relation to its targets
The Strategic Rocket Forces
The National Air Defence Forces
The Land Forces
The Air Forces
Why does the West consider Admiral Gorshkov a strong man?
The Airborne Forces
Military Intelligence and its Resources
The Distorting Mirror

Part III: Combat organisation
The Division
The Army
The Front
Why are there 20 Soviet Divisions in Germany but
only 5 in Czechoslovakia?

The Organisation of the South-Western Strategic Direction

Part IV: Mobilisation
Types of Division
The Invisible Divisions
Why is a Military District commanded by a Colonel-General in peacetime,
but only by a Major-General in wartime?
The System for Evacuating the Politburo from the Kremlin

Part V: Strategy and tactics
The Axe Theory
The Strategic Offensive
"Operation Detente"
Rear Supplies

Part VI: Equipment
What sort of weapons?
Learning from Mistakes
When will we be able to dispense with the tank?
The Flying Tank
The Most Important Weapon
Why are Anti-tank Guns not self-propelled?
The Favourite Weapon
Why do Calibres vary?
Secrets, Secrets, Secrets
How much does all this cost?
Copying Weapons

Part VII: The soldier's lot
Building Up
How to avoid being called up
If you can't, we'll teach you; if you don't want to, we'll make you
1,441 Minutes
Day after day
Why does a soldier need to read a map?
The Training of Sergeants
The Corrective System

Part VIII: The officer's path
How to control them?
How much do you drink in your spare time?
Drop in, and we'll have a chat
Who becomes a Soviet officer and why?
Higher Military Training Colleges
Duties and Military Ranks
Military Academies




The book, Inside the Soviet Army, is written under the name of "Viktor Suvorov." As a defector, under sentence of death in the USSR, the author does not use his own name and has chosen instead that of one of the most famous of Russian generals. This is a book that should command wide attention, not only in the armed forces of the free world, but among the general public as well. It is an account of the structure, a composition, operational method, and general outlook of the Soviet military in the context of the Communist regime in the USSR and the party's total dominion, not only over the Soviet Union, but over the client states of the Warsaw Pact as well.

The book starts with a survey of the higher military leadership and an analysis of the types of armed services, and of the organization of Soviet Army formation. An examination of the Red Army's mobilization system that follows is of particular interest. The chapters that follow on strategy and tactics and on equipment are also of high interest. The first, on operational method, emphasizes the supreme importance attached in Soviet military thinking to the offensive and the swift exploitation of success. Defensive action is hardly studied at all except as an aspect of attack. The second, on equipment, examines Soviet insistence on simplicity in design and shows how equipment of high technical complexity (the T-72 tank, for instance) is also developed in another form, radically simplified in what the author calls "the monkey model," for swift wartime production. The last two chapters on "The Soldiers' Lot" and "The Officer's Role" will be found by many to be the most valuable and revealing of the whole book. We have here not so much a description of what the Red Army looks like from the outside, but what it feels like inside.

This book is based on the author's fifteen years of regular service in the Soviet Army, in troop command and on the staff, which included command of a motor rifle company in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. About this he has written another book, The Liberators, which is a spirited account of life in the Red Army, highly informative in a painless sort of way and often very funny. There is rather less to laugh at in this book than in that one: Viktor Suvorov writes here in deadly earnest.

There is no doubt at all of the author's right to claim unquestioned authority on matters which he, as a junior officer, could be expected to know about at firsthand and in great detail. Nevertheless, not everyone would agree with everything he has to say. Though I know him personally rather well, Viktor Suvorov is aware that I cannot myself go all the way with him in some of his arguments and I am sometimes bound to wonder whether he is always interpreting the evidence correctly.

Having said this, however, I hasten to add something that seems to be of overriding importance. The value of this book, which in my view is high, derives as much from its apparent weaknesses as from its clearly evident strengths—and perhaps even more. The author is a young, highly trained professional officer with very considerable troop service behind him as well as staff training. He went through the Frunze Military Academy (to which almost all the Red Army's elite officers are sent) and was thereafter employed as a staff officer. He tells the reader how he, being what he is—that is to say, a product of the Soviet Army and the society it serves—judges the military machine created in the Soviet Union under Marxism-Leninism, and how he responded to it. He found that he could take no more of the inefficiency, corruption, and blatant dishonesty of a regime which claimed to represent its people, but had slaughtered millions of them to sustain its own absolute supremacy.

It would be unwise to suppose that what is found in this book is peculiar only to the visions and opinions of one young officer who might not necessarily be typical of the group as a whole. It might be sensible to suppose that if this is the way the scene has been observed, analyzed, and reported on by one Red Army officer of his generation, there is a high probability that others, and probably very many others, would see things in much the same way. Where he may seem to some readers to get it wrong, both in his conclusion about his own army and his opinions on military matters in the Western world, he is almost certainly representing views very widely held in his own service. Thus, it is just as important to take note of points upon which the reader may think the author is mistaken as it is to profit from his observation on those parts of the scene which he is almost uniquely fitted to judge.

This book should not, therefore, be regarded as no more than an argument deployed in a debate, to be judged on whether the argument is thought to be wrong or right. Its high importance lies far more in the disclosure of what Soviet officers are taught and how they think. This window opened into the armed forces of the Soviet Union is, up to the present time, unique of its kind, as far as I am aware. Every serving officer in the Western world should read it, whether he agrees with what he reads or not, and particularly if he does not. All politicians should read it, and so should any member of the public who takes seriously the threat of a third world war and wonders about the makeup and outlook of the armed forces in the free world's main adversary.

—General Sir John Hackett

Part One
The Higher Military Leadership

Why did the Soviet Tanks not threaten Romania?


It looked as though the soldiers had laid a very large, very heavy carpet at the bottom of the wooded ravine. A group of us, infantry and tank officers, looked at their work from a slope high above them with astonishment, exchanging wild ideas about the function of the dappled, greyish-green carpet, which gleamed dully in the sun.

`It's a container for diesel fuel,' said the commander of a reconnaissance party confidently, putting an end to the argument.

He was right. When the heavy sheeting, as large as the hull of an airship, was finally unfolded, a number of grubby-looking soldiers laid a network of field pipelines through our battalion position.

All night long they poured liquid fuel into the container. Lazily and unwillingly it became fatter, crushing bushes and young fir trees under its tremendous weight. Towards morning the container began to look like a very long, flat, broad hot water bottle, made for some giant child. The resilient surface was carefully draped with camouflage nets. Sappers hung spirals of barbed wire around the ravine and a headquarters company set up field picquets to cover the approaches.

In a neighbouring ravine the filling of another equally large fuel container was in progress. Beyond a stream, in a depression, worn-out reservists were slowly spreading out a second huge canopy. Struggling through bogs and clearings, covered from head to foot in mud, the soldiers pulled and heaved at an endless web of field pipelines. Their faces were black, like photographs negatives, and this made their teeth seem unnaturally white when they showed them, in their enjoyment of obscenities so monstrous that they made their young reserve officer blush.

This whole affair was described, briefly, as "Rear Units Exercise". But we could see what was going on with our own eyes and we realised that this was more than an exercise. It was all too serious. On too large a scale. Too unusual. Too risky. Was it likely that they would amass such enormous stocks of tank fuel and ammunition, or build thousands of underground command posts communications centres, depots and stores on the very borders of the country just for an exercise?

The stifling summer of 1968 had begun. Everyone realised quite clearly that the sultriness and tension in the air could suddenly turn into a summer storm. We could only guess when and where this would happen. It was quite clear that our forces would invade Romania but whether they would also go into Czechoslovakia was a matter for speculation.

The liberation of Romania would be a joy-ride. Her maize fields suited our tanks admirably. Czechoslovakia was another matter. Forests and mountain passes are not good terrain for tanks.

The Romanian army had always been the weakest in Eastern Europe and had the oldest equipment. But in Czechoslovakia things would be more complicated. In 1968 her army was the strongest in Eastern Europe. Romania had not even a theoretical hope of help from the West, for it had no common frontier with the countries of NATO. But in Czechoslovakia, in addition to Czech tank divisions, we risked meeting American, West German, British, Belgian, Dutch and possibly French divisions. A world war might break out in Czechoslovakia but there was no such risk in Romania.

So, although preparations were being made for the liberation of Romania, we clearly would not go into Czechoslovakia. The risk was too great....


For some reason, though, despite all our calculations and in the face of all common sense, they did send us into Czechoslovakia. Never mind, we reassured ourselves—we'll deal with Dubcek and then we’ll get around to Ceaucescu. First of all we'll make the Czech people happy and then it’ll be the turn of the Romanians.

But for some reason it never was....

Elementary logic suggested that it was essential to liberate Romania and to do so immediately. The reasons for acting with lightning speed were entirely convincing. Ceaucescu had denounced our valiant performance in Czechoslovakia as aggression. Then Romania announced that henceforth no exercises by Warsaw Pact countries might be held on her territory. Next she declared that she was a neutral country and that in the event of a war in Europe she would decide for herself whether to enter the war or not and if so on which side. After this she vetoed a proposal for the construction of a railway line which was to have crossed her territory in order to link the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. Each year, too, Romania would reject suggestions by the Soviet Union that she should increase her involvement in the activities of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation.

Then there was a truly scandalous occurrence. Soviet military intelligence reported that Israel was in great need of spare parts for Soviet-built tanks, which had been captured in Sinai, and that Romania was secretly supplying these spare parts. Hearing of this, the commander of our regiment, without waiting for instructions, ordered that a start should be made with bringing equipment out of mothballing. He assumed that the last hour had struck for the stubborn Romanians. It turned out to be his last hour that had come. He was rapidly relieved of his command, the equipment was put back in storage and the regiment fell back into a deep sleep.

Things became even worse. The Romanians bought some military helicopters from France. These were of great interest to Soviet military intelligence, but our Romanian allies would not allow our experts to examine them, even from a distance. Some of the more hawkish generals and their juniors still believed that the Soviet leadership would change their mind and that Romania would be liberated or at least given a good fright by troop movements of a scale befitting a super-power along her borders. But the majority of officers had already given Romania up as a bad job. We had got used to the idea that Romania was allowed to do anything that she liked, that she could take any liberties she pleased. The Romanians could exchange embraces with our arch-enemies the Chinese, they could hold their own opinions and they could make open criticisms of our own beloved leadership.

We began to wonder why the slightest piece of disobedience or evidence of free thinking was crushed with tanks in East Germany, in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary or inside the Soviet Union itself, but not in Romania. Why was the Soviet Union ready to risk annihilation in a nuclear holocaust in order to save far-off Cuba but not prepared to try to keep Romania under control? Why, although they had given assurances of their loyalty to the Warsaw Treaty, were the Czech leaders immediately dismissed, while the rulers of Romania were allowed to shed their yoke without complications of any sort? What made Romania an exception? Why was she forgiven for everything?


Many explanations are put forward for the behaviour of Soviet Communists in the international arena. The most popular is that the Soviet Union is, essentially, the old Russian Empire—and an empire must grow. A good theory. Simple and easy to understand. But it has one defect—it cannot explain the case of Romania. In fact, none of the popular theories can explain why the Soviet rulers took such radically differing approaches to the problems of independence in Czechoslovakia and in Romania. No single theory can explain both the intolerance which the Soviet leadership showed towards the gentle criticism which came from Czechoslovakia and their astonishing imperviousness to the furious abuse with which Romania showered them.

If the Soviet Union is to be regarded as an empire, it is impossible to understand why it does not try to expand south-eastwards, towards the fertile fields and vineyards of Romania. For a thousand years, possession of the Black Sea straits has been the dream of Russian princes, tsars and emperors. The road to the straits lies through Romania. Why does the Soviet Union leap into wars for Vietnam and Cambodia, risking collision with the greatest powers in the world and yet forget about Romania, which lies right under its nose?

In fact the explanation is very simple. The USSR is not Russia or the Russian Empire; it is not an empire at all. To believe that the Soviet Union conforms to established historical standards is a very dangerous simplification. Every empire has expanded in its quest for new territories, subjects and wealth. The motivating force of the Soviet Union is quite different. The Soviet Union does not need new territory. Soviet Communists have slaughtered scores of millions of their own peasants and have nationalised their land, which they are unable to develop, even if they wished to. The Soviet Union has no need of new slaves. Soviet Communists have shot sixty million of their own subjects, thus demonstrating their complete inability to rule them. They cannot rule or even effectively control those who remain alive. Soviet Communists have no need of greater wealth. They squander their own limitless resources easily and freely. They are ready to build huge dams in the deserts of Africa for next to nothing, to give away their oil at the expense of Soviet Industry, to pay lavishly, in gold, for any adventurous scheme, and to support all sorts of free-booters and anarchists, no matter what the cost, even if this brings ruination to their own people and to the national exchequer.

Different stimuli and other driving forces are at work upon the Soviet Union in the international arena. Herein lies the fundamental difference which distinguishes it from all empires, including the old Russian version, and here too lies the main danger.

The Soviet Communist dictatorship, like any other system, seeks to preserve its own existence. To do this it is forced to stamp out any spark of dissidence which appears, either on its own territory or beyond its borders. A communist regime cannot feel secure so long as an example of another kind of life exists anywhere near it, with which its subjects can draw comparisons. It is for this reason that any form of Communism, not only the Soviet variety, is always at pains to shut itself off from the rest of the world, with a curtain, whether this is made of iron, bamboo or some other material.

The frontiers of a state which has nationalised its heavy industry and collectivised its agriculture—which has, in other words, carried out a "socialist transformation"—are always reminiscent of a concentration camp, with their barbed wire, watch-towers with searchlights and guard-dogs. No Communist state can allow its slaves free movement across its frontiers.

In the world today there are millions of refugees. All of them are in flight from Communism. If the Communists were to open their frontiers, all their slaves would flee. It is for this reason that the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea has set up millions of traps along its borders—solely to prevent anyone from attempting to leave this Communist paradise. The East German Communists are enemies of the Kampuchean regime but they, too, have installed the same sort of traps along their own borders. But neither Asian cunning nor German orderliness can prevent people from fleeing from Communism and the Communist leaders are therefore faced with the immense problem of destroying the societies which might capture the imagination of their people and beckon to them.

Marx was right: the two systems cannot co-exist. And no matter how peace-loving Communists may be, they come unfailingly to the conclusion that world revolution is inescapable. They must either annihilate capitalism or be put to death by their own people.

There are some Communist countries which are considered peace-loving—Albania, Democratic Kampuchea, Yugoslavia. But the love of peace which these countries affect is simply the product of their weakness. They are not yet strong enough to speak of world revolution, because of their internal or external problems. But regimes which can hardly be much more self-confident than these, such as Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea, quickly plunge into the heroic struggle to liberate other countries, of which they know nothing, from the yoke of capitalism.

Communist China has her own very clear belief in the inevitability of world revolution. She has shown her hand in Korea, in Vietnam, in Cambodia and in Africa. She is still weak and therefore peace-loving, as the Soviet Union was during its period of industrialisation. But China, too, faces the fundamental problem of how to keep her billion-strong population from the temptation to flee from the country. Traps along the borders, the jamming of radio broadcasts, almost complete isolation—none of these produces the desired result and when China becomes an industrial and military super-power she, too, will be forced to use more radical measures. She has never ceased to speak of world revolution.

The fact that Communists of different countries fight between themselves for the leading role in the world revolution is unimportant. What is significant is that all have the same goal: if they cease to pursue it they are, in effect, committing suicide.

`Our only salvation lies in world revolution: either we achieve it whatever the sacrifices, or we will be crushed by the petty bourgeoisie,' said Nikolay Bukharin, the most liberal and peace-loving member of Lenin's Politburo. The more radical members of the Communist forum advocated an immediate revolutionary war against bourgeois Europe. One of them, Lev Trotsky, founded the Red Army—the army of World Revolution. In 1920 this army tried to force its way across Poland to revolutionary Germany. This attempt collapsed. The world revolution has not taken place: it has been disastrously delayed but sooner or later the Communists must either bring it about or perish.


To the Soviet Union Romania is an opponent. An enemy. An obstinate and unruly neighbour. To all intents and purposes an ally of China and of Israel. Yet not a single Soviet subject dreams of escaping to Romania or aspires to exchange Soviet life for the Romanian version. Therefore Romania is not a dangerous enemy. Her existence does not threaten the foundations of Soviet Communism, and this is why drastic measures have never been taken against her. However, the first stirrings of democracy in Czechoslovakia represented a potentially dangerous contagion for the peoples of the Soviet Union, just as the change of regime in Hungary represented a very dangerous example for them. The Soviet leaders understood quite clearly that what happened in East Germany might also happen in Esthonia, that what happened in Czechoslovakia might happen in the Ukraine, and it was for this reason that Soviet tanks crushed Hungarian students so pitilessly beneath their tracks.

The existence of Romania, which, while it may be unruly, is nevertheless a typical Communist regime, with its cult of a supreme and infallible leader, with psychiatric prisons, with watch towers along its frontiers, presents no threat to the Soviet Union. By contrast, the existence of Turkey, where peasants cultivate their own land, is like a dangerous plague, an infection which might spread into Soviet territory. This is why the Soviet Union does so much to destabilise the Turkish regime, while doing nothing to unseat the unruly government in Romania.

For the Communists any sort of freedom is dangerous, no matter where it exists—in Sweden or in El Salvador, in Canada or in Taiwan. For Communists any degree of freedom is dangerous—whether it is complete or partial, whether it is economic, political or religious freedom. `We will not spare our forces in fighting for the victory of Communism:' these are the words of Leonid Brezhnev. `To achieve victory for Communism throughout the world, we are prepared for any sacrifice:' these are the words of Mao Tse-Tung. They also sound like the words of fellow-thinkers.... For that is what they are. Their philosophies are identical, although they belong to different branches of the same Mafia. Their philosophies must be identical, for neither can sleep soundly so long as there is, anywhere in the world, a small gleam of freedom which could serve as a guiding light for those who have been enslaved by the Communists.


In the past every empire has been guided by the interests of the State, of its economy, of its people or at least of its ruling class. Empires came to a halt when they saw insuperable obstacles or invincible opposition in their paths. Empires came to a halt when further growth became dangerous or economically undesirable. The Russian Empire, for example, sold Alaska for a million dollars and its colonies in California at a similarly cheap price because there was no justification for retaining these territories. Today the Soviet Communists are squandering millions of dollars each day in order to hang on to Cuba. They cannot give it up, no matter what the cost may be, no matter what economic catastrophe may threaten them.

Cuba is the outpost of the world revolution in the western hemisphere. To give up Cuba would be to give up world revolution and that would be the equivalent of suicide for Communism. The fangs of Communism turn inwards, like those of a python. If the Communists were to set about swallowing the world, they would have to swallow it whole. The tragedy is that, if they should want to stop, this would be impossible because of their physiology. If the world should prove to be too big for it, the python would die, with gaping jaws, having buried its sharp fangs in the soft surface, but lacking the strength to withdraw them. It is not only the Soviet python which is attempting to swallow the world but the other breeds of Communism, for all are tied inescapably to pure Marxism, and thus to the theory of world revolution. The pythons may hiss and bite one another but they are all of one species.

The Soviet Army, or more accurately the Red Army, the Army of World Revolution, represents the teeth of the most dangerous but also the oldest of the pythons, which began to swallow the world by sinking its fangs into the surface and then realised just how big the world is and how dangerous for its stomach. But the python has not the strength to withdraw its fangs.

Why was the Warsaw Treaty Organisation set up later than NATO?


The countries of the West set up NATO in 1949 but the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was created only in 1955. For the Communists, comparison of these two dates makes excellent propaganda for consumption by hundreds of millions of gullible souls. Facts are facts—the West put together a military bloc while the Communists simply took counter-measures—and there was a long delay before they even did that. Not only that, but the Soviet Union and its allies have come forward repeatedly and persistently with proposals for breaking up military blocs both in Europe and throughout the world. The countries of the West have rejected these peace-loving proposals almost unanimously.

Let us take the sincerity of the Communists at face value. Let us assume that they do not want war. But, if that is so, the delay in establishing a military alliance of Communist states contradicts a fundamental tenet of Marxism: `Workers of the World Unite!' is the chief rallying cry of Marxism. Why did the workers of the countries of Eastern Europe not hasten to unite in an alliance against the bourgeoisie? Whence such disrespect for Marx? How did it happen that the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was set up, not in accordance with the Communist Manifesto but solely as a reaction to steps taken by the bourgeois countries—and then so belatedly?

Strange though it may seem, there is no contradiction with pure Marxism in this case. But, in trying to understand the aims and structures of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, the interrelationships within it and the delay in its establishment (which at first sight is inexplicable), we shall not immerse ourselves in theory nor attempt to follow the intricate workings of this unwieldy bureaucratic organisation. If we study the fate of Marshal K. K. Rokossovskiy we shall come to understand, if not everything, at least the essentials.


Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovskiy was born in 1896 in the old Russian town of Velikiye Luki. At eighteen he was called up by the Russian army. He spent the whole of the war at the front, first as a private, then as an NCO. In the very first days of the Revolution he went over to the Communists and joined the Red Army. He distinguished himself fighting against both the Russian and Polish armies. He moved rapidly upwards, ending the war in command of a regiment. After the war he commanded a brigade, then a division and then a corps.

At the time of the Great Purge the Communists tortured or shot those people who had miraculously survived until then despite past connections with the Russian government, army, police, diplomatic service, church or culture. Red Army Corps Commander Rokossovskiy found himself among the millions of victims because of his service with the Russian army.

During the investigations he underwent appalling tortures. Nine of his teeth were knocked out, three of his ribs were broken, his toes were hammered flat. He was sentenced to death and spent more than three months in the condemned cell. There is testimony, including his own, that, twice, at least, he was subjected to mock shootings, being led to the place of execution at night, and made to stand at the edge of a grave as generals on his right and left were shot, while he was `executed' with a blank cartridge fired at the nape of his neck.

On the eve of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union Rokossovskiy was let out of gaol and given the rank of Major-General of Tank Forces and command of a mechanised corps. However, the charge resulting from his service with the Russian army was not dropped and the death sentence was not annulled. `Take command of this mechanised corps, prisoner, and we'll see about your death sentence later....'

On the second day of the war, Rokossovskiy's 9th Mechanised Corps struck an unexpected and powerful blow against German tanks, which were breaking through in the area of Rovno and Lutsk, at a moment when the rest of the Soviet forces were retreating in panic. In a situation of confusion and disorganisation, Rokossovskiy showed calmness and courage in his defence of the Soviet regime. He managed to maintain the fighting efficiency of his corps and to make several successful counter-attacks. On the twentieth day of the war he was promoted, becoming Commander of the 16th Army, which distinguished itself both in the battle of Smolensk and, especially, in the battle for Moscow, when, for the first time in the course of the war, the German army was heavily defeated. During the battle of Stalingrad Rokossovskiy commanded the Don front, which played a decisive role in the encirclement and complete destruction of the strongest German battle group, consisting of twenty-two divisions.

During the battle for Kursk, when weather conditions put the contestants on equal terms, Rokossovskiy commanded the Central Front, which played a major part in smashing Hitler's last attempt to achieve a decisive success. Thereafter Rokossovskiy successfully commanded forces in operations in Byelorussia, East Prussia, Eastern Pomerania and, finally, in Berlin.

Stars rained upon Rokossovskiy. They fell on to his shoulder boards, on to his chest and around his neck. In 1944 he was awarded the diamond Marshal's Star and a gold star to pin on his chest. In 1945 he was awarded both the Victory order, on which sparkle no less than one hundred diamonds, and a second gold star. Stalin conferred the highest honour on Rokossovskiy by giving him command of the Victory Parade on Red Square.

But what has all this to do with the Warsaw Treaty Organisation? The fact that, immediately after the war, Stalin sent his favourite, Rokossovskiy, to Warsaw and gave him the title of Marshal of Poland to add to his existing rank as Marshal of the Soviet Union. In Warsaw Rokossovskiy held the posts of Minister of Defence, Deputy President of the Council of Ministers and Member of the Politburo of the Polish Communist Party. Think for a moment about the full significance of this—a Marshal of the Soviet Union as deputy to the head of the Polish government!

In practice Rokossovskiy acted as military governor of Poland, senior watchdog over the Polish government and supervisor of the Polish Politburo. As all-powerful ruler of Poland, Rokossovskiy remained a favourite of Stalin's, but a favourite who was under sentence of death, a sentence which was lifted only after the death of Stalin in 1953. A favourite of this sort could have been shot at any moment. But, even if the death sentence had been lifted, would it have taken long to impose a new one?

Now let us see the situation from the point of view of the Generalissimo of the Soviet Union, J. V. Stalin. His subordinate in Warsaw is Marshal of the Soviet Union Rokossovskiy. This subordinate carries out all orders unquestioningly, accurately and speedily. Why should Stalin conclude a military alliance with him? Even to contemplate such a step would show a flagrant disregard for the principles of subordination and would be an offence in itself. A sergeant has no right to make an agreement of any kind with the soldiers under him or a general with his officers. In the same way, a Generalissimo is not entitled to conclude alliances with his own Marshal. It is the right and duty of a commander to give orders and a subordinate is bound to obey these orders. Any other kind of relationship between commanders and their subordinates is entirely forbidden. The relationship between Stalin and Rokossovskiy was based upon the fact that Stalin gave the orders and that Rokossovskiy carried them out without question.


The fact that he knew no Polish did not disturb Rokossovskiy in the slightest. In those glorious days not a single general in the Polish army spoke Polish, relying instead on interpreters who were constantly in attendance.

In Russia in 1917 a Polish nobleman, Felix Dzerzhinskiy, established a blood-stained organisation; this was the Cheka, the forerunner of the GPU, NKVD, MGB, and KGB. Between 1939 and 1940 this organisation destroyed the flower of the Polish officer corps. During the war a new Polish army was formed in the Soviet Union. The soldiers and junior officers of this army were Poles, the senior officers and generals were Soviets. When they were transferred to the Polish army the Soviets received joint Polish-Soviet nationality and Polish military ranks, while remaining on the strength of the Soviet military hierarchy. Here is one case history from many thousands:

Fyodor Petrovich Polynin was born in 1906 in the province of Saratov. He joined the Red Army in 1928 and became a pilot. In 1938-39 he fought in China with the forces of Chiang Kai-Shek. He used a Chinese name and was given Chinese nationality. Although thus a Chinese subject, he was nevertheless made a `Hero of the Soviet Union'. He returned to the Soviet Union and reverted to Soviet nationality. During the war he commanded the 13th Bomber Division and then the 6th Air Army. He became a Lieutenant-General in the Soviet Air Force. In 1944 he became a Polish general. He never learned Polish. He was made Commander of the Air Force of sovereign, independent Poland.

In 1946, while still holding this high position in Poland, he received the rank of `Colonel-General of the Air Force'. The Air Force concerned was, of course, the Soviet one, for Polynin was also a Soviet General. The announcement that this rank had been awarded to the officer commanding the Polish Air Force was signed by the President of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Generalissimo of the Soviet Union, J. V. Stalin.

After a further short period in Poland, as if this was an entirely normal development, Fedya Polynin resumed his Soviet rank and was given the post of Deputy to the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Air Forces. During his years in command of the Polish Air Force, he learned not a single word of Polish. Why should he bother to do so? His orders reached him from Moscow in Russian and when he reported that they had been carried out he did so in Russian, too. None of his subordinates at the headquarters of the Polish Air Force spoke Polish either, so that there was no point in learning the language.

Once again, why should Stalin conclude a military alliance with Fedya Polynin, if the latter was no more than a subordinate of Rokossovskiy, who was himself subordinated to Stalin? Why set up a military alliance if a more reliable and simpler line of direct command was already in existence?


The Polish Army, which was set up in 1943 on Soviet territory, was simply a part of the Red Army, headed by Soviet commanders, and it did not, of course, recognise the Polish government-in-exile in London. In 1944 the Communists established a new `people's' government, a large part of which consisted of investigators from the NKVD and from Soviet military counterintelligence (SMERSH). However, even after the `people's' government had been established, the Polish army did not come under its command, remaining a part of the Soviet Army. After the war, the `people's' government of Poland was quite simply not empowered to appoint the generals in the `Polish' army or to promote or demote them. This was understandable, since the generals were also Soviet generals and posting them would amount to interference in the internal affairs of the USSR.

There was no reason why the Soviet government should have had the slightest intention of setting up any kind of Warsaw Treaty, Consultative Committee or other similarly non-functional superstructure. No one needed a treaty, since the Polish army was nothing more than a part of the Soviet army, and the Polish government, brought up to strength with Soviet cut-throats and bully boys, was not allowed to intervene in the affairs of the Polish army.

Nevertheless, after the death of Stalin, the Soviet government, headed by Marshal of the Soviet Union Bulganin, decided to conclude an official military agreement with the countries it was occupying. Communist propaganda proclaimed, at the top of its voice, as it continues to do, that this was a voluntary agreement, made between free countries. But a single example from the time when the official document was signed is an indication of the truth. The signatory for the Soviet Union was Marshal of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov, and for free, independent, popular, socialist Poland Marshal of the Soviet Union Rokossovskiy, assisted by Colonel-General S. G. Poplavskiy—Rokossovskiy's deputy. Marshal of the Soviet Union Bulganin, who was present at the ceremony, took the opportunity to award Colonel-General Poplavskiy the rank of General of the Army. You have, of course, guessed that Poplavskiy, who signed for Poland, was also a Soviet general and the subordinate of Marshals Bulganin, Zhukov and Rokossovskiy. Within two years Poplavskiy had returned to the USSR and become deputy to the Inspector General of the Soviet Army. These were the sort of miracles which took place in Warsaw, irrespective of the existence of the Warsaw Treaty. Rokossovskiy, Poplavskiy, Polynin and the others were compelled by Soviet legislation to carry out the orders which reached them from Moscow. The Treaty neither increased nor lessened Poland's dependence upon the USSR.

However Poland is a special case. With other East European countries it was much easier. In Czechoslovakia there were reliable people like Ludwig Svoboda, who neutralised the Czech army in 1948 and did so again in 1968. He carried out the orders of the USSR promptly and to the letter and it was therefore not necessary to keep a Soviet Marshal in Prague holding a ministerial post in the Czech government. With the other East European countries, too, everything went well. During the war all of them had been enemies of the USSR and it was therefore possible to execute any political figure, general, officer or private soldier, at any given moment and to replace him with someone more cooperative. The system worked perfectly; the Soviet ambassadors to the countries of Eastern Europe kept a close eye on its operation. What sort of ambassadors these were you can judge from the fact that when the Warsaw Treaty was signed the Soviet Ambassador to Hungary, for instance, was Yuriy Andropov, who subsequently became head of the KGB. It was therefore understandable that Hungary should welcome the treaty warmly and sign it with deep pleasure.

Under Stalin, Poland and the other countries of Eastern Europe were governed by a system of open dictatorship, uncamouflaged in any way. The Warsaw Treaty did not exist for one simple reason—it was not needed. All decisions were taken in the Kremlin and monitored by the Kremlin. The Defence Ministers of the East European countries were regarded as equal in status to the Commanders of Soviet Military Districts and they came under the direct command of the Soviet Minister of Defence. All appointments and postings were decided upon by the Kremlin. The Defence Ministers of the `sovereign' states of Eastern Europe were either appointed from the ranks of Soviet generals or were `assisted' by Soviet military advisers. In Romania and Bulgaria, for instance, one such `adviser' was Marshal of the Soviet Union Tolbukhin. In East Germany there was Marshal Zhukov himself, in Hungary Marshal of the Soviet Union Konev. Each adviser had at his disposal at least one tank army, several all-arms armies and special SMERSH punitive detachments. To disregard his `advice' would be a very risky business.

After Stalin's death the Soviet leadership embarked on the process of `liberalisation'. In Eastern Europe everything stayed as it was, for all that happened was that the Soviet government had decided to conceal its wolf's jaws behind the mask of a `voluntary' agreement, after the NATO model.

To some people in Eastern Europe it really seemed as though dictatorship had come to an end and that the time for a voluntary military agreement had arrived. But they were quite wrong. Just one year after the signing of this `voluntary' alliance the actions of Soviet tanks in Poland and Hungary gave clear proof that everything was still as it had been under Stalin, except for some small, cosmetic alterations.

Communist propaganda quite deliberately blends two concepts; that of the military organisation in force in the Communist states of Eastern Europe and that of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. The military organisation of the East European countries was set up immediately the Red Army arrived on their territories, in 1944 and 1945. In some cases, for example Poland and Czechoslovakia, military pro-Communist formations had been established even before the arrival of the Red Army.

The armies of East European countries which were set up by Soviet `military advisers' were fully supervised and controlled from Moscow. The military system which took shape was neither a multilateral organisation nor a series of bilateral defensive treaties, but was imposed, forcibly, on a unilateral basis in the form in which it still exists.

The Warsaw Treaty Organisation is a chimera, called into being to camouflage the tyranny of Soviet Communism in the countries under its occupation in order to create an illusion of free will and corporate spirit. Communist propaganda claims that it was as a result of the establishment of NATO that the countries of Eastern Europe came together in a military alliance. The truth is that, at the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union took full control of the armies of the countries which it had overrun, long before NATO came into existence. It was many years later that the Communists decided to conceal their mailed fist and attempt to present the creation of NATO as the moment when the military framework of Eastern Europe was set up.

But the Communists lacked the imagination to establish this purely ornamental organisation, which exists solely to conceal grim reality, tactfully and with taste. During the Organisation's first thirteen years the Ministers of Defence of the sovereign states, whether they were pro-Soviet puppets or actual Soviet generals and Marshals, were subordinated to the Commander-in-Chief, who was appointed by the Soviet government and who was himself Deputy Minister of Defence of the USSR. Thus, even in a legal sense, the Ministers of these theoretically sovereign states were directly subordinated to a Soviet Minister's deputy. After the Czechoslovak affair the similarly spurious Consultative Committee was set up. In this committee Ministers of Defence and Heads of State gather supposedly to talk as equals and allies. But this is pure play-acting. Everything remains as it was several decades ago. Decisions are still made in the Kremlin. The Consultative Committee takes no decisions for itself.

Any attempt to understand the complex and fanciful structure of committees and staffs which make up the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is a complete waste of time. It is rather like trying to understand how the Supreme Soviet arrives at its decisions or how the President of the Soviet Union governs the country—the nature of his authority and the extent of his responsibilities. You know before you start that, despite its great complexity, the organisation has absolutely no reality. The Supreme Soviet neither formulates policy nor takes decisions. It is purely decorative, like the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, there for show and nothing more. In the same way, the President of the Soviet Union himself does nothing, takes no decisions, and has neither responsibilities nor authority. His post was devised solely to camouflage the absolute power of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The Warsaw Treaty Organisation, then, is a body of the same type as the Supreme Soviet. It is a showpiece whose only function is to conceal the Kremlin's dictatorship. Its Consultative Committee was set up solely to hide the fact that all decisions are taken at the Headquarters of the Soviet Army, on Gogol Boulevard in Moscow. The function of the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is purely decorative. Like the President of the Soviet Union he is without authority. Although he is still listed among the first deputies of the Soviet Minister of Defence, this is a legacy of the past, and is no more than an honour, for he is remote from real power.

During a war, or any such undertaking as `Operation Danube', the `allied' divisions of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation are integrated in the Soviet Armies. None of the East European countries has the right to set up its own Corps, Armies or Fronts. They have only divisions commanded by Soviet generals. In the event of war, their Ministers of Defence would be concerned only with the reinforcement, build-up and technical servicing of their own divisions, which would operate as part of the United (that is the Soviet) Armed Forces.

Lastly, a few words on the ultimate goal of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation: the disbandment of all military blocs, in Europe and throughout the world. This is the real aspiration of our Soviet `doves'. It is based on a very simple calculation. If NATO is disbanded, the West will have been neutralised, once and for all. The system of collective self-defence of the free countries will have ceased to exist. If the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is disbanded at the same time, the USSR loses nothing except a cumbersome publicity machine. It will remain in complete control of the armies of its `allies'. The military organisation will survive, untouched. All that will be lost is the title itself and the organisation's bureaucratic ramifications, which are needed by nobody.

Let us suppose, for example, that France should suddenly return to NATO. Would this be a change? Certainly—one of almost global significance. Next, let us suppose that Cuba drops its `non-alignment' and joins the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. What would this change? Absolutely nothing. Cuba would remain as aggressive a pilot fish of the great shark as she is today.


There are millions of people who regard NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation as identical groupings. But to equate these two is absurd because the Warsaw Treaty Organisation has no real existence. What does exist Soviet dictatorship and this has no need to consult its allies. If it is able to do so, it seizes them by the throat; if not it bides its time—Communists do not acknowledge any other type of relationship with their associates.

This is a truism, something which is known to everyone, and yet, every year, hundreds of books are published in which the Soviet Army is described as one of the forces making up the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. This is nonsense. The forces of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation are a part of the Soviet Army. The East European countries are equipped with Soviet weapons, instructed in Soviet methods at Soviet military academies and controlled by Soviet `advisers'. It is true that some of the East European divisions would be glad to turn round and use their bayonets on the Moscow leadership. But there are Soviet divisions who would be prepared to do this, too. Mutinies, on Soviet ships and in Soviet divisions are far from rare.

A situation in which Soviet propaganda stands the truth on its head and yet is believed by the whole world is by no means a new one. Before the Second World War the Soviet Communists established an international union of communist parties—the Comintern. In theory, the Soviet Communist Party was simply one of the members of this organisation. In practice, its leader, Stalin, was able to cause the leader of the Comintern, Zinoviev, theoretically his superior, to be removed and shot.... Later, during the Great Purge, he had the leaders of fraternal communist parties executed without trial and without consequences himself. Officially the Soviet Communist Party was a member of the Comintern, but in fact the Comintern itself was a subsidiary organisation of the Soviet Party. The standing of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is exactly similar. Officially the Soviet Army is a member of this organisation but in the organisation is itself a part of the Soviet Army. And the fact that the Commander-in-Chief the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is an official of the Soviet Minister of Defence is no coincidence.

In the 1950s it was decided that a building should be erected in Moscow to house the staff of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. But it was never put up because nobody needed it—any more than they need the whole organisation. The Soviet General Staff exists and this is all that is required to direct both the Soviet Army and all its `younger brothers'.

The Bermuda Triangle


A triangle is the strongest and most rigid geometric figure. If the planks of a door which you have knocked together begin to warp, nail another plank diagonally across them. This will divide your rectangular construction into two triangles and the door will then have the necessary stability.

The triangle has been used in engineering for a very long time. Look at the Eiffel tower, at the metal framework of the airship Hindenburg, or just at any railway bridge, and you will see that each of these is an amalgamation of thousands of triangles, which give the structure rigidity and stability.

The triangle is strong and stable, not only in engineering but in politics, too. Political systems based on division of power and on the interplay of three balancing forces have been the most stable throughout history. These are the principles upon which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is built.

Enormous problems and difficulties are said to lie before the Soviet Union. But Soviet leaders have always been confronted by problems of considerable magnitude, from the very beginnings of Soviet power. Then, too, the collapse of the regime was thought to be inevitable. But it survived four years of bloody struggle against the Russian army; it survived the mutiny of the Baltic fleet, which had itself helped to bring about the Revolution; it survived the mass flight of the intelligentsia, the opposition of the peasants, the massive blood-letting of the revolutionary period, the Civil War, the unprecedented slaughter of millions during collectivisation, and endless bloody purges. It also withstood diplomatic isolation and political blockade, the starvation of scores of millions of those it enslaves and an unexpected onslaught by 190 German divisions, despite the unwillingness of many of its own soldiers to fight for its interests.

So one should not be in a hurry to bury the Soviet regime. It is still, fairly firmly, on its feet. There are several reasons for its stability—the scores of millions of corpses within its foundations, disinterested Western help, the reluctance of the free world to defend its own freedom. But there is one other most important factor which gives the Soviet regime its internal stability—the triangular structure of the state.

Only three forces are active in the Soviet political arena—the Party, the Army and the KGB. Each of these possesses enormous power, but this is exceeded by the combined strength of the other two. Each has its own secret organisation, which is capable reaching into hostile countries and monitoring developments there. The has its Control Commission—a secret organisation which has almost as much influence inside the country as the KGB. The KGB is a grouping of many different secret departments, some of which keep eye on the Party. The Army has its own secret service—the GRU—the most effective military intelligence service in the world.

Each of these three forces is hostile to the others and has certain, not unreasonable pretensions to absolute power but its initiatives will always fail in the face of the combined opposition of the other two.

Of the three, the Party has the smallest resources for self-defence in open conflict. But it has a strong lever at its disposal—the appointment and posting of all officials. Every general in the Army and every colonel in the KGB takes up his post and is promoted or demoted only with the approval of the Administrative Department of the Central Committee of the Party. In addition, the Party controls all propaganda and ideological work and it is always the Party which decides what constitutes true Marxism and what represents a deviation from its general line. Marxism can be used as an additional weapon when it becomes necessary to dismiss an unwanted official from the KGB, the Army or even the Party. The Party's right to nominate and promote individuals is supported by both the Army and the KGB. If the Party were to lose this privilege to the KGB, the Army would be in mortal danger. If the Army took it over, the KGB would be in an equally dangerous situation. For this reason, neither of them objects to the Party's privilege—and it is this privilege which makes the Party the most influential member of the triumvirate.

The KGB is the craftiest member of this troika. It is able, whenever it wishes, to kgb-mafia recruit a party or a military leader as its agent: if the official refuses he can be destroyed by a compromise operation devised by the KGB. The Party remembers, only too clearly, how the KGB's predecessor was able to destroy the entire Central Committee during the course of a single year. The Army, for its part, remembers how, within the space of two months, the same organisation was able to annihilate all its generals. However, the secret power of the KGB and its cunning are its weakness as well as its strength. Both the Party and the Army have a deep fear of the KGB and for this reason they keep a very close eye on the behaviour of its leaders, changing them quickly and decisively, if this becomes necessary.

The Army is potentially the most powerful of the three and therefore it has the fewest rights. The Party and the KGB know very well that, if Communism should collapse, they will be shot by their own countrymen, but that this will not happen to the Army. The Party and the KGB acknowledge the might of the Army. Without it their policies could not be carried out, either at home or abroad. The Party and the KGB keep the Army at a careful distance, rather as two hunters might control a captured leopard with chains, from two different sides. The tautness of this chain is felt even at regimental and battalion level. The Party has a political Commissar in every detachment and the KGB a Special Department.


This triangle of power represents a Bermuda Triangle for those who live within it. The trio have long ago adopted the rule that none of the legs of this tripod may extend too far. If this should happen, the other two immediately intervene, and chop off the excess.

Let us look at an example of the way this triangle of power functions.
Stalin died in 1953. Observers concluded unanimously that Beriya would take command—Beriya the chief inquisitor and head policeman.
Who else was there? Beriya, his gang of ruffians, and the whole of his organisation realised that their chance to lead had arrived. The power in their hands was unbelievable. There was a special file on every senior party functionary and every general and there would be no difficulty in putting any one of them before a firing squad. It was this very power which destroyed Beriya. Both the Army and the Party understood their predicament. This brought them together and together they cut off the head of the chief executioner. The most powerful members of the security apparatus came to unpleasant ends and their whole machine of oppression was held up to public ridicule. The propaganda organisation of the Party worked overtime to explain to the country the crimes of Stalin and of his whole security apparatus.

However, having toppled Beriya from his pedestal, the Party began to feel uncomfortable; here it was, face to face with the captive leopard. The NKVD had released the chain it held around the animal's neck and it sensed freedom. The inevitable outcome was that the Army would gobble up its master. Marshal Zhukov acquired extraordinary power, at home and abroad. He demanded a fourth Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union (Stalin had had only two and Beriya one). Perhaps such outward show was unimportant, but Zhukov also demanded the removal from the Army of all political commissars—he was trying to shake off the remaining chain. The Party realised that this could only end in disaster and that, without help, it was quite unable to resist the Army's pressure. An urgent request for assistance went to the KGB and, with the latter's help, Zhukov was dismissed. The wartime Marshals followed him into the wilderness, and then the ranks of the generals and of military intelligence were methodically thinned. The military budget was drastically reduced and purges and cuts followed thick and fast. These cost the Soviet Army 1,200,000 men, many of them front-line officers during the war.

The KGB was still unable to recover the stature it had lost after the fall of Beriya, and the Party began a new campaign of purges and of ridicule against it. 1962 marked the Party's triumph over both the KGB, defeated at the hands of the Army, and the Army, humiliated with the help of the KGB; with, finally, a second victory over the KGB won by the Party alone. The leg of the tripod represented by the Party began to extend to a dangerous degree.

But the triumph was short-lived. The theoretically impossible happened. The two mortal enemies, the Army and the KGB, each deeply aggrieved, united against the Party. Their great strength brought down the head of the Party, Khrushchev, who fell almost without a sound. How could he have withstood such a combination?

The era which followed his fall provided ample evidence of the remarkable inner stability of the triangular structure even in the most critical situations—Czechoslovakia, internal crises, economic collapse, Vietnam, Africa, Afghanistan. The regime has survived all these.

The Army has not thrown itself upon the KGB, nor has the KGB savaged the Army. Both tolerate the presence of the Party, which they acknowledge as an arbitrator or perhaps rather as a second in a duel, whose help each side tries to secure for itself.

In the centre of the triangle, or more accurately, above the centre, sits the Politburo. This organisation should not be seen as the summit of the Party, for it represents neutral territory, on which the three forces gather to grapple with one another.

Both the Army and the KGB are equally represented in the Politburo. With their agreement, the Party takes the leading role; the Party bosses restrain the others and act as peacemakers in the constant squabbles.

The Politburo plays a decisive part in Soviet society. In effect it has become a substitute for God. Portraits of its members are on display in every street and square. It has the last word in the resolution of any problem, at home or abroad. It has complete power in every field—legislative, executive, judicial, military, political, administrative, even religious.

Representing, as it does, a fusion of three powers, the Politburo is fully aware that it draws its own stability from each of these sources. It can be compared to the seat of a three-legged stool. If one of the legs is longer than the others, the stool will fall over. The same will happen if one of the legs is shorter than the others. For their own safety, therefore, the members of the Politburo, whether they come from the Party, the KGB or the Army, do everything they can to maintain equilibrium. The secret of Brezhnev's survival lies in his skill in keeping the balance between the trio, restraining any two from combining against the third.

Why does the system of higher military control appear complicated?


When Western specialists talk about the organisation of Soviet regiments and divisions, their explanations are simple and comprehensive. The diagrams they draw, too, are simple. At a single glance one can see who is subordinated to whom. But, once the specialists begin talking about the organisational system of control at higher levels, the picture becomes so complicated that no one can understand it. The diagrams explaining the system of higher military control published in the West resemble those showing the defences of a sizeable bank in Zurich or Basle: square boxes, lines, circles, intersections. The uninitiated might gain the impression that there is dual control at the top—or, even worse, that there is no firm hand and therefore complete anarchy.

In fact, the control structure from top to bottom is simple to the point of primitiveness. Why, then, does it seem complicated to foreign observers? Simply because they study the Soviet Union as they would any other foreign country; they try to explain everything which happens there in language their readers can understand, in generally accepted categories—in other words, in the language of common sense. However, the Soviet Union is a unique phenomenon, which cannot be understood by applying a frame of reference based on experience elsewhere. Only 3% of arable land in the Soviet Union is in the hands of private owners, and not a single tractor or a kilogram of fertiliser. This 3% feeds practically the whole country. If the private owners were given another 1/2 % there would be no problem with food production. But the Communists prefer to waste 400 tons of gold each year buying wheat abroad. Just try to explain this in normal common sense language.

Thus, when examining the system of higher military control, the reader must not attempt to draw parallels with human society in other parts of the world. Remember that Communists have their own logic, their own brand of common sense.


Let us take a diagram explaining the system of higher military control, drawn by some Western specialist on Soviet affairs, and try to simplify it. Among the maze of criss-crossing lines we will try to pick out the outlines of a pyramid of granite.

Our specialist has, of course, shown the President at the very top, with the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet next and then the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet. But the Party must not be forgotten. So there, together with the President, are the General Secretary of the Party, the Politburo, and the Central Committee. Here there is disagreement among the experts about who should be shown higher up the page and who lower—the General Secretary or the President.

Let us clarify the picture. Here are the names of past General Secretaries: Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev. Try to remember the names of the Presidents of the Soviet Union during the periods when those three were in power. Even the experts cannot remember. I have put other questions to these experts. Why, when Stalin went to meet the President of the United States, did he not take the Soviet President with him? When the Cuban rocket crisis was at its height and Khrushchev discussed the fate of the world on the hot line with the American President, why was it he who did this rather than the Soviet President? Surely it was the two Presidents who should have talked the matter over? And why, when Brezhnev talks about missiles with the American President, does he not give the Soviet President a seat at the conference table?

In order to decide which of the two—President or General Secretary—should be shown at the top, it is worth recalling the relationship between Stalin and his President, Kalinin. Stalin gave orders that Kalinin's wife and his closest friends should be shot but that it should appear that the President himself had issued the order. One Soviet historian tells us that, as he signed the death sentence on his own wife, the President `wept from grief and powerlessness'.

In order to simplify our diagram, take a red pencil and cross out the Presidency. It is nothing but an unnecessary ornament which leads to confusion. If war breaks out, no future historian will remember that standing by the side of the General Secretary was some President or other now totally forgotten who was weeping from grief and powerlessness.

As well as the Presidency, cross out the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet and both of its chambers. They are not involved in any way with either the government of the country or the control of its armed forces. Judge for yourself—this Soviet `parliament' meets twice a year for four or five days and discusses thirty to forty questions each day. Bearing in mind that the Deputies do not overwork themselves, one can calculate the number of minutes they spend on each question. The Soviet parliament has fifteen or so permanent committees dealing with such questions as the supply of consumer goods (where to buy lavatory paper) or the provision of services (how to get taps mended). But none of these committees concerns itself with the affairs of the armed forces, with the KGB, with military industry (which provides employment for twelve separate ministries), or with prisons. The Soviet parliament has never discussed the reasons why Soviet forces are in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Cuba or Afghanistan. During the Second World War it did not meet once. Why should such an organisation be included among those concerned with questions of higher military control?

* Illustration
Military and Political Infrastructure of the Soviet Union
An example of Western misunderstanding. But who runs the country?

But this is not the most important point. The Soviet parliament is nothing but a parasite. All its decisions are reached unanimously. The nomination of a new President—unanimous. The removal and ignominious dismissal of his predecessor—also unanimous. In reality, these nominations and dismissals took place many months earlier. Parliament simply ratifies them subsequently—and unanimously. When Parliament does not meet for several years, nobody knows the reason and nothing changes as a result. If all its members were tried as parasites and sent to prison under Soviet law nothing would change: Soviet Presidents would continue to be appointed with great ceremony and chased from office in disgrace. According to Soviet law, the rank of Marshal must be conferred—and removed—by Parliament. But several Marshals have been shot without any reference to Parliament. Just try and work out how many Marshals have been appointed and how many shot without the knowledge or consent of Parliament. And this did not only happen during the Stalinist Terror. It was under Khrushchev that Marshal of the Soviet Union Beriya was shot, that Marshal Bulganin was struck off the pay-roll, that eleven other Marshals were dismissed from their posts. All this was done without the knowledge or consent of the Soviet Parliament.

But, you will say, if neither the President nor Parliament does anything or is responsible for anything and is there only to approve any—absolutely any—decision unanimously, why were their positions in the system ever created? The answer is, as camouflage.

If all power were seen to rest entirely in the hands of the Politburo, this might offend both the Soviet people and the rest of the world. To avoid this, Soviet propaganda compiles extremely complicated diagrams, as complicated as those for a perpetual motion machine, which its inventor purposely makes more and more intricate, so that no one will realise that hidden inside his brainchild there is a dwarf who is turning the wheels.

It is a great pity that many Western specialists, who know that during the war the Soviet President was not allowed to attend the meetings of the military leadership, nevertheless show him at the very top of their diagrams just where he is said to be by Soviet propaganda.

There is one situation in which the Soviet President can become a person of importance, and this has happened only once in Soviet history. A General Secretary decided that he should be President as well. Naturally, this was done without an election of any sort. The name of this President was—and is—Brezhnev. However, it is only abroad that he is honoured as President. Everyone at home knows that `President' is completely meaningless and calls him by his real title—General Secretary—which has, of course, the true ring of power.


We have removed these useless embellishments from the diagram but that is not all we must do. Do not cross out the Council of Ministers, but move them to one side. Why? you may ask. Is the Minister of Defence not subject to the decisions of the Council of Ministers? That is correct. He is not. The Council of Ministers only has control over industry, which in the USSR is almost entirely military. The Soviet Union uses more cloth, of much better quality, for the production of parachutes than for the manufacture of clothes for 260 million people. However, of these 260 million, very many receive military uniforms, of good quality; all that is left, for the remainder, is material of appalling quality, and there is not enough even of that.

In the Soviet Union the number of cars in private ownership is lower, per thousand head of the population, than the total owned by the black inhabitants of South Africa, for whose freedom the United Nations is fighting so fervently. But, against this, the number of tanks in the Soviet Union is greater than in the rest of the whole world put together.

Twelve of the Ministries which the Council controls produce nothing but military equipment. All the remainder (coal, steel production, energy, etc.) work in the interests of those which produce arms.

Thus, the Council of Ministers is, essentially, a single gigantic economic organisation, supporting the Army. It is, therefore, with all its military and auxiliary industry, a sort of subsidiary rear organisation of the Army. It possesses colossal power over those who produce military equipment but, against this, it has not even the authority to send a new doorman to one of the Soviet embassies abroad. This can be done only by the Party or, more accurately, by the Party's Central Committee.

Why is the make-up of the Defence Council kept secret?


By now much of our diagram has been simplified. The summit of power has become visible—the Politburo, in which sit representatives of the Party, the KGB, and the Army. Decisions taken in the Politburo by the most senior representatives of these organisations are also implemented by them. For instance, when Afghanistan was suddenly invaded by the Army on the orders of the Politburo, the KGB removed unsuitable senior personnel, while the Party arranged diversionary operations and worked up propaganda campaigns at home and abroad.

The role of the Council of Ministers is important but not decisive. The Council is responsible for increasing military productivity, for the prompt delivery to the forces of military equipment, ammunition and fuel, for the uninterrupted functioning of the military industries and of the national economy, which works only in support of the military industries and therefore in the interests of the Army. The Chairman of the Council will certainly be present when decisions on these subjects are taken but as one of the members of the Politburo, working for the interests of the Army, rather than as the head of the Council.

What does the highly secret organisation known as the Defence Council do at a time like this? Officially, all that is known about this organisation is that it is headed by Brezhnev. The identities of the other members of the Council are kept secret. What sort of organisation is it? Why is its make-up given no publicity? Soviet propaganda publishes the names of the head of the KGB and of his deputies, those of the heads of ministries, of the heads of all military research institutions, of the Defence Minister and of all his deputies. The names of those responsible for the production of atomic warheads and for missile programmes are officially known, so are those of the head of the GRU and of the head of the disinformation service. Why are the names of those who are responsible for overall decisions, at the highest level of all, kept secret?

Let us examine the Defence Council from two different points of view. Firstly who sits on such a council? Some observers believe that it is made up of the most prominent members of the Politburo and the leading Marshals. They are mistaken. These officials attend the Chief Military Council, which is subordinate to the Defence Council. The Defence Council is something more than a mixture of Marshals and Politburo members. What could be superior to such a group? The answer is—members of the Politburo without any outsiders. Not all the members: only the most influential.

Secondly, what is the position of the Defence Council vis-a-vis the Politburo—higher, the same or lower? If the Defence Council had more power than the Politburo its first act would be to split up this group of geriatrics, so that they would not interfere. If the Defence Council were equal in power to the Politburo we should witness a dramatic battle between these two giants, for there is only room for one such organisation at the top. A dictatorship cannot exist for long when power is shared between two groups. Two dictators cannot co-exist. Perhaps, then, the Defence Council is of slightly lower status than the Politburo? But there would be no place for it in this case, either. Directly below the Politburo is the Chief Military Council, which links the Politburo with the Army, serving to bond the two together. Thus the Defence Council cannot be either inferior or superior to the Politburo; nor can it hold an equal position. The Defence Council exists, in fact, within the Politburo itself. Its membership is kept secret only because it contains no one but members of the Politburo and it is considered undesirable to give unnecessary emphasis to the absolute power enjoyed by this organisation.

Neither the Soviet Union nor its many vassal states contain any power higher than or independent of the Politburo. The Politburo possesses all legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, religious, political, economic and every other power. It is unthinkable that such an organisation should be prepared to allow any other to take decisions on the momentous problems produced by Soviet usurpations and `adventures' throughout the world, problems of war and peace, of life and death. The day when the Politburo releases its hold will be its last. That day has not yet come....


Many Western specialists believe the Defence Council to be something new, created by Brezhnev. But nothing changes in the Soviet Union, especially in the system by which it is governed. The system stabilised itself long ago and it is almost impossible to change it in any way. New, decorative organisations can be devised and added but changes to the basic structure of the Soviet Union are out of the question. Khrushchev tried to introduce some and the system destroyed him. Brezhnev is wiser and he makes no attempts at change. He rules with the help of a system which was established in the early days of Stalin and which has remained unchanged ever since.

Only the labels change in the USSR. The security organisation has been known successively as the VChK, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MGB, and KGB. Some think that these services differed from one another in some way but it was only their labels which did so. The Party has been called the RKP(B), the VKP(B), the KPSS. The Army began as the Red Army, then became the Soviet Army and its highest overall council has been successively labelled KVMD, SNKMVD, NKMVD, NKO, NKVS, MVS, and MO, while remaining one and the same organisation.

Exactly the same has happened with the Defence Council. It changes its name as a snake sheds its skin, painlessly. But it is still the same snake. In Lenin's day it was called the Workers' and Peasants' Defence Council or simply the Defence Council, then the Council for Labour and Defence. Subsequently, since its members all belonged to the Politburo, it became the Military Commission of the Politburo.

Immediately after the outbreak of war with Germany, the State Committee for Defence was established, which, entirely legally and officially, acquired the full powers of the President, the Supreme Soviet, the Government, the Supreme Court, the Central Committee of the Party and of all other authorities and organisations. The decisions of the State Committee for Defence had the force of martial law and were mandatory for all individuals and organisations including the Supreme Commander, and the President. The State Committee for Defence had five members:

Stalin--its President
Molotov--his first deputy
Malenkov--the head of the Party's bureaucracy
Beriya--the head of the security organisation
Voroshilov--the senior officer of the Army

These five were the most influential members of the Politburo, so that the State Committee for Defence consisted not of the whole Politburo, but of its most influential component parts. Take another look at its composition and you will recognise our triangle. There are the Supreme Being, his Right Hand and, below them, the triangle—Party, KGB, Army. Note the absence of the President of the Soviet Union, Kalinin. He is a member of the Politburo, but a purely nominal one. He possesses no power and there is therefore no place for him in an organisation which is omnipotent.

Before the war the same powerful quintet existed inside the Politburo but at that time they called themselves simply the Military Commission of the Politburo. Then, too, these five were all-powerful but they worked discreetly behind the scenes, while the stage was occupied by the President, the Supreme Soviet, the Government, the Central Committee and other decorative but superfluous organisations and individuals. When war began nothing changed, except that the quintet took over the stage and were seen in their true roles, deciding the fate of tens of millions of people.

Naturally, this group did not allow power to slip from their grasp when the war ended; they disappeared back into the shadows, calling themselves the Military Commission of the Politburo once again and pushing to the front of the stage a series of pitiable clowns and cowards who `wept from grief and powerlessness' while this group slaughtered their nearest and dearest.

The Second World War threw up a group of brilliant military leaders—Zhukov, Rokossovskiy, Vasilevskiy, Konev, Yeremenko—but not one of them was allowed by the `big five' to enter the sacred precincts of the State Committee for Defence. The Committee's members knew quite well that in order to retain power they must safeguard their privileges with great care. For this reason, throughout the war, no single individual, however distinguished, who was not a member of the Politburo, was admitted to the Committee. All questions were decided by the Politburo members who belonged to the Committee and they were then discussed with Army representatives at a lower level, in the Stavka, to which both Politburo members and leading Marshals belonged.

Precisely the same organisation exists today. The Defence Council is yesterday's State Committee for Defence under another name. Its membership is drawn exclusively from the Politburo, and then only from those with the greatest power. It is they who take all decisions, which are then discussed at the Chief Military Council (otherwise known as the Stavka) which is attended by members of the Politburo and by the leading Marshals.

Brezhnev is the old wolf of the Politburo. His long period in power has made him the equal of Stalin. One can see why he is disinclined to experiment with the system by which power over the Army is exercised. He follows the road which Stalin built, carefully adhering to the rules laid down by that experienced old tyrant. These are simple: essentially, before you sit down at a table with the Marshals at the Chief Military Council decide everything with the Politburo at the Defence Council. Brezhnev knows that any modification of these rules would mean that he must share his present unlimited powers with the Marshals—and that this is equivalent to suicide. This is why the Defence Council—the highest institution within the Soviet dictatorship—consists of the most influential members of the Politburo and of no one else.

The Organisation of the Soviet Armed Forces


The system by which the Soviet Armed Forces are controlled is simplified to the greatest possible extent. It is deliberately kept simple in design, just like every Soviet tank, fighter aircraft, missile or military plan. Soviet marshals and generals believe, not unreasonably, that, in a war, other things being equal, it is the simpler weapon, plan or organisation which is more likely to succeed.

Western specialists make a careful study of the obscure and intricate lay-out of Soviet military organisation, for they see the Soviet Army as being similar to any other national army. However, to any other army peace represents normality and war an abnormal, temporary situation. The Soviet Army (more accurately the Red Army) is the striking force of world revolution. It was brought into being to serve the world revolution and, although that revolution has not yet come, the Soviet Army is poised and waiting for it, ready to fan into life any spark or ember which appears anywhere in the world, no matter what the consequences might be. Normality, for the Soviet Army, is a revolutionary war; peace is an abnormal and temporary situation.

In order to understand the structure of the military leadership of the Soviet Union, we must examine it as it exists in wartime. The same structure is preserved in peacetime, although a variety of decorative features, which completely distort the true picture, are added as camouflage. Unfortunately, most researchers do not attempt to distinguish the really important parts of the organisation from those which are completely unnecessary and there purely for show.

We already know that in wartime the Soviet Union and the countries which it dominates would be ruled by the Defence Council, an organisation first known as the Workers' and Peasants' Defence Council, next as the Labour and Defence Council and then as the State Committee for Defence.

On this Council are one representative each from the Party, the Army, and the KGB and two others who preside over these organisations—the General Secretary and his closest associate. Until his recent death the latter post was held by Mikhail Suslov.

The Defence Council possesses unrestricted powers. It functioned in wartime and has been preserved in peacetime with the difference that, whereas during wartime it worked openly and in full view, in peacetime it functions from behind the cover offered by the President of the Soviet Union, the Supreme Soviet, elections, deputies, public prosecutors and similar irrelevancies. Their only function is to conceal what is going on behind the scenes.

Directly subordinate to the Defence Council is the Headquarters (Stavka) of the Supreme Commander, which is known in peacetime as the Chief Military Council. To it belong the Supreme Commander and his closest deputies, together with certain members of the Politburo. The Supreme Commander is appointed by the Defence Council. He may be either the Minister of Defence, as was the case with Marshal Timoshenko, or the General Secretary of the Party, as with Stalin, who also headed both the Stavka and the civil administration. If the Minister of Defence is not appointed Supreme Commander he becomes First Deputy to the latter. The organisation working for the Stavka is the General Staff, which prepares proposals, works out the details of the Supreme Commander's instructions and supervises their execution.


In wartime, the armed forces of the USSR and of the countries under its rule are directed by the Stavka along two clearly differentiated lines of control: the operational (fighting) and administrative (rear).

The line of operational subordination:

Directly subordinate to the Supreme Commander are five Commanders-in-Chief and eight Commanders. The Commanders-in-Chief are responsible for:

The Western Strategic Direction
The South-Western Strategic Direction
The Far Eastern Strategic Direction
The Strategic Rocket Forces
The National Air Defence Forces
The Commanders are responsible for:
The Long-Range Air Force
The Airborne Forces
Military Transport Aviation
The Northern Fleet
Individual Front--Northern, Baltic, Trans-Caucasian and Turkestan.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Western Strategic Direction has under his command four Fronts, one Group of Tank Armies and the Baltic Fleet,

The Commander-in-Chief of the South-Western Strategic Direction also commands four Fronts, one Group of Tank Armies and the Black Sea Fleet.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Far Eastern Strategic Direction is responsible for four Fronts and the Pacific Fleet.

The Fronts subordinated to the Strategic Directions and individual Fronts, subordinated directly to the Stavka, consist of All-Arms, Tank and Air Armies. The Armies are made up of Divisions. East European Divisions are included in Armies, which can be commanded only by Soviet generals. The commanders of East European divisions are thus subordinated directly to Soviet command—to Army Commanders, then to Fronts, Strategic Directions and ultimately to the Defence Council—in other words to the Soviet Politburo. East European governments can therefore exert absolutely no influence over the progress of military operations.

The line of administrative subordination:

The First Deputy of the Minister of Defence is subordinated to the Supreme Commander. At present the post is held by Marshal S. L. Sokolov, under whom come four Commanders-in-Chief (Air Forces, Land Forces, Naval Forces, Warsaw Treaty Organisation) and sixteen Commanders of Military Districts.

The Commanders-in-Chief are responsible for the establishment of reserves, for bringing forces up to strength, re-equipment, supply of forces engaged in combat operations, development of new military equipment, study of combat experience, training of personnel, etc. The Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation has precisely these responsibilities but only on behalf of the East European divisions operating as part of the United (i.e. Soviet) forces. He has full control over all the East European Ministries of Defence. His task is to ensure that these Ministries bring their divisions up to strength, and to re-equip and supply them according to schedule. In wartime he has only a modest role. It is now clear why the function of the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is seen in the USSR as being a purely honorific legacy from the past, remote from real power.

Each of the sixteen Commanders of Military Districts is a territorial functionary, a sort of military governor. In questions concerning the stability of Soviet authority in the territories entrusted to them, they are responsible directly to the Politburo (Defence Council), while on subjects concerning the administration of military industries, transport and mobilisation they are subordinated to the First Deputy of the Minister of Defence, through him to the Stavka and ultimately to the Defence Council.

Troops acting as reserve forces, to be used to bring units up to strength, for re-equipment, etc., may be stationed in the territories of Military Districts. These troops are subordinate, not to operational commanders but to the Military District Commanders, through them to the Commander-in-Chief, to the First Deputy and then to the Stavka. For instance, during war, on the territory of the Urals Military District there would be one Air Division (to replace losses), one Tank Army (Stavka reserve), one Polish tank division (for re-equipment) and three battalions of marine infantry (a new formation). These units will be subordinate to the Commander of the Urals Military District and through him, as regards the Air Division, to the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Forces, while the Tank Army comes under the Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces, the Polish division to the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and the battalions of marine infantry to the Commander-in-Chief of Naval Forces. Each Commander-in-Chief has the right to give orders to the Commander of a Military District, but only in matters concerning sub-units subordinate to him. Because the complement of each Military District always consists mainly of sub-units of the Land Forces some Western observers have the impression that Military Districts are subordinated to the Commanders-in-Chief of Land Forces. But this is not so. The Commander of a Military District has very wide powers, which are not in any way subject to the control of the Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces. As soon as the Stavka decides to transfer one or other sub-unit to an operational army, the sub-unit ceases to be controlled by the line of administrative subordination and comes under the instructions of the operational commander.


In wartime the system for controlling the Soviet Union, the countries which it has occupied and the entire united armed forces is stripped of the whole of its unnecessary decorative superstructure. The division between the operational and administrative lines of subordination then becomes apparent.

In peacetime the operational and administrative structures are blended with one another; this produces a misleading appearance of complexity, duplication and muddle. Despite this, the system which one can see clearly in wartime continues to function in peacetime. One simply needs to look at it carefully, to distinguish one structure from another and to ignore useless embellishments.

But is it possible to spot the summit of the edifice in peacetime—the Defence Council and the Stavka? This is quite simple. Each year on 7 November a military parade takes place on Red Square in Moscow. The whole military and political leadership gathers in the stands on top of Lenin's mausoleum. The position of each person is clearly discernible. For such a position, for each place in the stands, there is a constant, savage but silent struggle, like that which goes on in a pack of wolves for a place closer to the leader, and then for the leader's place itself. This jostling for position has already continued for many decades and each place has cost too much blood for it to be surrendered without a battle.

As is to be expected, the General Secretary and the Minister of Defence stand shoulder to shoulder in the centre of the tribune. To the left of the General Secretary are the members of the Politburo, to the right of the Minister of Defence are the Marshals. The stands on the mausoleum are the only place where the members of the political and military leadership parade, each in the position where he belongs. This is the only place where each individual shows his retinue, his rivals and his enemies, the whole country and the whole world how close he is to the centre of power. You can be sure that if the head of the KGB could take his place by the side of the General Secretary he would do so immediately, but this place is always occupied by a more influential individual—the Chief Ideologist. You can be certain that if the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation could move closer to the centre he would immediately do so, but the place he is after is already occupied by the almighty Chief of the General Staff.

On the day after the parade you can buy a copy of Pravda for three kopeks and on the front page, immediately beneath the masthead, you can see a photograph of the entire political and military leadership.

Take a red pencil and mark the General Secretary and the four other members of the Politburo standing closest to him. These are the members of the Defence Council. They run the country. It is to them that hundreds of millions are enslaved, from Havana to Ulan Bator. It is they who will control the fate of the hundreds of millions in their power when the time comes to `liberate' new peoples and new countries.

Now, mark the General Secretary, the member of the Politburo closest to him and the five Marshals nearest to him. This is the Stavka.

High Commands in the Strategic Directions

A platoon commander has three or four, sometimes five, sections under his command. It is pointless to give him more than this. He would be quite unable to exercise effective control over so large a platoon. If you another, sixth, section it would be better to form two platoons of three sections each.

A company commander has three, four, or sometimes five platoons under his command. There is no point in giving him more—he just could not control them.

This system, under which each successive commander controls between three and five detachments, is used universally and at all levels. A Front Commander, for instance, directs three or four and sometimes five Armies. And it is at just this level that the system breaks down. The Soviet Army has sixteen Military Districts and four Army Groups. In the event of all-out war each District and each Army Group is able to form one Front from its own resources. How, though, can the Stavka control twenty Fronts simultaneously? Would it not be simpler to interpose a new intermediate link in the chain of command, which would control the operations of three or four and sometimes five Fronts? In this way the Stavka could be in immediate control not of twenty Fronts but of between three and five of the new intermediate units. Such an innovation would complete the whole balanced system of control, in a logical fashion.

In fact, intermediate control links between the Stavka and the Fronts do exist, but they are given no publicity. They are designated as High Commands in the Strategic Directions. The first mention of these command links occurred in the Soviet military press in 1929. They were set up two years later, but their existence was kept secret and was not referred to officially. Immediately after the outbreak of the Second World War they were officially brought into existence.

During the first two weeks of the war, official announcements were made about the formation of North-Western, Western and South-Western Strategic Directions. Each Direction consisted of between three and five Fronts. At the head of each Direction was a Commander-in-Chief, who was subordinated to the Stavka.

Just how important each of these High Commands were can be judged by looking at the composition of the Western Strategic Direction. The Commander-in-Chief was Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko, who held the post of Minister of Defence at the outbreak of war. The Political Commissar was Politburo member N. A. Bulganin, one of those closest to Stalin, who later became a Marshal of the Soviet Union and President of the Council of Ministers. The Chief of Staff was Marshal B. M. Shaposhnikov, the pre-war Chief of the General Staff. The other Strategic Directions also had command personnel of approximately the same calibre—all the posts were occupied by Marshals or members of the Politburo.

In 1942 a further High Command, the North Caucasus Strategic Direction, was established, incorporating two Fronts and the Black Sea Fleet. Its Commander-in-Chief was Marshal S. M. Budenniy.

However it was subsequently decided that no further steps in this direction should be taken for the time being. The High Commands of the Strategic Directions were abolished and the Stavka took over direct control of the Fronts, which totalled fifteen. However the idea of an intermediate link was not abandoned. Frequently throughout the war representatives of the Stavka, usually Marshals Zhukov or Vasilyevskiy, were detached to work with those who were preparing large-scale operations and coordinating the work of several Fronts. Among the most brilliant of many examples of such coordinated efforts are the battles for Stalingrad and Kursk and the advance into Byelorussia. What amounted to a temporary grouping of Fronts, under a single command, was set up for each of these operations. A system of this sort provided greater flexibility and justified itself completely in conditions in which operations were being carried out against a single opponent. As soon as the decision had been taken to go to war with Japan, in 1945, the Far Eastern Strategic Direction was set up, consisting of three Fronts, one Fleet and the armed forces of Mongolia. The Commander-in-Chief of the Direction was Marshal A. M. Vasilyevskiy.

It is interesting to note that the very existence of a Far Eastern Strategic Direction with its own High Command was kept secret. As camouflage, Marshal Vasilyevskiy's headquarters were referred to as `Colonel-General Vasilyev's Group'. Many officers, including some generals, among them all the division and corps commanders, had no idea of Vasilyevskiy's function, supposing that all the Far Eastern Fronts were directed from Moscow, by the Stavka. The fact that he had acted as Commander-in-Chief was only revealed by Vasilyevskiy after the advance into Manchuria at the end of the war.

The High Command of the Far Eastern Strategic Direction was not abolished at the end of the war and no official instructions for its disbandment were ever issued. All that happened was that from 1953 onwards all official mention of it ceased. Does it exist today? Do High Commands exist for other Strategic Directions or would they be set up only in the event of war?

They exist—and they are in operation. They are not mentioned officially, but no particular efforts are made to conceal their existence. Let us identify them. This is quite simple. In the Soviet Army there are sixteen Military Districts and four Army Groups. The senior officer in each District and each Army Group has the designation `Commander'. Only in one case, that of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, is he given the title of `Commander-in-Chief'. In the event of war most Districts would be made into Fronts. But Fronts, too, are headed only by `Commanders'. The title `Commander-in-Chief' is considerably senior to `Commander of a Front'. In a war the number of troops available would increase many times over. Platoon commanders would take over companies, battalion commanders would head regiments and regimental commanders would become divisional commanders. In this situation every officer might receive a higher rank; he would certainly retain the one he already holds. A general who in peacetime commands enough troops to be entitled to the designation `Commander-in-Chief' can hardly have his responsibilities reduced to those of a Front Commander at a time when many more troops are being placed under his command. If during peacetime the importance of his post is so great, how can it diminish when war breaks out? Of course it cannot. And a general whose peacetime title is 'Commander-in-Chief of the GSFG' will retain this rank, which is considerably higher than that of Front Commander.

There can be no doubt that the organisation known as the `Headquarters of the GSFG' in peacetime would become, not a Front Headquarters, but the Headquarters of the Western Strategic Direction.

It is significant that, already in peacetime, the Headquarters of the GSFG controls two Tank Armies and one Shock Army (essentially another Tank Army). For each Front can have only a single Tank Army and in many cases it does not have one at all. The presence in GSFG of three Tank Armies indicates that it has been decided to deploy at least three Fronts in the area covered by this Direction. Is this sufficient? Yes, for in a war the Commander-in-Chief of the Western Strategic Direction would have under his command not only all the Soviet troops in East Germany but all those in Czechoslovakia and Poland, together with the entire complement of the German, Czech and Polish armed forces, the Soviet Baltic Fleet and the Byelorussian Military District. This will be discussed in greater detail. For the present it is sufficient to note that the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany is an organisation which is regarded by the Soviet leadership as entirely different from any other Group of forces. No other force—in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Mongolia, Cuba, Afghanistan or, earlier, Austria or China—has ever been headed by a Commander-in-Chief. All these Groups were headed by a Commander.

Let us list the Generals and Marshals who have held the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Group of Forces in Germany:

Marshal G. K. Zhukov, the former Chief of the General Staff, who became First Deputy to the Supreme Commander and subsequently Minister of Defence and a member of the Politburo, the only man in history to have been awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union four times.

Marshal V. D. Sokolovskiy, former Chief of Staff of the Western Strategic Direction and later Chief of the General Staff.

General of the Army V. I. Chuykov, subsequently a Marshal and Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces.

Marshal A. A. Grechko, later Minister of Defence and a member of the Politburo.

Marshal M. V. Zakharov, later Chief of the General Staff.

Marshal P. K. Koshevoy.

General of the Army V. G. Kulikov, later a Marshal, Chief of the General Staff and then Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation.

Only one of this galaxy rose no higher—Marshal Koshevoy, who became seriously ill. But to reach the rank of Marshal is no mean achievement—and it was in Germany that he received the rank of Marshal, at a time when other Groups of forces were commanded only by Lieutenant-Generals and Colonel-Generals. Thus Koshevoy, too, stands out from the crowd.

One rule applied to all—anyone who held the post of Commander-in-Chief of the GSFG was either a Marshal already, was promoted to this rank on appointment or was given it shortly afterwards. Nothing of this sort has occurred with other Groups of forces.

The GSFG is a kind of springboard to the very highest military appointments. Commanders of other groups have never achieved such high standing. Moreover even the Commanders-in-Chief of the Land Forces, of the Air Forces, Fleet, Rocket Troops or Air Defence have never had such glittering careers or such future prospects as those who have been Commanders-in-Chief in Germany.

Surely this is enough to indicate that in wartime something far more powerful will be set up on the foundation represented by the GSFG than in the other, ordinary, Military Districts and Groups of forces?

None of the other Military Districts and Groups of forces have Commanders-in-Chief—only Commanders. Does this mean that in peacetime there are no Strategic Directions? Not at all. The Headquarters of the Western Strategic Direction (HQ, GSFG) is hardly concealed at all while the existence of the other Strategic Directions is only lightly camouflaged, as was `Colonel-General Vasilyev's Group'. But it is easy to see through this camouflage.

It is sufficient to analyse the careers of those commanding Military Districts. One can then see that, for the overwhelming majority, command of a District represents the highest peak they will reach. Those who advance further are rare. In some cases what follows is honourable retirement to posts such as Director of one Military Academy or another or an Inspector's post in the Ministry of Defence. Both these types of appointment are seen as `elephants' graveyards'. They represent, in fact, the end of any real power.

However one of the sixteen Military Districts is a clear exception. None of its former Commanders has ever left for an elephants' graveyard. On the contrary—the Kiev Military District is a kind of doorway to power. Here are the careers of all those who have commanded this District since the war:

Colonel-General A. A. Grechko became Commander-in-Chief of GSFG and a Marshal, Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces, Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, Minister of Defence and a member of the Politburo.

General of the Army V. I. Chuykov—C-in-C GSFG, Commander, Kiev Military District, Marshal, C-in-C of Land Forces and Deputy Minister of Defence.

Colonel-General P. K. Koshevoy—First Deputy to the C-in-C GSFG, Commander, Kiev Military District and General of the Army, C-in-C GSFG, and Marshal.

General of the Army I. I. Yakubovskiy—C-in-C GSFG, Commander, Kiev Military District, C-in-C of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and Marshal.

Colonel-General V. G. Kulikov—Commander Kiev Military District, C-in-C GSFG and General of the Army, Chief of the General Staff, C-in-C of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and Marshal.

Colonel-General G. I. Salmanov--Commander Kiev Military District, Commander of the Trans-Baykal Military District.

Surprisingly, as we have been following the brilliant careers of the Commanders of the Kiev Military District, we have come across some old friends, whom we met previously as C-in-C GSFG. Strangely, there has been an interchange of Generals between Wünsdorf and Kiev. Those who have gone to Kiev have later gone to GSFG. Those who have reached GSFG without going to Kiev have done so later. However, a Commander of the Kiev Military District does not see himself as junior to the C-in-C GSFG. The journey from GSFG to Kiev is not demotion and for many it has represented promotion. Chuykov, for instance, was C-in-C GSFG as a General and was made a Marshal when he moved to Kiev.

But perhaps the Kiev Military District is of greater numerical strength than the others? Not at all—Byelorussia has more troops and the Far Eastern Military District has more than both the Kievan and Byelorussian put together. In territory Kiev is one of the smallest of the Districts. The Siberian District is sixty-seven times as large and Moscow District is far more important. But the Commander of the Moscow, Siberian, Far Eastern, Byelorussian and the other Military Districts cannot even dream of the prospects which stretch before Commanders in Kiev. In the last twenty years not one of the Commanders of Moscow District has become a Marshal, while all but one of those from Kiev have done so, the exception being the most recent who is still young and who will certainly soon be promoted.

Why is there such a sharp contrast between the Kievan and the fifteen other Districts? Simply because the organisation designated Headquarters Kiev Military District is in fact the Headquarters of the South-Western Strategic Direction, which in the event of war would take control not only of the troops already on its territory, but of those in Sub-Carpathia, Hungary (both Soviet and Hungarian) and also the entire armed forces of Romania and Bulgaria, with their fleets, and, finally, the Black Sea Fleet.

While relations with China were good there were only two High Commands of Strategic Directions—the Western and the South-Western—but as soon as the relationship deteriorated the Far Eastern Strategic Direction was reestablished. It encompasses the Central Asian, Siberian, Trans-Baykal and Far Eastern Military Districts, part of the Pacific Fleet and the Mongolian armed forces. In peacetime the Headquarters of this Strategic Direction is merged with that of the Trans-Baykal Military District and is located in Chita. Clearly this is a most convenient location, occupying, as it does, a central position among the Military Districts bordering on China and protected by the buffer state of Mongolia.

Part Two
Types of Armed Services

How the Red Army is divided in relation to its targets


Over the centuries, the armed forces of most countries have traditionally been divided between land armies and fleets. In the twentieth century the third category of air forces was added. Each of the armed services is divided into different arms of service. Thousands of years ago, land forces were already divided into infantry and cavalry. Much later, artillery detachments were added, these were eventually joined by tank forces, and so the process continued.

Today's Red Army consists, unlike any other in the world, not of three, but of five different Armed Services:

The Strategic Rocket Forces
The Land Forces
The Air Defence Forces
The Air Forces
The Navy

Each of these Services, with the exception of the Strategic Rocket Forces, is made up of different arms of service. In the Land Forces there are seven, in the Air Defence Forces three, in the Air Forces three, and in the Navy six. The Airborne Forces constitute a separate arm of service, which is not part of the complement of any of the main Services.

In addition to these Services and their constituent arms of service, there are supporting arms of service—engineers, communications, chemical warfare and transport troops and others—which form part of the different Services and their component arms. In addition there are other services which support the operations of the whole Red Army. There are fifteen or so of these but we will examine only the most important: military intelligence and the disinformation service.


At the head of each of the Armed Services is a Commander-in-Chief. The standing of these Commanders-in-Chief varies. Three of them—those in command of the Land Forces, the Air Force, and the Navy—are no more than administrative heads. They are responsible for the improvement and development of their Services, and for ensuring that these are up to strength and properly equipped. Two of the others—the Commanders-in-Chief of the Rocket Forces and of the Air Defence Forces—are responsible not only for administrative questions but also for the operational control of their forces in action.

The discrepancy in the positions of Commanders-in-Chief results from the fact that, in combat, the Rocket Forces operate independently, without needing to work with any other Service. In the same way, the Air Defence Forces operate in complete independence. The Commanders-in-Chief of these two Services are subordinated directly to the Supreme Commander and are fully responsible for their forces both in peacetime and in war.

With the Land Forces, Air Forces and Navy the situation is more complex. In their operations they need to cooperate constantly and closely. If any of these three should decide to take independent action, the resultswould be catastrophic. For this reason the Commanders-in-Chief of these `traditional' Services are deliberately denied the right to direct their own forces in war. Their task is to supervise all aspects of the development and equipment of their Services.

Since the Land Forces, Air Forces and Navy can only operate in close conjunction, combined command structures have been devised to control them independently of their Commanders-in-Chief. We have already encountered these combined structures—they are the Fronts, which contain elements from both Land and Air Armies, and the Strategic Directions which incorporate Fronts and Fleets.

The establishment of these combined command structures and of systems of combat control, which are not subordinated to individual Commanders-in-Chief, has made it possible to solve most of the problems which result from the rivalry which has existed between the Services for centuries.

Let us take the case of a Soviet general who is slowly climbing the rungs of his professional ladder. First he commands a motor-rifle division, then he becomes deputy to the Commander of a Tank Army (it is normal practice to move officers from motor-rifle forces to tank forces and vice versa) and next he becomes an Army Commander. Until now he has always been a fierce champion of the interests of the Land Forces, which he supports fervently. So far, though, his position has been too lowly for his views to be heard by anyone outside the Land Forces. But now he rises a little higher and becomes Commander of a Front. He now has both an operational task, for the fulfilment of which his head is at stake, and the forces with which to carry it out—three or four Land Armies and one Air Army. The Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces supplies his Land Armies with all they require, the Cbmmander-in-Chief of Air Forces does the same for his Air Army. But it is the Front Commander who is responsible for deciding how to use these forces in combat. In this situation every Front Commander forgets, as soon as he takes over his high post, that he is an infantry or a tank general. He has to carry out his operational task and for this all his Armies—Land and Air—must be appropriately prepared and supplied. If the Air Army is worse prepared and supplied than the All-Arms and Tank Armies, the Front Commander will either immediately take steps himself to restore the balance or will call on his superiors to do this. There are sixteen Front Commanders in all. All of them are products of the Land Forces, for these provide the basic strength of each Front, but they are in no way subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces in questions concerning the use of their resources. It is the Front Commanders who have the task of directing their forces to victory. For this reason, if the Land Forces were to be increased at the expense of the Air Forces, all the Front Commanders would protest immediately and sharply, despite their own upbringing in the Land Forces.

If our general should climb still higher and become Commander-in-Chief of a Strategic Direction, he will have a Fleet under his control, as well as four Fronts, each of which contains a mixture of Land Forces and Air Forces.

In wartime he will be responsible for combat operations covering huge areas and he is already concerned, in peacetime, to ensure that all the forces under his command develop proportionately and in balance with one another. In this way yesterday's tank officer becomes an ardent champion of the development not only of the Land Forces but of the Air Forces and the Navy.


The Armed Services consist of arms of service. At the head of each arm of service is a Commander. However in most cases the latter has purely administrative functions. For instance, the Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces has as one of his subordinates the Commander of Tank Forces. But tens of thousands of tanks are spread throughout the world, from Cuba to Sakhalin. Every reconnaissance battalion has a tank platoon, every motor-rifle regiment has a tank battalion, every motor-rifle division has a tank regiment, every Army a tank division, every Front a Tank Army, and each Strategic Direction has a Group of Tank Armies. Naturally, decisions on the use of all these tanks in combat are taken by the combat commanders as the situation develops. The Commander of Tank Forces is in no position to play any part in the control of each tank unit, and any such intervention would be a violation of the principle of sole responsibility for the conduct and results of combat operations. For this reason, the Commander of Tank Forces is strictly forbidden to intervene in combat planning and in questions of the use of tanks in combat. His responsibilities cover the development of new types of tank and their testing, the supervision of the quality of production of tank factories, ensuring that all tank detachments are supplied with the necessary spare parts and the training of specialists in the Tank Force Academies, in the five Tank High Schools and in training divisions. He is also responsible for the technical condition of tanks in all the armed forces and acts as the inspector of all tank personnel.

The Commander of the Rocket Forces and Artillery of the Land Forces, the Commander of the Air Defence of Land Forces, the Commander of Fleet Aviation and Commanders of other arms of service have similar administrative roles.

However there are exceptions to this rule. It is possible that some arms of service may be totally (or almost totally) deployed in a single direction. The Commanders of these arms of service have both administrative and combat roles. These arms of service include the Air Forces' Long-Range (strategic missile-carrying) Aviation and Military Transport Aviation and the Airborne Forces. In wartime, and on questions concerning the use of their forces, the Commanders of these arms of service are subordinated directly to the Stavka.

The Strategic Rocket Forces


The Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) are the newest and the smallest of the five Armed Services which make up the Soviet Army. They are also the most important component of that Army.

The SRF was established as an independent Service in December 1959. At its head is a Commander-in-Chief with the title of Marshal of the Soviet Union. Under his command are three Rocket Armies, three independent Rocket Corps, ten to twelve Rocket divisions, three sizeable rocket ranges and a large number of scientific research and teaching establishments. The total strength of the SRF is about half a million.

The SRF is both an operational and an administrative organisation. In peacetime its Commander-in-Chief is responsible to the Minister of Defence on all administrative questions and to the Politburo on all aspects of the operational use of rockets. In wartime the SRF would be controlled by the Defence Council, through the Supreme Commander. A final decision on the mass use of strategic rockets would be made by the Defence Council—i.e. the Politburo.

A Rocket Army consists of ten divisions. A division is made up of ten regiments and a technical base. A rocket regiment may have from one to ten launchers, depending on the type of rocket with which it is equipped. A strategic rocket regiment is the smallest in size of any in the Soviet Army. Its fighting strength is between 250 and 400 men, depending on the type of rocket with which it is equipped. Its basic tasks are to maintain the rockets, to safeguard and defend them and to launch them. Organisationally, a rocket regiment consists of the commander, his staff, five duty launch teams, an emergency repair battery and a guard company. This sub-unit is dignified with the title of regiment solely because of the very great responsibility which its officers bear.

Each regiment has an underground command post in which there is always a duty team of officers with direct communication links with the divisional commander, the Army commander, the commander-in-chief of the SRF and the Central command post. If this underground post goes out of action, the commander of the regiment immediately deploys a mobile control point working from motor vehicles. In a threatening situation two teams are on duty simultaneously—one in the underground command post and the other at a mobile one—so that either could take over the firing of all the regiment's rockets.

According to the situation, the duty teams at command posts are changed either every week or every month.

If a launcher is damaged, it is dismantled by the regiment's emergency repair battery. The guard company is responsible for the protection of the command posts and of the launchers. A large proportion of the regiment's personnel are involved in guard duties. Not one of them will have seen a rocket or know anything about one. Their job is to guard snow-covered clearings in pine forests, clearings which are surrounded by dozens of rows of barbed wire and defended by minefields. The guard company of a rocket regiment has fifty or so guard dogs.

The principal task of a rocket division is the technical supply of its regiments. For this, a divisional commander has under him a sub-unit known as a technical base, which has a complement of 3,000-4,000 and is commanded by a colonel. The technical base carries out the transport, maintenance, replacement, repair and servicing of the regiment's rockets.

The strength of a rocket division is 7,000-8,000.

The headquarters of each Rocket Army is responsible for coordination of the operations of its divisions, which will be deployed throughout a very large area. In a critical situation, the headquarters of a Rocket Army may make use of flying command posts to direct the firing of the rockets of regiments and divisions whose command posts have been put out of action. The independent Rocket Corps are organised by the Rocket Armies, except that they have three or four rather than ten divisions. They are also armed with comparatively short-range rockets (3,000-6,000 kilometres), some of which are fired from mobile rather than from fixed underground launchers.

The existence of the rocket corps is due to the fact that while the three Rocket Armies come under the exclusive control of the Supreme Commander, they are needed to support the forces of the three main Strategic Directions and are at the disposal of the Commanders-in-Chief of these Directions. A whole Corps, or some of its divisions, can be used in support of advancing forces in any of the Directions.

Separate rocket divisions, subordinated directly to the Commander-in-Chief of the SRF, form his operational reserve. Some of these divisions are equipped with particularly powerful rockets. The rest have standard rockets and can be moved to any part of the Soviet Union, in order to reduce their vulnerability.


The Strategic Rocket Forces have a much revered father figure. If he did not exist neither would the SRF. His name is Fidel Castro: you may smile, but the SRF does not.

The story behind this is as follows. In 1959 Castro and his comrades seized power in Cuba. No one in Washington was alarmed by this and no reaction came from Moscow; it was seen as a routine Latin American coup-d'état. However it was not long before Washington became uneasy and Moscow began to show interest. The Kremlin saw an unexpected chance to loosen the hold of its hated enemy, capitalism, on the Western hemisphere. This was obviously an excellent opportunity but one which it seemed impossible to exploit because of lack of strength on the spot. Hitherto, the Soviet Union had been able to support allies of this sort with tanks. But how could it help Fidel Castro at the other side of an ocean? At that time the Soviet Fleet could not dream of trying to take on the US Navy, particularly on the latter's own doorstep. Strategic aircraft existed but only for parades and demonstrations of strength. How could the United States be dissuaded from stepping in?

There was a simple, brilliant solution—bluff.

It was decided to make use of a weapon which had not yet come into service—what Goebbels would have called a `miracle weapon'. For a miracle weapon was what the Politburo employed. Throughout 1959 there were top-priority firings of Soviet rockets and persistent rumours of extraordinary successes. In December rumours began to circulate about new, top-secret forces which were all-powerful, highly accurate, invulnerable, indestructible and so forth. These rumours were supported by the appointment of Marshal of Artillery M. I. Nedelin to a highly important position of some sort, with promotion to Chief Marshal of Artillery. In January 1960 Khrushchev announced the formation of the Strategic Rocket Forces, with Nedelin at their head. He followed this with claims that nothing would be able to withstand these forces, that they could reach any point on the globe, etc. Talking to journalists, Khrushchev revealed `in confidence' that he had been to a factory where he had seen rockets `tumbling off the conveyor belts, just like sausages'. (Incidentally, then, as now, the supply of sausages was presenting the USSR with acute problems.) The West, unaccustomed to dealing with so high-level a charlatan, was duly impressed and consequently there was no invasion of Cuba. During the drama which took place, Khrushchev took to making fierce threats about `pressing the button'.

At the moment when the establishment of the SRF was announced, a Force equal in standing to the Land Forces and said to far exceed the latter in striking power, at the moment when Marshal Nedelin's headquarters was established, with great show, the Soviet rocket forces consisted of four regiments armed with 8-Zh-38 rockets (copies of the German V.2) and one range, on which experiments with new Soviet rockets were being carried out. The figures for rocket production were negligible. All the rockets that were made were immediately used for demonstrations in space while the newly-formed divisions received nothing but replicas, which were shown off at parades and in films. Empty dummies, resembling rockets, were splendidly designated `dimensional substitutes'. Meanwhile, a hectic race was in progress to produce real, operational rockets. Accidents occurred, one after another. On 24 October, 1960, when an experimental 8-K-63 rocket blew up, the Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Chief Marshal Nedelin, and his entire staff were burned alive ...

However, the SRF had won its first battle, the battle for Cuba.


As time passed, the SRF became able to stand on its own feet. But the bluff continues. The American armed forces refer modestly to fifty intercontinental ballistic missiles as a Squadron. The Soviet Army builds at least five Regiments around this number of missiles. Alternately if the rockets are obsolescent they may form a Rocket Division or even a Rocket Corps. The Americans do not classify a thousand rockets as a separate Service, or even as an individual arm of service. They are just part of the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command. In the USSR fifteen hundred rockets make up a complete Service, commanded by a Marshal of the Soviet Union. At present, the Americans are armed, essentially, with a single type of intercontinental rocket, the `Minuteman'. In the Soviet Union there are more than ten different types, amounting to approximately the same total as the Americans possess. Why this lack of coordination? Because not one of them is of really good quality. Some lack accuracy, and have too low a payload, and too short a range, but they are kept in service because they are more reliable than other types. Others are retained because their accuracy is more or less acceptable. Others are neither accurate nor reliable but have a good range. But there is one other reason for this untidy situation, for this multiplicity of types. The fact is that the rocket forces have been developed piecemeal, like a patchwork quilt. Soviet industry is unable to turn out long production runs of rockets quickly. For this reason, while the factories are familiarising themselves with the manufacture of one type and beginning slowly to produce it, another type is being brought just as slowly into service. Familiarisation with this new type starts, in a dilatory way, and a small production run begins, with equal lack of haste, and thus, year by year, the Rocket Forces expand, gradually and in leisurely fashion. Often a really good rocket can only be produced in small numbers because the United States will only sell a small quantity of the parts needed for it. For example, if the Americans only sell seventy-nine precision fuel filters, the Soviets will be unable to produce more than this number of rockets. Some of these will be allocated for experimental use and the number available for operational deployment therefore becomes smaller still. It is then necessary to design a new rocket without high-precision filters but with electronic equipment to control the ignition process. But then, perhaps, it is only possible to purchase two hundred sets of this electronic equipment from the US. A first-class rocket, but no more than two hundred can be produced...


The SRF faces another, even more critical problem—its hunger for
uranium. The shortage of uranium and plutonium has led the Soviet Union to
produce extremely high-powered thermonuclear warheads with a TNT equivalent
of scores of megatons. One of the reasons for this was the poor accuracy of
the rockets; in order to offset this it became necessary to increase
drastically the yield of the warheads. But this was not the most important
consideration. The fundamental reason was that a thermonuclear charge,
whatever its yield, needs only one nuclear detonator. The shortage of
uranium and plutonium made it necessary to produce a comparatively small
quantity of thermonuclear warheads and to compensate for this by increasing
their yield.
The Soviet Union has put a lot of work into the problem of producing a
thermonuclear warhead in which reaction is brought about not by a nuclear
detonator but by some other means—for instance, by the simultaneous
explosion of a large number of hollow charges. This is very difficult to
achieve, for if just one charge functions a thousandth of a second early, it
will scatter all the others. American electronic equipment is needed to
solve the problem high precision timers, which will deliver impulses to all
the charges simultaneously. There are some grounds for believing that timers
of this sort may be sold to the Soviet Union and, if this happens, the SRF
will acquire titanic strength. Meanwhile, not all Soviet rockets have
warheads. There are not enough for every rocket, so that, at present, use is
being made of radioactive material which is, quite simply, waste produced by
nuclear power stations—radioactive dust. Rather than launch a rocket
without a warhead, the wretched thing might as well be used to scatter dust
in the enemy's eyes... Naturally, scattering small quantities of dust over
wide areas of enemy territory, even if it is highly radioactive, will not do
much damage and it will certainly not decide the outcome of a war. But what
can one do if one has nothing better?
However, naturally, the SRF must not be underestimated. Rapid technical
progress is being made and Soviet engineers are skilfully steering a course
between the technological icebergs which confront them, sometimes achieving
astounding successes, brilliant in their simplicity.
The technical balance could change very quickly, if the West does not
press forward with the development of its own equipment as quickly and as
decisively as the Soviet Union is doing.

The National Air Defence Forces


The National Air Defence Forces (ADF) are the third most important of
the five Services which make up the Soviet Armed Forces, after the Strategic
Rocket Forces and the Land Forces. However, we will examine them at this
point, directly after the SRF, since like the latter they represent not
simply an administrative structure but a unified, controlled combat
organisation, subordinated directly to the Supreme Commander. Because they
form a unified combat organisation, the ADF are always commanded by a
Marshal of the Soviet Union. The Land Forces, which are five times the size
of the ADF, and which represent the striking force of the Soviet Union in
Europe, are headed only by a General of the Army.


In the armed forces of any other country, responsibility for air
defence is laid upon its air forces. In the Soviet Union, the air defence
system was so highly developed that it would be quite impossible to confine
it within the organisational structure of the Air Forces. Moreover, the ADF
are the third most important Service while the Air Forces occupy fourth
The independence of the ADF from the Air Forces is due not only to
their size and to their technical development, but also to the overall
Soviet philosophy concerning the allocation of wartime roles. In any country
in which Soviet specialists are given the task of setting up or
restructuring the armed forces, they establish several parallel systems of
air defence. One is a static system, designed to defend the territory of the
country and the most important administrative, political, economic and
transport installations which it contains. This is a copy of the ADF. In
addition, separate systems for self-defence and protection against air
attack are set up in the land forces, the navy and the air force.
While the national defence system is static, those of the different
armed services are mobile, designed to move alongside the forces which they
exist to protect. If several systems find themselves operating in the same
area, they work with one another and in such a case their collaboration is
always organised by the national system.


The division of the ADF into a national system and another system for
the protection of the armed services, took place long before the Second
World War. All anti-aircraft artillery and all searchlight and sound-ranging
units were divided between those under the command of army and naval
commanders and those covering the most important civil installations, which
are not subordinated to army commanders but had their own control apparatus.
The fighter aircraft available were divided in the same way. In 1939, for
instance, forty air regiments (1,640 combat aircraft) were transferred from
the strength of the Air Forces to that of the ADF, for both administrative
and combat purposes. Mixed ADF units were formed from the anti-aircraft
artillery, searchlight and air sub-units, which succeeded in cooperating
very closely with one another.
During the war the ADF completed their development into a separate,
independent constituent of the Armed Forces, on an equal footing with the
Land Forces, the Air Forces and the Navy. During the war, too, the
development of fighter aircraft designed specifically for either the Air
Forces or the ADF was begun. Flying training schools were set up to train
ADF pilots, using different teaching programmes from those of the Air
Forces. Subsequently, anti-aircraft gunnery schools were established, some
of which trained officers for anti-aircraft units of the Land Forces and
Navy while others prepared officers for the anti-aircraft units of the ADF.
After the war, the teams designing anti-aircraft guns for the Armed Forces
were directed to develop especially powerful anti-aircraft guns for the ADF.
At the end of the war the total strength of the ADF was more than one
million, divided into four ADF fronts (each with two or three armies) and
three independent ADF Armies.
After the war the ADF was given official status as an independent Armed


Today the ADF has more than 600,000 men. For administrative purposes
they are divided into three arms of service:

ADF Fighter Aviation
ADF Surface-to-air Missile Forces
ADF Radar Forces

For greater efficiency and closer cooperation, the sub-units of these
three arms of service are brought together to form mixed units—ADF
Divisions, Corps, Armies and Fronts (in peacetime Fronts are known as ADF
The fact that 3,000 combat aircraft, among them some of the most
advanced, have no operational, financial, administrative or any other
connection with the Air Forces, has not been grasped by ordinary individuals
in the West, nor even by Western military specialists. It is therefore
necessary to repeat, that the ADF rate as a separate and independent Armed
Service, with 3,000 supersonic interceptor aircraft, 12,000 anti-aircraft
missile launchers and 6,000 radar installations.
It is because the ADF are responsible both for the protection of Soviet
territory and of the most important installations in the USSR that they
function independently. Since they are concerned mainly with the defence of
stationary targets, the fighter aircraft developed for them differ from
those with which the Air Forces are equipped. The ADF are also equipped with
surface-to-air missiles and radar installations which differ from those used
by the Land Forces and by the Navy.
The Air Forces have their own fighter aircraft, totalling several
thousand. The Land Forces have thousands of their own anti-aircraft missile
launchers, anti-aircraft guns and radar installations. The Navy, too, has
its own fighters, anti-aircraft missiles and guns and radar, and all of
these belong to the individual Armed Service rather than to the ADF, and are
used to meet the requirements of the operational commanders of the Land
Forces, Air Forces and Navy. We will discuss these independent air defence
systems later; for the moment we will confine ourselves to the national
defence system.


The fighter aircraft of the ADF are organised as regiments. In all, the
ADF has more than seventy regiments, each with forty aircraft.
The ADF cannot, of course, use fighter aircraft built for the Air
Forces, any more than the latter can use aircraft built to the designs of
the ADF. The Air Forces and the ADF operate under entirely different
conditions and have different operational tasks and each Service therefore
has its particular requirements from its own aircraft.
The ADF operates from permanent airfields and can therefore use heavy
fighter aircraft. The fighter aircraft of the Air Forces are constantly on
the move behind the Land Forces and must therefore operate from very poor
airfields, sometimes with grass runways or even from sections of road. They
are therefore much lighter than the aircraft used by the ADF.
ADF fighters are assisted in their operations by extremely powerful
radar and guidance systems, which direct the aircraft to their targets from
the ground. These aircraft do not therefore need to be highly manoeuvrable
but every effort is made to increase their speed, their operational ceiling
and range. The Air Forces require different qualities from their fighter
aircraft, which are lighter, since they have to operate in constantly
changing situations, and from their pilots, who have to work unassisted,
locating and attacking their targets for themselves. The Air Force fighters
therefore need to be both light and highly manoeuvrable but they are
considerably inferior to those of the ADF in speed, range, payload and
Let us look at an example of these two different approaches to the
design of fighter aircraft. The MIG-23 is extremely light and manoeuvrable
and is able to operate from any airfield, including those with grass
runways. Clearly, it is an aircraft for the Air Forces. By contrast, the
MIG-25, although designed by the same group, at the same time, is extremely
heavy and unmanoeuvrable and can operate only from long and very stable
concrete runways, but it has gained twelve world records for range, speed,
rate of climb and altitude reached. For two decades this was the fastest
operational aircraft in the world. It is easy to see that this is an ADF
Besides the MIG-25, which is a high-altitude interceptor, the ADF have
a low-level interceptor, the SU 15, and a long-range interceptor, the TU
128, which is designed to attack enemy aircraft attempting to penetrate
Soviet air space across the endless wastes of the Arctic or the deserts of
Central Asia.
The Surface-to-air Missile (SAM) Forces of the ADF consist,
organisationally, of rocket brigades (each with 10 to 12 launch battalions),
regiments (3 to 5 launch battalions) and independent launch battalions. Each
battalion has 6 to 8 launchers, according to the type of rocket with which
it is equipped. Each battalion has between 80 and 120 men. First, all
battalions were equipped with S 75 rockets. Then, to replace these, two
rockets, the S 125 (low-altitude and short-range) and the S 200
(high-altitude and long-range), were developed. The S 200 can be fitted with
a nuclear warhead to destroy enemy rockets or aircraft. Also introduced, to
destroy the enemy's inter-continental ballistic missiles, was the UR 100,
which has a particularly powerful warhead, but the deployment of this type
has been limited by the US-Soviet ABM Treaty.
Each SAM battalion is equipped with several anti-aircraft guns of small
(23mm) and large (57mm) calibre. These are used to repel either low-flying
enemy aircraft or attacks by enemy land forces. In peacetime, these
anti-aircraft guns are not classified as a separate arm of service of the
ADF. However, in wartime, when the strength of the ADF would be increased
three or four times, they would form an arm of service, deployed as
anti-aircraft artillery regiments and divisions, equipped with 23, 57, 85,
100 and 130mm guns, which are mothballed in peacetime.
The Radar Forces of the ADF consist of brigades and regiments, together
with a number of independent battalions and companies. They are equipped
with several thousand radar installations, for the detection of enemy
aircraft and space weapons and for the guidance towards these targets of ADF
robot and interceptor aircraft.
In addition to these three main arms of service, the complement of the
ADF includes many supporting sub-units (providing transport, communications,
guard duties and administration), two military academies and eleven higher
officers' schools, together with a considerable number of test-ranges,
institutes for scientific research and training centres.


Operationally the ADF consists of a Central Command Post, two ADF
Districts, which would become ADF Fronts in wartime, eight independent ADF
Armies and several independent ADF Corps.
Up to regimental and brigade level ADF formations are drawn from a
single arm of service—for example from SAM brigades, fighter regiments,
independent radar battalions, etc. From division level upwards, each arm of
service is represented in each formation and these are therefore called ADF
Divisions, Corps, etc.
The organisation of each division, corps or other higher formation is
decided in accordance with the importance of the installation which it is
protecting. However, there is one guiding principle: each commander is
responsible for the defence of one key point only. This principle is
uniformly applied at all levels.
The commander of an ADF division is responsible for the protection of a
single, highly important installation, for instance, of a large power-supply
centre. He is also required to prevent incursions by enemy aircraft over his
sector. The division therefore deploys one SAM brigade to cover the main
installation, and moves two or three SAM regiments into the-areas most
likely to be threatened, ahead of the brigades, and a number of independent
SAM battalions into areas which are in less danger. In addition, the
divisional commander has one air regiment which may be used to make contact
with the enemy at a considerable distance, for operations at boundaries or
junctions not covered by SAM fire, or in the area in which the enemy
delivers his main thrust. The operations of the SAM sub-units and of the
interceptor aircraft are supported by radar battalions and companies which
are subordinated both to the divisional commander himself and to the
commanding officers of the division's SAM units.
An ADF corps commander organises coverage of the target he is
protecting in precisely the same way. To protect the main installation
itself he has one ADF division. Both he and his divisional commander are
involved in the defence of the same installation. Two or three SAM brigades
are moved forward to cover the sectors which are under greatest threat,
while SAM regiments are deployed in less endangered areas. One air regiment
is under the direct command of the corps commander, for long-range use or
for operations in the area in which the enemy delivers his main attack. If
the SAM sub-units are put out of action, the corps commander can at any time
make use of his fighter regiment to cover an area in which a breakthrough is
threatened. Thus there are two air regiments with each ADF Corps, one at the
disposal of the ADF divisional commander, the other for use by the corps
commander. A corps contains three or four SAM brigades, one with the ADF
division, the others at the disposal of the corps commander, covering the
approaches to the divisional position. In a corps there are five or six SAM
regiments, two or three of which are used in the division's main sector, the
remainder in the secondary sectors of the corps area. Lastly, the corps
commander himself has a radar regiment, in addition to the radar forces of
his subordinates.
An ADF Army commander, too, is responsible for the protection of a
single key objective and has an ADF corps to cover it. In addition, an Army
has two or three independent ADF divisions, each of which provides cover for
its own key installation and also defends the main approaches to the key
objective guarded by the Army. Independent SAM brigades are deployed in the
secondary sectors of the Army's area. An Army commander also has two air
regiments (one with aircraft for high-altitude operations, the other with
long-range interceptors) and his own radar installations (including
over-the-horizon radars).
An ADF District is similar in structure. The key objective is covered
by an Army. Two or three independent ADF corps are deployed in the sectors
under greatest threat while the less endangered areas are covered by ADF
divisions, each of which, of course, has a key objective of its own. The
District Commander also has two interceptor air regiments under his command
and radar detection facilities, including very large aircraft equipped with
powerful radars.
The nerve centre—Moscow—is, of course, covered by an ADF District;
the main approaches to this District by ADF Armies and the secondary sectors
by ADF corps. Each District and Army has, of course, the task of covering a
key installation of its own.
The ADF contains two ADF Districts. Something must be said about the
reasons for the existence of the second of these—the Baku District. Unlike
the Moscow District, the Baku ADF District does not have a key target to
protect. The fact that Baku produces oil is irrelevant: twenty-four times as
much oil is produced in the Tatarstan area as in Baku. The Baku ADF District
looks southwards, covering a huge area along the frontiers, which is
unlikely to be attacked. Several of the armies of the ADF (the 9th, for
instance), have considerably greater combat resources than the whole Baku
District. It is, however, because of the need to watch such a huge area, a
task for which an ADF Army has insufficient capacity, that a District was
established there.
All in all, the ADF is the most powerful system of its sort in the
world. It has at its disposal not only the largest quantity of equipment but
in some respects the best equipment in the world. At the beginning of the
1980s the MIG-25 interceptor was the fastest in the world and the S-200 had
the largest yield and the greatest range of any surface-to-air missile. In
the period since the war the Soviet Air Defence Forces have shown their
strength on many occasions. They did this most strikingly on 1 May, 1960, by
shooting down an American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, a type regarded until
then as invulnerable, because of the incredible height at which it could
operate. There is no doubt that the Soviet Air Defence Forces are the most
experienced in the world. What other system can boast of having spent as
many years fighting the most modern air force in the world as the Soviet ADF
system in Vietnam?
In the mid-1970s some doubt arose as to its reliability when a South
Korean aircraft lost its way and flew over Soviet Arctic territory for some
considerable time before being forced down by a Soviet SU-15 interceptor.
However, the reasons for this delay can be fully explained; we have noted
that interceptor aircraft do not represent the main strength of the ADF,
which lies in its surface-to-air missiles. The territory across which the
lost aircraft flew was quite unusually well-equipped with SAMs, but there is
simply no reason to use them against a civil aircraft. At the same time,
because of the deep snow which lay in the area, hardly any interceptors were
stationed there. Their absence was compensated for by an abnormally large
number of SAMs, ready to shoot down any military aircraft. In this unusual
situation, once the invader had been found to be a civil aircraft, it became
necessary to use an interceptor brought from a great distance. This aircraft
took off from Lodeynoye Polye and flew more than 1,000 kilometres, in
darkness, to meet the intruder. In an operational situation it would not
have been necessary to do this. It would be simpler to use a rocket.
Nevertheless, despite everything, the ADF has its Achilles heel. The
fastest aircraft are flown by men who detest socialism with all their
hearts. The pilot Byelenko is by no means unique in the ADF.

The Land Forces


The Land Forces are the oldest, the largest and the most diversified of
the Services making up the Armed Forces of the Red Army. In peacetime their
strength totals approximately 2 million, but mobilisation would bring them
up to between 21 and 23 million within ten days.

They contain seven arms of service:

Motor-rifle Troops
Tank Troops
Artillery and Rocket Troops of the Land Forces
Air Defence Troops of the Land Forces
Airborne Assault Troops
Diversionary Troops (Spetsnaz)
Fortified Area Troops

The existence of the last three is kept secret.

In their organisation and operational strength, the Land Forces can be
seen as a scaled-down model of the entire Soviet Armed Forces. Just take a
look at their structure: the Strategic Rocket Forces are subordinated to the
Stavka; the Land Forces have their own rocket troops; the Air Defence Forces
are subordinated to the Stavka; the Land Forces have their own air defence
troops. They also have their own aircraft, which are independent of the Air
Forces. The Air Defence Forces, in their numbers and equipment the strongest
in the world, are subordinated to the Stavka; the Land Forces also have
their own airborne troops which, using the same yardstick, are the second
strongest in the world.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces has no more than an
administrative function. His headquarters contains neither an Operational
nor an Intelligence Directorate. All operational planning is carried out by
the mixed commands of the Fronts, Strategic Directions or General Staff. The
Commander-in-Chief's responsibilities are limited to the equipment,
provisioning and training of his forces. However, despite the fact that he
has no responsibility for the direction of operations the C-in-C Land Forces
is still a highly influential administrator. Clearly, anyone who is
responsible for the development and supply of forty-one Armies, including
eight Tank Armies deserves respect.
The Commanders of the various arms of service of the Land Forces, too,
have purely administrative functions. The direction of operations, as we
already know, is the function of mixed all-arms commands, which are not
subordinated for this function to either the C-in-C or the Commanders of
individual arms of service.


The Motor-Rifle Troops

Each motor-rifle section has a strength of eleven. One man acts as
assistant to the rocket launcher and is jokingly referred to as the missile
transporter. He does indeed carry three rockets, in a satchel. Each of these
has a warhead capable of penetrating the armour of any modern tank, booster
and sustainer engines, a spin stabiliser, a turbine, a fin assembly and a
tracer compound.
His are not the only rockets in the section. It is also equipped with
anti-aircraft rockets with seeker heads, which enable them to distinguish
hostile aircraft from friendly ones and to destroy them. In addition, the
section has four 9-M-14 `Malyutka' rockets which have an automatic guidance
system. All this in one infantry section.
The section's BMP-1 combat vehicle has an automatic 73mm gun and three
machine guns and has sufficient fire-power, manoeuvrability and protection
to take on any modern light tank. The section also has three radio sets,
sensors for the detection of radioactivity and gas and other complex devices
in addition to its ordinary infantry equipment.
At this, the lowest, level, we find not a true infantry formation but a
hybrid of tank, anti-tank, SAM, chemical, sapper and other sub-units.
The infantry is the oldest of the arms of service. All the remainder
originated later and were developed as additions or reinforcements to the
infantry. From our examination of the infantry section we see that the
modern infantry is an arm of service which, even at its lowest level, has
absorbed elements of many others.
The concept of the infantry, not as cannon fodder, but as the framework
of the entire Armed Forces, the skeleton on which the whole of the remainder
develops, has been held for a long time by Soviet generals. After the last
war, all Soviet infantry officer training schools were renamed Officer Cadet
Academies, and began to turn out, not run-of-the-mill platoon commanders,
but commanders with a wide range of knowledge, able to organise cooperation
between all arms of service in the battlefield, in order to ensure joint
It is for this reason that today's officers are not called either
infantry or motor-rifle commanders, but all-arms commanders.
The organisation of a normal Soviet regiment which, by tradition, is
still called a motor-rifle regiment, is as follows:

Command headquarters
Reconnaissance company
Signals company
Tank battalion (three companies)

Three motor-rifle battalions (each of three companies and one automatic
mortar battery)

A battalion of self-propelled howitzers (three fire batteries and one
control battery)

A battery of Grad-P multiple rocket launchers

A SAM battery

An engineer company

A chemical defence company

A maintenance company

A motor transport company

In all, the regiment has 27 companies, only 9 of which are motor-rifle
companies. It is significant that, in a so-called `motor-rifle' regiment,
there are 10 artillery battery commanders--that is to say, one more than the
number of motor-rifle company commanders.
If we move a little higher, to the level of a division, we find that,
surprisingly, it is still referred to as a `motor-rifle' division. We will
look at the organisation of a motor-rifle division later; for the present we
will simply note that it contains a total of 165 companies and batteries. Of
these only 28 are motor-rifle companies; it also has 23 tank companies and
67 artillery batteries (mortar, anti-aircraft and rocket). The remainder is
made up of reconnaissance, signal and engineer, chemical and other
The motor-rifle troops make up the bulk of the Soviet forces.
Organisationally, they consist of 123 divisions and of an additional 47
regiments, which form part of the complement of tank divisions. In addition,
there are motor-rifle battalions serving in fortified areas and also with
the Navy's marine infantry brigades.
In peacetime motor-rifle sub-units are divided into those with normal
equipment (armoured personnel carriers) and those equipped with infantry
combat vehicles (BMPs). This is today's version of the age-old division
between light and heavy infantry, between grenadiers and chasseurs.
In theory all motor-rifle regiments in tank divisions and one regiment
in each motor-rifle division should be equipped with BMPs. In practice, this
depends upon the output of the defence industries and upon their ability to
supply combat equipment to the forces. In many inland military districts
divisions have not received the BMPs allocated to them. By contrast,
divisions stationed in East Germany have two rather than one BMP regiment.
Sub-units equipped with BMPs have much greater fire- and striking-power
than their normal motor-rifle equivalents. This is not only because a BMP
has better protection, armament and manoeuvrability than an armoured
personnel carrier. BMP sub-units also have far more supporting weapons. For
instance, a motor-rifle battalion stationed on Soviet territory has a mortar
platoon. An equivalent BMP battalion has a battery instead of a platoon.
Moreover, these are not standard but automatic mortars, and they are
self-propelled rather than towed. A standard motor-rifle regiment has a
howitzer battery, or in some cases a battalion of towed howitzers. A BMP
regiment has a howitzer battalion equipped with self-propelled amphibious
howitzers and a further battery of `Grad-P' multiple rocket launchers.
BMP sub-units are the first to receive new anti-tank, anti-aircraft,
engineering and communications equipment. They are, in fact, the trump suit
in the pack.


The Tank Forces

The Tank Forces represent the main striking power of the Land Forces.
Their organisation is simple and well-defined. Every unit commander has his
own tank assault force, of a size appropriate to his position. The commander
of a motor-rifle regiment has a tank battalion at his disposal. The
commander of a motor-rifle division has his own tank regiment. An Army
commander has one tank division and a Front Commander a Tank Army. Finally,
the Commander-in-Chief of a Strategic Direction has a Group of Tank Armies.
Combat operations at each level are organised according to established
principles. An advance by a motor-rifle regiment is, essentially, an advance
by a tank battalion which is supported by all the other battalions and
companies of the regiment. This principle applies at all levels. You could,
in fact, say that an advance by a Strategic Direction is really a
break-through by a Tank Army Group supported by the operations of the three
or four Fronts which belong to that Direction.
In addition to this basic striking force, Front Commanders and C-in-Cs
of Strategic Directions may keep independent tank divisions in reserve,
using them for rapid relief of the divisions which suffer the worst losses.
Besides this, however, each commander, from divisional level upwards, has
what might be called a personal tank guard. Besides the tank regiment which
is his main striking force, a division commander has an independent tank
battalion. Thus, a motor-rifle division has seven tank battalions in all;
one in each of its three motor-rifle regiments, three in its tank regiment
and the independent battalion. This battalion is entirely different from the
others. Whereas the ordinary tank battalions have 31 tanks (3 companies of
10 each and one for the battalion commander), an independent battalion has
52 tanks (5 companies of 10 each, one for the battalion commander and the
divisional commander's own tank). Unlike the others, an independent tank
battalion has reconnaissance, anti-aircraft, engineer and chemical platoons.
In its make-up it is more like a small, independent tank regiment, than a
large battalion. In addition, the independent tank battalions are the first
to receive the latest equipment. I have seen many divisions equipped with
T-44 tanks while the independent tank battalions had T-10Ms, which have then
received T-55s, while the independent battalions got T-72s. The divisional
commander will carefully and patiently assemble all his best crews in this
battalion. The commander of a motor-rifle regiment will throw his tank
battalion into the thick of a battle, and a divisional commander will do the
same with his tank regiment but he will keep his independent tank battalions
in reserve. These protect respectively, the division's headquarters and the
division's rocket battalion. These are not, of course, their main functions,
but fall to the lot of the independent battalions because they almost always
function as reserves.
But let us suppose that during a battle a situation arises in which a
commander must throw in everything he has, a situation which can result in
either victory or disaster. This is the moment at which he brings his own
personal guard into the operation, a fresh, fully-rested battalion, of
unusual size, made up of his best crews and equipped with the best tanks. At
this moment a divisional commander is risking everything and for this reason
he may head this, his own independent, tank battalion.
An Army Commander, too, in addition to the tank division which forms
his striking force, has an independent tank battalion to act as his personal
guard. He puts it into action only at the last possible moment and it may be
with this battalion that he meets his own death in battle. In addition to
his Tank Army, each Front Commander has an independent tank brigade,
consisting of the best crews in the whole Front and equipped with the best
tanks. Normally a Front's independent tank brigade has four or five
battalions and one motor-rifle battalion. The commander of a Strategic
Direction, too, has his personal tank guard, in addition to his Tank Army
Group. This guard consists of a single special independent tank division or,
in some cases, of a tank corps made up of two divisions.
In all, the Tank Forces have 47 tank divisions, 127 regiments, serving
with motor-rifle divisions and more than 500 battalions, either serving with
motor-rifle regiments or acting as reserves for commanders of varying ranks.
In peacetime their total strength is 54,000 tanks.


The Artillery and Rocket Troops of the Land Forces

After the end of the Second World War, the Rocket Troops were treated
as a separate arm of service, not forming part of any one of the Armed
Services but subordinated directly to the Minister of Defence. In 1959 they
were split up. The Strategic Rocket Forces were established as a separate
Armed Service. Those rocket troops who were not absorbed by the new Service
were taken over by the Land forces and united with the Artillery to form the
Artillery and Rocket Troops, as one of the constituent arms of service of
the Land Forces.
At present this arm of service is equipped with four types of
artillery—rocket, rocket launcher (multi-barrelled, salvo-firing),
anti-tank and general purpose (mortars, howitzers and field guns). Each
commander has at his disposal the artillery resources appropriate to his
rank. Commanders of divisions and upwards have some of each of all four
types of artillery weapon. Thus a motor-rifle division has one rocket
battalion, one battalion of multi-barrelled rocket launchers, one anti-tank
battalion and a howitzer regiment of three battalions for general support.
We will discuss the quantity of fire weapons available to commanders of
differing ranks when we come to talk about operational organisation.


The Air Defence Troops of the Land Forces

We have already spoken of the existence of two separate air defence
systems—national and military. The two are unconnected: the difference
between them is that the national system protects the territory of the
Soviet Union and is therefore stationary while the military system is an
integral part of the fighting services and moves with them in order to
protect them from air attack.
Organisationally, each infantry section, with the exception of those
which travel in platoon commanders' vehicles, contains one soldier armed
with a `Strela 2' anti-aircraft rocket launcher. There are two such
launchers in each platoon. The seeker heads with which they are fitted
enable rockets fired from these launchers to shoot down enemy aircraft
flying at heights of two kilometres and at distances of four kilometres. In
every tank platoon, in addition to the anti-aircraft machine-guns carried by
each tank, one of the leaders has three of these launchers, which are
carried on the outside of the tank's turret.
Each motor-rifle and tank regiment has an anti-aircraft battery, armed
with 4 ZSU-23-4 `Shilka' self-propelled rocket launchers and with 4 `Strela
1' launchers (known in the West as the SA-9). These two systems complement
each other and are highly effective, the Shilka especially so. I have
watched a Shilka working from a stony, ploughed field, belching out an
uninterrupted blast of fire against small balloons released, without
warning, from a wood a couple of kilometres away. The results it achieved
were quite overwhelming. The British reference book, Jane's, is quite right
to describe the Shilka as the best in the world.
The officer in charge of the anti-aircraft defence of each motor-rifle
and tank regiment coordinates the operations of his battery and also those
of all the Strela-2 launchers.
Each motor-rifle and tank division has one SAM regiment, armed with
`Kub' (SA-6) or `Romb' (SA-8) rockets. Each Army has one SAM brigade, armed
with `Krug' (SA-4) rockets.
In addition to all these, a Front Commander has under his command two
SAM brigades with `Krug' rockets, several regiments with `Kubs' or `Rombs'
and several AAA regiments, armed with 57mm and 100mm anti-aircraft guns.


The Airborne Assault Troops

Although the Airborne Assault troops wear the same uniform as airborne
troops, they have no connection with them. Airborne troops are under the
direct control of the Supreme Commander; they use transport aircraft and
parachutes for their operations. By contrast, the Airborne Assault troops
form part of the Land Forces and are operationally subordinate to a Front
Commander. They are transported by helicopter and do not use parachutes.
Moreover, their sub-units use helicopters not only as a means of transport
but as fighting weapons.
In Soviet eyes, the helicopter has nothing in common with conventional
aircraft; it is regarded virtually as a tank. At first this may seem a
strange idea, but it is undeniably well founded. No aircraft can seize enemy
territory; this is done by tanks, artillery and infantry working together.
Helicopters are therefore regarded as belonging to the Land Forces, as tanks
which do not fear minefields, mountains or water obstacles, as tanks with
high fire-power and great speed but which have only limited protection.
The airborne assault troops were established in 1969. Their `father'
and guardian angel was Mao. If he had never existed nor would they. Soviet
generals had been pressing for their introduction since the beginning of the
1950s, but there were never sufficient resources for their creation and the
decision to bring them into service was postponed from one five-year plan to
another. However, in 1969, armed clashes took place on the frontier with
China, and Soviet generals declared that they could only defend a line 1,000
kilometres in length with tanks which could be concentrated within a few
hours at any one of the sectors of this enormous frontier. So the MI-24 made
its appearance—a flying tank which no weapon has yet managed to shoot down
in Afghanistan.
Military helicopters, which thus originated primarily as a weapon
against China, actually made their first appearance with the Soviet forces
in Eastern Europe. This was because the situation on the Chinese frontier
improved; that on the frontiers with the West can never improve.
Organisationally, the airborne assault troops consist of brigades,
subordinated to Front Commanders. Each brigade is made up of one helicopter
assault regiment (64 aircraft), one squadron of MI-26 heavy transport
helicopters and three airborne rifle battalions.
The airborne assault brigade is used in the main axis of advance of a
Front in conjunction with a Tank Army and under air cover provided by an Air
In addition to this brigade, a Front also has other airborne assault
subunits, which do not represent part of its establishment. Each Army has
one helicopter transport regiment, which is used to air-lift ordinary
motor-rifle sub-units behind the enemy's front line. In each motor-rifle
regiment, one battalion in three is trained, in peacetime, for operations
with helicopters. Thus each division has three battalions trained for this
purpose and each Army has thirteen such battalions.
Airborne assault forces are growing continually. Very soon we can
expect to see airborne assault brigades with every Army and airborne assault
divisions with every Front.


Diversionary Troops (SPETSNAZ)

Diversionary troops, too, wear the same uniform as airborne troops
without having any connection with them. Unlike airborne assault troops,
they are parachuted from aircraft into the enemy's rear areas. However, they
differ from normal airborne troops in not having heavy equipment and in
operating more covertly.
These SPETSNAZ forces form the airborne forces of the Land Forces. They
are used in the enemy's rear to carry out reconnaissance, to assassinate
important political or military figures and to destroy headquarters, command
posts, communications centres and nuclear weapons.
Each all-arms or tank army has one SPETSNAZ company, with a complement
of 115, of whom 9 are officers and 11 are ensigns. This company operates in
areas between 100 and 500 kilometres behind the enemy's front line. It
consists of a headquarters, three diversionary platoons and a communications
platoon. Depending on the tasks to be carried out, the officers and men of
the company divide into as many as 15 diversionary groups, but during an
operation they may work first as a single unit, then split into 3 or 4
groups, then into 15 and then back again into one.
Usually, SPETSNAZ companies are dropped the night before an Army begins
an advance, at a moment when the anti-aircraft and other resources of the
enemy are under greatest pressure. Thereafter, they operate ahead of the
advancing sub-units of the Army.
Each Front has a SPETSNAZ brigade, consisting of a headquarters company
and three diversionary battalions. In peace-time the SPETSNAZ companies of
the Armies of the Front are combined as a SPETSNAZ battalion, which explains
why it is sometimes thought that there are four battalions in each
diversionary brigade. In wartime this battalion would split into companies
which would join their respective Armies.
Each of the Front's three battalions operates in the enemy's rear in
exactly the same way as the SPETSNAZ companies of the Armies. Each battalion
can split into as many as 45 diversionary groups and the three together can
therefore produce a total of up to 135 small groups. But, if necessary, a
SPETSNAZ brigade can operate at full strength, using between 900 and 1,200
troops together against a single target. Such a target might be a nuclear
submarine base, a large headquarters, or even a national capital.
The headquarters company of a SPETSNAZ brigade is of particular
interest. Unlike both the SPETSNAZ battalions and normal Army companies, it
is made up of specialists—between 70 and 80 of them. This HQ company forms
part of the SPETSNAZ brigade and even many of the latter's officers may not
be aware of its existence. In peacetime this company of specialists is
concealed within the sports teams of the Military District. Boxing,
wrestling, karate, shooting, running, skiing, parachute jumping—these are
the sports they practice. As members of sports teams they travel abroad,
visiting places in which they would kill people in the event of a future
These Soviet sportsmen/parachutists, holders of most of the world's
sporting records, have visited every national capital. They have made their
parachute jumps near Paris, London and Rome, never concealing the fact that
the sporting association which has trained them is the Soviet Army. When
Munich, Rome and Helsinki applaud Soviet marksmen, wrestlers and boxers,
everyone assumes that these are amateurs. But they are not—they are
professionals, professional killers.
In addition to these small companies within the diversionary brigades
of the Fronts, there are also SPETSNAZ Long-Range Reconnaissance Regiments.
The Commander-in-Chief of each Strategic Direction has one of these
regiments. The best of these regiments is stationed in the Moscow Military
District. From time to time this regiment goes abroad in full strength. On
these occasions it goes under the title of the Combined Olympic Team of the
The KGB, as well as the Soviet Army, is training its diversionary
specialists. The difference, in peacetime, between the two groups is that
the Soviet Army contingent always belongs to the Central Army Sports Club
while those from the KGB are members of the `Dynamo' Sports Club. In the
event of war, the two diversionary networks would operate independently of
one another, in the interests of reliability and effectiveness. But a
description of the diversionary network of the KGB lies outside our field.


The Fortified Area Troops

For many decades, the problem of defence was not the Soviet Union's
first priority. All its resources were devoted to strengthening its striking
power and its offensive capabilities. But then China began to present a
challenge. Of course, both Soviet and Chinese leaders knew that Siberia
could never provide a solution to China's territorial problems. Siberia
looks large on the map but even the great conqueror Jenghiz Khan, who had
defeated Russia, China and Iran, by-passed Siberia, which is nothing more
than a snowy desert. Both Soviet and Chinese politicians realise—as do
their Western opposite numbers—that the solution of the Chinese territorial
problem lies in the colonisation of Australia. Nevertheless, the Soviet
Union takes steps to strengthen its frontiers, even though it is certain
that the West will be the first victim of China, as it was the first victim
of Hitler and of the Iranian students.
The Soviet Union knows from its own experience how peace-loving a
socialist country becomes when its economy, and consequently its army, is
weak. But it also knows what can be achieved by a country whose whole
economy has been nationalised—a country in which everything of value
belongs solely to the government and in which all resources can therefore be
concentrated in order to achieve a single goal. Knowing this, the Soviet
Communists are preparing for every possible contingency in good time.
In 1969 the problem of defending the 7,000 kilometre frontier with
China became particularly acute. The calculation involved was a simple one:
one division can hold a sector of 10 or, at the outside, of 15 kilometres of
the frontier. How many divisions would be needed to defend 7,000 kilometres?
Since there was no question of using the old methods of conducting
operations, new methods—new solutions—were found. We already know that one
of the most important of these was the establishment of the airborne assault
troops. A second was the introduction of a second arm of service—the
Fortified Area Troops. This represented a return to the age-old idea of
building fortresses.
Today's Soviet fortresses—the Fortified Areas—are either completely
new or are established in areas in which there were old defences, built
before the Second World War, which withstood repeated attacks by the
Japanese army.
Modern Fortified Areas are, of course, so constructed as to survive a
nuclear war. All fortifications have been strengthened against nuclear
attack and contain automatic systems for the detection of poisonous gas and
air filtration plants.
Today, the old reinforced concrete structures are hardly ever used for
operational purposes. Instead, they serve as underground command posts,
stores, barracks, assembly points, communications centres, or hospitals. All
operational structures are being newly built. Here the Soviet Union finds
itself in a very favourable situation, because it has retained tens of
thousands of old tanks. These are now installed in reinforced concrete
shelters so that only the turrets appear above the ground. The turrets
themselves are strengthened with additional armour plating, often taken from
obsolete warships. Sometimes the tops of turrets are covered with an
additional shield made of old railway lines; the whole is then carefully
camouflaged. Under the hull of the tank is a reinforced concrete magazine
for several hundred shells and a shelter for personnel. The whole forms an
excellent firing point, with a powerful (often 122mm) tank gun, two machine
guns, an excellent optical system, reliable defence against a nuclear blast
and an underground cable connecting it with the command post, With these
resources, two or three soldiers can defend several kilometres of frontier.
Since these tank turrets cover one another and since, in addition to them,
the fortified areas contain thousands of gun turrets taken from obsolete
warships, some of which contain quick-firing 6-barrelled 30mm guns, which
are uniquely effective against infantry and aircraft, it would clearly be
extremely difficult to break through such a line of defence. The Soviet
Union has bitter memories of the way little Finland was able to halt the
Soviet advance in this way in 1940.
Each fortified area is spaciously set out, to increase its ability to
withstand the effects of nuclear weapons. Organisationally, each fortified
area is manned by five or six battalions of troops, a tank battalion and an
artillery regiment and is able to cover a frontier sector of 30 to 50
kilometres or more. Clearly, it is not possible to fortify the entire
frontier in this way and fortified areas are therefore set up in the most
threatened sectors, the intervening territory being covered by nuclear and
chemical mines and by airborne assault sub-units, located in bases protected
by the fortified areas. This whole arrangement has already enabled the
Soviet Union to establish a defensive system covering enormous stretches of
territory, without having to move a single one of the divisions earmarked
for the liberation of Western Europe from capitalist oppression.

The Air Forces


The Air Forces are the fourth most important of the Armed Services.
There are two reasons for this low rating.
In the first place, the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Forces does not
control all aircraft. Those of the Air Defence Forces—which are the
fastest—are completely independent of the Air Forces. Those of the Navy,
which include the most modern bombers, also have no link with the Air
Forces. The airborne assault troops, as an integral part of the Land Forces,
have nothing to do with the Air Forces either.
Secondly, unlike the Commanders-in-Chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces
and the Air Defence Forces, the C-in-C of the Air Forces is not an
operational commander but an administrator.
Subordinated to the C-in-C of the Air Forces in peacetime are:

Sixteen Air Armies
The Commander of the Long-Range Air Force
The Commander of Military Transport Aviation
Two military academies, officers' training schools, scientific research
establishments, and test centres, administrative and supply echelons.
The total peacetime strength of the Air Forces is half a million men
and 10,000 military aircraft and helicopters. However, the apparent strength
of the C-in-C of the Air Forces is illusory. He is responsible for all
questions concerning the functioning of the Air Forces, from the development
of new aircraft to the allocation of rations for guard dogs, from the
training of cosmonauts to the propagation of experience acquired in Vietnam,
but he is in no way involved in questions concerning the operational use of
the aircraft under his command. This means that he is not an operational
Marshal, but an official and administrator, albeit one of very high rank.
In wartime all sixteen Air Armies become integral components of the
Fronts. Each Front has an Air Army, which it uses as it considers necessary.
Only the highest operational commanders—the C-in-C of a Strategic Direction
or the Supreme Commander—may interfere in a Front's operational planning
problems (including those of the Air Army belonging to it). The C-in-C of
the Air Forces may only advise the Supreme Commander if his advice is
sought; if not, his task is solely to ensure that the Air Armies receive all
the supplies they need to carry out their operations.
Nor is the Long-Range Air Force operationally controlled by the C-in-C
of the Air Forces. It is subordinated exclusively to the Supreme Commander,
who can either make use of its entire strength or allocate part of it,
temporarily, to the Commanders-in-Chief of Strategic Directions.
The same arrangement applies to Military Transport Aviation which is
entirely under the control of the Supreme Commander.
When control of all these forces is taken from the C-in-C of the Air
Forces, he is left only with military academies, training schools, research
centres, administrative echelons, hospitals and supply depots. He supplies
operational units with reinforcements of equipment and men, oversees the
supply of ammunition, fuel, and spare parts, investigates reasons for
catastrophes and does a thousand other useful jobs, but he does not direct
Even in peacetime the range of his responsibilities is similarly
limited. His Air Armies are deployed in Military Districts and are used in
accordance with the plans of their staffs. The General Staff decides how the
Long-Range Air Force and Military Transport Aviation are to be used.


In peacetime there are sixteen Air Armies. In wartime there would be
rather more, since some of them would be divided in two. An Air Army has a
strictly regulated organisation. It consists of:

Three fighter divisions
Two fighter-bomber divisions
One bomber division
One regiment of fighter/reconnaissance aircraft
One regiment of bomber/reconnaissance aircraft
One or two regiments of light transport aircraft

Fighter, fighter/reconnaissance and fighter-bomber sub-units have the
same organisational form: A flight has 4 aircraft, a squadron 12 (three
flights), a regiment 40 (three squadrons and a command flight), a division
124 (three regiments and a command flight). Bomber and bomber/reconnaissance
sub-units, too, are identically organised: A flight has 3 aircraft, a
squadron 9 (three flights), a regiment 30 (three squadrons and a command
flight), a division 93 (three regiments and a command flight).
In all, an Air Army has 786 combat aircraft and between 46 and 80 light
transport aircraft. In the fighter, fighter-bomber and bomber regiments of
its divisions, the first squadron contains the best pilots, bomb-aimers and
air crew. It is a great honour to serve in such a squadron. The second
squadron is trained in reconnaissance duties as well as in its main
functions. If necessary, the commander of an Air Army can put in the air,
besides two reconnaissance regiments (70 aircraft), 18 squadrons, of what
might be called `amateur' reconnaissance aircrew (207 aircraft). Each third
squadron is made up of young airmen. After the latter have put in some years
of service in this third squadron, the commander of the regiment decides who
shall join the `aces' in the first squadron, who shall go to the second, for
reconnaissance duties, and who shall stay in the third, among the novices.
The best crews from the second squadron graduate to the reconnaissance
regiments, where they become professionals rather than amateurs.


This is all very well, the informed reader may say, but in the 37th Air
Army, which is stationed in Poland, there are two rather than six divisions,
while the 16th Air Army, in East Germany, has eight divisions. Moreover,
neither of these has a regiment of light transport aircraft; instead they
have helicopter regiments. What is the significance of this?
It is quite simple. In wartime a Front would be deployed in Poland. It
would contain an Air Army. The Army's headquarters and two Soviet division's
are already there. In wartime the complement would be brought up to strength
with divisions of the Polish Air Forces. In peacetime the latter should be
allowed to believe themselves independent.
In East Germany two Fronts would be deployed and the 16th Air Army
would therefore be split into two (this is always done during exercises).
Each Army would contain four Soviet divisions, the complement being made up
with divisions of the East German Air Forces. In peacetime the two Armies
are combined because of the need for unified control over all air movement
in East German air space and also in order to conceal the existence of two
In wartime each Soviet motor-rifle and tank division will have 4
helicopters and every all-arms and tank Army will have 12. In peacetime it
is best to keep them together, which reduces supply and training problems.
This is why there are helicopter regiments in Air Armies. But at the
outbreak of war the helicopters would fly off to their respective
motor-rifle or tank divisions and Armies. The commanders of helicopter
regiments would then be left without jobs. At this point they would be sent
light transport aircraft, which would come from the civil air fleet. The
pilots of these would be only half-militarised but highly experienced; the
commanders are already military men. In wartime these regiments would be
used to drop the diversionary sub-units of the Front and of its Armies
behind the enemy's lines. For experienced civil pilots this is not a
particularly difficult task and the aircraft which they would be flying
would be those they fly in peacetime.


The Long-Range Air Force (LRAF) consists of three Corps, each of three
divisions. Some Western sources mistakenly refer to these Corps as Armies.
Each LRAF division has approximately 100 combat aircraft and a corps
consists, on average, of 300 strategic bombers, which can carry
air-to-ground missiles.
The commander of the LRAF is subordinated to the C-in-C of the Air
Forces only for administrative purposes. Operationally he is subordinate
solely to the Supreme Commander.
There are three Strategic Directions. There are also three LRAF corps,
which are deployed in such a way that each Strategic Direction can have
access to one corps. During combat operations an LRAF corps may be
temporarily subordinated to the C-in-C of a Strategic Direction or it may
carry out operations to support him, while remaining under the command of
the Supreme Commander.
However, the Soviet marshals would not plan to conduct operations in
every sector simultaneously, but would concentrate on one. It is therefore
possible that in wartime all 900 strategic bombers might be concentrated
against one opponent.

Military Transport Aviation

The Military Transport Aviation (MTA) force consists of six divisions
and several independent regiments. It has approximately 800 heavy transport
and troop-carrying aircraft. Its main task is to land airborne forces in the
enemy's rear.
Like the LRAF, the MTA is subordinated to the C-in-C of the Air Forces
for administrative purposes only. Operationally, the MTA is subordinated to
the Supreme Commander and it can be used only on his instructions, in
accordance with the plans of the General Staff.
The MTA has a huge reserve organisation—Aeroflot, the largest airline
in the world. Even in peacetime, the head of Aeroflot has the rank of
Marshal of the Air Force and the function of Deputy to the C-in-C of the Air
Forces. Organisationally, even in peacetime, Aeroflot is divided into
squadrons, regiments and divisions and all its aircrew have ranks as
officers of the reserve. In wartime Aeroflot's heavy aircraft would
automatically become part of MTA, while its light aircraft would become
transport regiments for the Air Armies of the Fronts. Even in peacetime
Aeroflot helicopters are painted light green, as they would be in the
divisions of an operational army.

Why does the West consider Admiral Gorshkov a strong man?


Of the five Armed Services the Navy ranks as fifth and last in
importance. This certainly does not mean that the Navy is weak—simply that
the other armed services are stronger.
In all, the Soviet Navy has four fleets: Northern, Pacific, Baltic and
Black Sea, in order of strength.
Each of the four fleets has six arms of service:

Naval Aviation
Surface Ships
Diversionary SPETSNAZ naval sub-units
Coastal Rocket and Artillery Troops
Marine infantry

The first two of these are considered the primary arms of service; the
remainder, including surface ships, are seen as auxiliary forces.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy has a purely administrative
function, since the Northern Fleet is subordinated, for operational
purposes, to the Stavka and the three other fleets to the C-in-Cs of the
respective Strategic Directions. In addition to his administrative function,
however, the C-in-C of the Navy is the Stavka's main adviser on the
operational use of the Navy. In certain situations, too, on the instructions
from the Stavka, he may direct groups of ships operating in the open sea.
But he has no independent operational planning function; this is entirely
the responsibility of the General Staff.


Soviet naval strength is based on submarines. These are divided by
function, into submarines used for:

ballistic rockets
cruise missiles

They are further classified according to their method of
propulsion—nuclear or diesel-electric. The building of diesel-electric
submarines (except for some used for diversionary or reconnaissance
purposes) has been halted. Henceforth all Soviet submarines will have
nuclear propulsion.
Nuclear submarines are grouped in divisions, each of 8 to 12. All the
submarines in a division have the same type of armament. A flotilla consists
of 4 to 5 divisions. They have mixed complements and may consist of between
35 and 64 nuclear submarines with varying functions.
Diesel-electric submarines are organised in brigades each of 8 to 16.
Brigades may form divisions (2 to 3 brigades) or squadrons (4 to 6


Each fleet has a naval aviation component designated, for instance,
`Naval Aviation of the Northern Fleet'. Each such component is made up of
air divisions and of independent regiments and is the equivalent of an Air
Army. Each fleet's naval aviation normally includes a division armed with
long-range air-to-surface missiles, for operation against enemy aircraft
carriers, one or two divisions of long-range anti-submarine aircraft and
independent regiments with anti-submarine seaplanes, torpedo-bombers,
reconnaissance aircraft and supply and transport aircraft. In the last few
years regiments of deck-landing aircraft and helicopters have been formed.


The Soviet Navy must be the only one in the world in which a
nuclear-propelled cruiser, armed with missiles, is relegated to an auxiliary
category. In fact, every Soviet surface ship, whether it is a battleship or
a missile-cruiser, ranks as auxiliary (the exception is the aircraft carrier
which is considered as a part of the naval air force). Perhaps this is
correct; in a global war submarines and aircraft would play the primary
roles. All other forces would work to support them. And, no matter how the
number of Soviet surface ships may grow, Soviet submarines will always
outnumber them. Moreover there has recently been a noticeable trend towards
an increase in the displacement of submarines and it is quite possible that
they will eventually surpass the surface ships in tonnage, too, and will
maintain their superiority permanently.
Soviet surface ships are organised in groups (for small ships only),
brigades (medium-size ships and groups of smaller ones), divisions and
In the next few years, the Soviet Navy will be enlarged by the
acquisition of a series of large nuclear-propelled missile cruisers.
Intensive work is being put into the design and building of large
nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers. Ships like the Moskva and the Kiev have
only been built in order to acquire the experience needed before really
large ships are built. Particular attention will be paid to the building of
large landing ships which are capable of a high degree of independence. The
construction of small surface ships will continue. Despite the enormous
progress which has been made in building surface ships, however, they will
continue to be classified as auxiliary forces.


The presence of diversionary SPETSNAZ sub-units in the Soviet Navy is a
closely guarded secret. Yet they exist and have done so for a long time.
Already by the end of the 1950s each Fleet had its own SPETSNAZ diversionary
brigade, under the direct command of the Third Department of the
Intelligence Directorate at Naval Headquarters.
A diversionary brigade has one division of miniature submarines, two or
three battalions of frogmen, a parachute battalion and a communications
company. It forms an entirely independent combat unit and an independent arm
of service within the fleet. For camouflage purposes, its members sometimes
wear the uniform of the marine infantry. In other circumstances they may
wear any other type of uniform, again as camouflage. The parachutists wear
Naval Aviation uniform, the crews of the miniature submarines, of course,
that of ordinary submarine crews, the remainder that of seagoing personnel,
coastal artillery forces, etc.
Again for camouflage purposes, the personnel of a diversionary brigade
is dispersed between several naval bases. This does not prevent it from
functioning as a unified combat organisation. In wartime these brigades
would be used against enemy naval installations, in the first place against
nuclear submarine bases. Groups of diversionary troops may operate from
surface ships or from large submarines or may be landed from aircraft. In
addition, a unit of large fishing trawlers would be mobilised in wartime to
launch and to support operations by miniature submarines. The compartments
of these trawlers, designed to hold large catches, are ideal for the rapid
launch or recovery of miniature submarines and small diversionary craft.
The diversionary SPETSNAZ brigades of the Navy, like those serving with
Fronts, each have as part of their complement a headquarters company of
specialists, whose primary task is the assassination of political and
military leaders. These companies are disguised as naval athletic teams.
These `sportsmen' are, naturally, keen on rowing, swimming and scuba-diving
as well as on shooting, boxing, wrestling, running and karate.
As a well-known example we can quote Senior Lieutenant Valentin
Yerikalin, of the SPETSNAZ brigade of the Black Sea Fleet, who won a silver
medal for rowing at the Olympic Games held in Mexico City. There was no
attempt to conceal the fact that Yerikalin was a naval officer and a member
of the Central Army Sports Club. Some years later this `sportsman' turned up
in Istanbul, having now become a diplomat. He was arrested by the Turkish
police for trying to recruit a Turkish subject to work for the Black Sea
Fleet, or, more precisely, for the diversionary brigade of this Fleet.


The Navy's coastal rocket and artillery troops consist of regiments and
independent battalions. They are equipped with both stationary and mobile
rocket launchers and with artillery weapons. Their task is to cover the
approaches to principal naval bases and ports.


Each Fleet has Marine Infantry contingents, consisting of regiments and
brigades. In their organisation, these regiments are similar to the
motor-rifle regiments of the Land Forces. They differ from the latter in
receiving special training for operating in varying conditions and also in
being allocated personnel of a higher calibre. Generals from the Land Forces
who have watched exercises carried out by the marine infantry often say,
with some envy, that a regiment of marine infantry, with the same equipment
as that issued to the Land Forces, is the equivalent in its operational
potential of one of the latter's motor-rifle divisions.
The Soviet Navy has only one brigade of marine infantry. This belongs
to the Pacific Fleet. It consists of two tank and five motor-rifle
battalions and is equipped with especially heavy artillery. This brigade is
sometimes mistakenly taken for two independent regiments of marine infantry.
The Soviet marine infantry has a very promising future. In the next few
years it will receive new types of equipment which will enable it to put
large units into action against distant targets. Special combat equipment is
being developed for such operations by the marine infantry.


In our examination of the Soviet Navy we must bear in mind a myth which
is widely believed in the West—`The Soviet Navy was weak until a strong
man, Gorshkov, arrived and brought it up to its proper strength'. This
presumption is untrue in several respects.
Until the Second World War, Soviet Communist expansion was directed at
states adjacent to the USSR—Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland,
Germany, Romania, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, China.
Understandably, in this situation, the senior officers of the Navy wielded
little influence, for no one would allow them to build up the Navy at the
expense of the Land or Air Forces. For the USSR, the Second World War was a
land war, and during the first few years after the war, Communist
aggression, too, remained entirely land-based—Czechoslovakia, Romania,
Hungary, Turkey, Greece, Korea, China. If Gorshkov had appeared during this
period, no one would have allowed him to become all-powerful. During the
first few years after the war too, there was another problem of overriding
urgency—that of catching up with the United States in the fields of nuclear
weapons and of delivery systems for them. Until this problem was solved,
there could be no question of allowing Gorshkov to build a navy.
The situation changed radically at the end of the 1950s.
Throughout the world, Communist land-based aggression was running into
opposition from a wall of states bonded together in military blocs. At this
point, the acquisition of a navy became necessary if the campaign of
aggression was to continue. Expansion was continuing beyond the seas and
across oceans—in Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Africa, Cuba and South America.
In this situation, even if the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy had not wished
to expand his fleets, he would have been forced to do so. Until the war, the
main threat to the USSR had come from continental powers—from Germany,
France and Japanese-occupied Manchuria. After the war the United States
became the main enemy. Of course, anyone occupying Gorshkov's position would
have received billions of additional rubles to use in the struggle against
the USA. At the beginning of the 1960s it was established that a nuclear
submarine provided an excellent platform for rockets. A start was made with
their production. Of course, they would not be at Gorshkov's disposal but he
was given the green light to develop conventional naval forces with which to
protect them.
One final point. The Politburo had realised quite clearly, early on and
without help from Gorshkov, that the great sea powers, Great Britain, the
United States and Japan, would take the place of Germany and France as the
main enemies of the Soviet Union. It was for this reason that in July 1938
the Politburo adopted a resolution `On the construction of an ocean-going
fleet'. (At that time Gorshkov was only the commander of a destroyer.) In
accordance with the resolution, a start was made with the building of
aircraft carriers like the Krasnoye Znamya and with giant battleships like
the Sovetskiy Soyuz and cruisers like the Shapayev.
Germany entered the Second World War with 57 submarines, Great Britain
with 58, Japan with 56 and the United States with 99. According to its own
figures, the Soviet Union had 212 when it came into the war, although
American engineers, who built these submarines, estimate that it had 253.
The Soviet Navy had 2,824 aircraft in 1941, the coastal artillery had 260
batteries, including some 406mm guns. All this was before Gorshkov. The war
put a brake on the shipbuilding programme and after its end the building of
all the large ships laid down before the war was discontinued, since they
had become obsolete.
However, the Politburo understood the need for an ocean-going navy and
a new shipbuilding programme, of which we can see the results today, was
approved in September 1955. This programme pre-dated Gorshkov. He was simply
empowered to carry out a programme which had been authorised before his
There is no doubt that Gorshkov is a strong-willed and purposeful
admiral, but this counts for little in the USSR. No admiral would be allowed
to advocate this or that step if the Politburo thought differently from him.
Finally, no matter how powerful the West may consider Gorshkov, the
fact remains that the Soviet Navy ranks as fifth of the five Armed Services.

The Airborne Forces


The Airborne Forces (ABF) do not rank as one of the Armed Services but
as an arm of service. However they are an independent arm of service, and do
not belong to any of the Armed Services. In peacetime they are subordinated
directly to the Minister of Defence and in wartime to the Supreme Commander.
At present there are only 13 formations in the world which one can call
`Airborne Divisions'. The US, West Germany, France, China and Poland each
have one. The remaining 8 belong to the Soviet Union.
The airborne divisions are directed, for both administrative and
operational purposes, by a Commander. His post is of unique importance.
Although he commands only 8 divisions, he has the rank of General of the
Army, the same as that held by the Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces,
who has 170 divisions under his command.
In peacetime, all the ABF divisions are up to their full wartime
complement and staffed by the best troops. The ABF have first choice of
personnel, before even the Strategic Rocket Forces and the Navy's submarine
ABF troops may operate under the control of the C-in-C of Strategic
Directions, in groups of 1 to 3 divisions, or they may function
If 1 to 3 divisions are to be used for an airdrop in a particular
sector their operations are coordinated by an ABF corps command group, which
is established temporarily for this purpose. One of the ABF Commander's
deputies commands the corps. If 4 or 5 divisions are to be used, a temporary
ABF Army command group is established. This may be headed by the Commander
of the ABF himself, or by one of his deputies.
The entire strength of Military Transport Aviation of the Air Forces is
controlled by the Commander of the ABF while an airborne assault operation
is taking place.
Each-ABF division consists of:

Three parachute regiments
A reconnaissance battalion (18 armoured reconnaissance vehicles)
A battalion of self-propelled artillery (32 airborne assault guns)
An anti-tank battalion (18 85mm guns)
A howitzer battalion (18 122mm guns)
A battalion of multiple rocket launchers (18 BM 27-Ds)
An anti-aircraft battalion (32 ZSU-23-4s)
A communications battalion
A motor transport battalion
A battalion responsible for the storage and packing of supply-dropping
A chemical warfare company
An engineer company

A parachute regiment has three battalions and mortar, anti-aircraft,
anti-tank, and self-propelled artillery batteries.
All the battalions in one regiment of a division are equipped with
BMD-1 armoured personnel carriers. Two other regiments have one battalion
each of BMD-1s and two of light motor vehicles. Thus, of the nine parachute
battalions in a division, five have armoured vehicles of great
manoeuvrability and considerable fire-power, the remaining four have light
vehicles. In all, a parachute division has 180 armoured personnel carriers,
62 self-propelled guns, 18 multiple rocket launchers, 36 field guns, 45
mortars, 54 anti-aircraft guns, more than 200 anti-aircraft rocket launchers
and more than 300 anti-tank rocket launchers. The division is fully
motorised, with more than 1,500 vehicles. Its average peacetime complement
is 7,200.


There has been discussion for some considerable time, in both the
Soviet General Staff and the Central Committee, of the question of
transforming the ABF into a sixth, independent Armed Service.
It is envisaged that such a Service would have four or five parachute
divisions, a large contingent of transport aircraft, several
newly-established divisions of marine infantry, units of landing ships and
several aircraft carriers with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
Experience has shown that the USSR has not enough forces equipped and
trained for armed intervention in a territory which is separated from it by
an ocean and that it is unprepared for such an undertaking. There are many
examples—Cuba, Indonesia, South Africa, Chile, Central America. A new Armed
Service of the sort described would enable the Soviet Union to intervene
effectively in such areas.
As its internal crises become more acute, the aggressiveness of the
Soviet Union increases. For this reason it appears probable that the sixth
Armed Service will be created in the next few years.

Inside the Soviet Army (II)


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