Inside the Soviet Army (II) by Victor Suvorov (1982)
Inside the Soviet Military (II) by Victor Suvorov (1982)
Military Intelligence and its Resources
Soviet Military Intelligence is neither an Armed Service nor an Arm of Service. It has no uniform or identifying badge or emblem. Nor are these needed. Intelligence is a logistical support service, like the services concerned with nuclear warheads or camouflage or disinformation.
All these services are secret and do not need publicity. Each of them adopts the appearance of the unit in which it finds itself and becomes indistinguishable from it.
Soviet military intelligence is a gigantic organisation, which performs a vast range of tasks. In numbers and technical equipment it is approximately the size of the Bundeswehr--the entire armed services of the Federal German Republic.
In action, decisions are taken by commanding officers, ranging from those in charge of sections to the Supreme Commander. The plans on which these decisions are based are prepared for the commanding officer by his staff. He then either approves the plan or rejects it and orders that another one should be prepared. All commanding officers from battalion level upwards have staffs. The chief of staff is both his commander’s principal adviser and his deputy. Staffs vary in size according to the importance of the unit--a battalion has a staff of two, and the General Staff numbers tens of thousands. In spite of this, the work of any staff proceeds according to the same plan.
The first officer on the staff plans operations, the second officer provides him with the information he needs about the enemy. The chief of staff coordinates the work of these two, helps them, checks their work, prepares a plan with their help and presents it to the commander, who either accepts or rejects it.
On a battalion staff the chief of staff and the first officer are one and the same. The staff of a regiment consists of a chief of staff, a first officer and a second officer, who is in charge of intelligence work. On a divisional staff the first and second officers have their own working groups. An Army staff has first and second departments. The staff of a Front and of a Strategic Direction has First and Second Directorates. The General Staff has First and Second Chief Directorates.
Staffs also have other departments, directorates or Chief Directorates but the work of the first component--planning--and of the second--intelligence--form the backbone of any staff.
All intelligence work (which includes reconnaissance) from battalion level to the very top, is thus wholly in the hands of the staff officers concerned and represents one of the most important components of the work of the staff.
Those employed on intelligence and reconnaissance work can be divided into `professionals'--those whose basic function it is--and `amateurs'--those who are employed on intelligence work from time to time and for whom it is an additional rather than their main occupation.
The intelligence and reconnaissance resources of a battalion are not large. A motor-rifle battalion has a mortar battery, with a command platoon, which includes an artillery reconnaissance section. This section works for the mortar battery, reporting all the results which it obtains both to the battery commander and to the second officer on the battalion's staff, who is responsible for all reconnaissance work in the battalion. This is all. All the personnel involved are `professionals'. In a tank battalion there is no mortar battery and therefore no `professionals'. But there are `amateurs'. In each motor-rifle or tank battalion the second company, besides carrying out its normal duties, is trained for reconnaissance operations behind the enemy's lines. During an action any of the platoons of the second company may be detailed for reconnaissance tasks for the battalion. Sometimes the whole second company may be detached to carry out reconnaissance tasks for the regiment.
The second officer on the staff of a regiment has the title `Regimental Intelligence Officer'. He is a major and the resources at his disposal are not inconsiderable.
Directly under his command is the regiment’s reconnaissance company, which has 4 tanks, 7 armoured vehicles (BMP `Korshun' or BRDM-3) and 9 motorcycles.
In addition the regiment has an artillery battalion, anti-tank, rocket and anti-aircraft batteries. All these have resources sufficient to meet their own requirements for artillery reconnaissance and observation and the information which they produce is also sent to regimental headquarters.
The regiment also has an engineer company with a reconnaissance platoon and a chemical warfare company with a CW reconnaissance platoon. The specialized reconnaissance activities of these platoons are of primary benefit to the engineer and CW companies but since they are engaged in reconnaissance they are controlled by the regimental intelligence officer (RIO).
Finally, the latter is in charge of the second officers on the staffs of the regiment's battalions. These officers work for their battalions but are subordinated to and fully controlled by the RIO. During combat operations, at the direction of the commander of the regiment, the `amateur' companies from any of the battalions can be subordinated to the RIO, to work for the regiment as a whole. Thus, the regiment’s `professional' reconnaissance company may be joined at any time by a second tank company and by the three second companies from the motor-rifle battalions.
In a battle, a regiment's reconnaissance companies operate at ranges of up to 50 kilometres away. Both the `professional' and the `amateur' companies have BMP or BRDM vehicles for CW, engineer and artillery reconnaissance work. The fact that these vehicles are always with what are purely reconnaissance sub-units has led to the idea that they are an integral part of these units. But this is not so. The CW reconnaissance platoon is taken from the CW company, the engineer reconnaissance platoon from the engineer company and so forth. Quite simply, it would be both pointless and dangerous to send special reconnaissance sub-units behind the enemy lines unprotected. For this reason they always operate with normal tank and motor-rifle reconnaissance sub-units, which protect and are temporarily in command of them.
During reconnaissance operations, all reconnaissance sub-units work covertly, keeping away from concentrations of enemy troops and always avoiding contact. They operate to achieve surprise, working from ambushes to capture prisoners and documents and they also carry out observation of the enemy. They accept battle only when they clash unexpectedly with the enemy, and if it is impossible to avoid contact or to escape. If they do find themselves in contact with superior numbers of the enemy they will often disperse, meeting again some hours later at an agreed spot in order to resume their mission.
There is one situation in which reconnaissance sub-units would accept battle, whatever the circumstances. If they encountered enemy nuclear forces (missile launchers, nuclear artillery, convoys or stores of nuclear warheads) they would report that they had located the target, would discontinue their reconnaissance mission and would launch a surprise attack on the enemy, with all their resources, whatever this might cost and whatever the strength of the enemy's defences.
A divisional intelligence officer--the second officer on a divisional staff--has the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He has very considerable resources at his disposal. In the first place he is in charge of all the regimental intelligence officers, in the division, with all their subordinates, both `professional' and `amateur'. He supervises artillery reconnaissance and observation, which in a division is already of sizeable proportions. He is also in charge of the engineer reconnaissance company of the division's sapper battalion and of the CW reconnaissance company in the division’s CW protection battalion. In addition, he has personal control of the division's reconnaissance battalion.
To coordinate the workings of all these resources (more than a thousand `professionals' and more than fifteen hundred `amateurs') a divisional intelligence officer has a group of officers, which has the designation `Second Group of the Divisional Staff'.
The reconnaissance battalion of a division is made up of the division's best soldiers and officers--the fittest, toughest, most quick-witted and resourceful. It has four companies and auxiliary sub-units.
The first of these, a long-range, reconnaissance company, is the smallest and the most ready for battle of the 166 companies and batteries in the division. It has a strength of 27, 6 of whom are officers and the remainder sergeants. It has a commander, a company sergeant-major and five long-range reconnaissance groups each consisting of an officer and four sergeants. These groups can operate far behind the enemy lines. They may be landed by helicopter or may push through into the enemy's rear in jeeps or light armoured vehicles after following close behind their own troops and then passing them and moving on far ahead. Long-range reconnaissance groups are used both to gather intelligence and to carry out diversionary and terrorist operations.
The battalion's second and third companies have the same organizational structure as the reconnaissance companies of regiments and use the same equipment and tactics, but unlike them they operate at distances of up to 100 kilometres ahead of the front line.
The fourth company is the `radio and radar reconnaissance' or signals intelligence company. Its function is to detect and locate enemy radio transmitters, to intercept and decipher their transmissions and to locate, identify and study the enemy's radar stations. In peacetime, the great majority of these companies are already on an operational footing. In the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, for instance, there are 19 tank and motor-rifle divisions. These contain 19 reconnaissance battalions, each of which has one signals intelligence company. All these companies have been moved, in peacetime, up to the border with West Germany and are working at full stretch, twenty-four hours a day, collecting and analysing any radio signal which is transmitted in their operational area. The same applies to all the other, similar companies of the divisions which are stationed on Soviet territory and in all the frontier military districts. In a number of cases, the signals intelligence companies of divisions in military districts away from the frontier have been moved into frontier districts and are working operationally, supplementing and duplicating the work of other similar companies.
The second officer of the staff of an Army has the rank of colonel. To control the Army's reconnaissance work he has his own department, the Second Department of the Army Staff. Because an Army has so many reconnaissance resources and because these differ so widely one from the other, the department is divided into four groups.
The first group is concerned with the reconnaissance activity of the motor-rifle and tank divisions of the Army and also of the Army's independent brigades and regiments.
Army reconnaissance departments have no second group. The third group is concerned with diversionary and terrorist operations. Under its control is an independent SPETSNAZ company, the organisation and functions of which have already been discussed.
The fourth group deals with the processing of all the information which is received.
The fifth group directs radio and radar reconnaissance. It controls two electronic intelligence battalions. It also coordinates the operations carried out in this field by the Army's divisions. Needless to say, all signals intelligence battalions are working operationally in peacetime. In East Germany, for instance, there are 5 Soviet Armies, that is to say 10 electronic intelligence battalions, which keep a constant watch on the enemy, in addition to the 19 companies which are on the strength of the divisions of these Armies.
A Front is made up of two or three all-arms armies and of a tank and an air army. It possesses a large quantity of reconnaissance resources—enough to equal the intelligence services of a large European industrial state.
The second officer of a Front's staff is a major-general. To control the reconnaissance and intelligence activities of the Front he has a reconnaissance directorate (the Front's Second Directorate), which has five departments.
The first of these controls the reconnaissance work of all the Armies belonging to the Front, including that carried out by the Air Army, which have already discussed.
The second department carries out agent work, for which it maintains an Intelligence Centre, working on behalf of the Armies making up the Front, since these do not run agents, and three or four intelligence outposts. The centre and the outposts are hard at work, in peacetime, obtaining intelligence in the territory in which the Front would operate in wartime. The Soviet Army has a total of 16 military districts, 4 groups of forces, and 4 fleets. Each of these has a staff with a Second Directorate, which itself has a second department. There are thus 24 of these; each of them constitutes an independent agent running intelligence organisation, which is active on the territories of several foreign countries, working separately from any other similar services. Each of them has four or five individual agent-running organisations which seek to recruit foreigners who will work for the Front or for its tank armies, fleet, flotilla or all-arms armies.
The third department of each of these 24 Reconnaissance Directorates concerns itself with diversionary and terrorist activities. The department supervises activity of this sort in the armies of the Front but also has its own men and equipment. It has a SPETSNAZ diversionary brigade and a SPETSNAZ diversionary agent network of foreign nationals, who have been recruited to work for the Front in the latter’s operational area in wartime. Thus, in both peace and wartime the officer in charge of the reconnaissance and intelligence work of a Front or Fleet has two completely separate secret networks, one, which gathers intelligence, controlled by the second department of the Directorate and another, concerned with diversionary and terrorist operations, which is subordinated to the third department.
The fourth department collates all the reconnaissance and intelligence material which is produced.
The fifth department is concerned with the radio and reconnaissance work of the divisions and armies and also has two regiments and a helicopter squadron of its own which also carry out signals intelligence operations.
A Strategic Direction is made up of four Fronts, one Fleet and a Group of Tank Armies. Its staff contains a Reconnaissance Directorate, headed by a lieutenant-general. We already know that he has at his disposal a diversionary SPETSNAZ long-range reconnaissance regiment, containing Olympic medal-winners, most of whom are not only professional athletes but professional killers. The Reconnaissance Directorate also has an entire range of reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering equipment, one of which deserves special mention.
This is the `Yastreb' pilotless rocket aircraft, which is launched from a mobile rocket launcher and which carries out photo- and radio-reconnaissance at heights of more than 30 kilometres, flying at speeds in excess of 3,500 kilometres per hour. From Byelorussia the `Yastreb' has successfully carried out photographic reconnaissance over Spain, Great Britain and the French Atlantic seaboard. Its appearance at the beginning of the 1970s caused alarm at NATO headquarters. It was mistakenly identified as a MIG-25R. After a MIG 25 had appeared in Japan and had been carefully examined, the experts came to the conclusion that this aircraft had insufficient operational radius to fly over Western Europe. It was realized that there had been a false alarm and in order not to cause another one the Soviet Union discontinued flights by the `Yastreb' in peacetime. However, it is still being used over China, Asia and Africa and over the oceans. Having the invulnerability of a rocket and the precision of an aircraft, the `Yastreb' would also make an excellent vehicle for a nuclear warhead. Unlike a rocket it can be used again and again.
The second officer of the General Staff has the title of Head of the Chief Intelligence Directorate (GRU). He is a full General of the Army. Besides controlling the intelligence and reconnaissance resource subordinated to him, he has his own, incomparably huge intelligence network.
The GRU works for the Supreme Commander. It carries out espionage on a scale
unparalleled in history. It is enough to record that during World War II the
GRU was able, with its own resources, to penetrate the German General Staff
from Switzerland and to steal nuclear secrets from the United States, and
that after the war it was able to induce France to leave NATO, besides
carrying out many less risky operations. The work of the GRU’s agent
networks is controlled by the first four Directorates, each of which is
headed by a lieutenant-general. The processing of all information reaching
the GRU is carried out by an enormous organisation which is grouped into six
Information Directorates. Today the Head of the GRU has two separate,
world-wide, intelligence organisations, a colossal number of electronic
intelligence centres, centrally controlled diversionary units and so on and
However, the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff is a subject which calls for a substantial book to itself.
Staffs are of different types. The smallest is that of a battalion, the
largest is the General Staff. But each has its own intelligence and
reconnaissance resources, just as each brain has its own eyes and ears. The
higher staffs control the lower ones and the corresponding higher
intelligence organisations direct those below them. At all levels, the
intelligence and reconnaissance organisations work for their respective
staffs, but if intelligence which is received is of interest to either a
higher or a lower echelon, it is passed on immediately.
Here is a particularly interesting example of such coordination.
In the summer of 1943, the Red Army was preparing to halt the
enormously powerful German advance. In the Kursk salient seven Soviet Fronts
were simultaneously preparing their defences.
The overall coordination of operations in the Strategic Direction was
in the hands of Marshal G. K. Zhukov. Never in the history of warfare had
such a defence system been set up, on a front more than a thousand
kilometres in length. The overall depth of the obstacles erected by the
engineers was 250-300 kilometres. On an average, 7,000 anti-tank and
anti-personnel mines were laid along every kilometre of the front. For the
first time the AT artillery density reached 41 guns per kilometre. In
addition, field guns and anti-aircraft guns were brought up for use against
tanks. It was already impossible to break through such a front.
Nevertheless, the German command decided to try to do so. But, they were
only able to bring together a million men and officers to carry out the
operation, and they were unable to achieve surprise. On the night of 5 June
a reconnaissance group from one of the thousands of Soviet battalions
captured a German lance-corporal who had been clearing a passage through
barbed wire obstacles. The Soviet battalion was immediately put on the alert
and the second officer on its staff decided to inform the regimental
intelligence officer of what had happened. The regiment was brought to
battle readiness straight away and the news of the capture of the
lance-corporal was transmitted to the intelligence group of the divisional
staff and from there to the staff of the corps, to the staff of the 13th
Army, straight from there to the Central Front headquarters and thence to
the Headquarters of the Strategic Direction, to Marshal Zhukov and finally
to the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff. It took
twenty-seven minutes for the message to pass from the battalion staff to the
Chief Intelligence Directorate. The news was astonishing. If the enemy was
clearing passages through barbed wire, he must be preparing to advance. But
only an immense offensive could be contemplated against such a mighty
defensive system. And immense it was--but it ended in complete disaster.
The Distorting Mirror
At the time of the siege of Sevastopol, Nicholas I attempted to make
the shameful Crimean war seem more acceptable. But nothing came of his
efforts: the Russian newspapers printed not what the government wanted but
what their journalists saw with their own eyes. More than that--it was not
only journalists who wrote in the Russian newspapers and journals about the
war but officers of the Russian army--actual participants in the war.
Lev Tolstoy, then a very young officer, wrote Sevastopol Stories, in
which, in contrast to the government's propaganda, he described the war as
he saw it for himself. At that time, of course, there was no freedom, let
alone democracy. Yet, surprisingly, the young officer was not hanged, or
disembowelled with a ramrod or banished to Siberia--he was not even
dismissed from the army. He continued his military career, most
Tolstoy was not an exception. Look at the newspapers from that time and
you will be surprised to see how Russian officers, even generals, wrote in
almost every issue criticising their own government for lethargy and
clumsiness and for their inability to rule the country or direct the army.
Lev Tolstoy stood out from all the critics of the regime only because he was
more talented than the rest.
During the Russo-Japanese war the Tsarist government tried once again
to make the war seem attractive. It was hopeless. The Russian newspapers
totally rejected all attempts to embroider reality. They published not what
the Tsar wanted but what eye-witnesses had seen. One of them, an uneducated
sailor from the battleship Orel, Novikov, gathered a mass of material about
the blunders of the Russian Naval Staff and of the admirals who had taken
part in the war and, without any fear of the consequences, began to publish
it. It sold like hot cakes and Novikov made a lot of money out of his
criticisms of the Russian government and of the Tsar himself. Did they cut
off his head? Not at all; he bought a large house by the sea in Yalta, right
next door to the Tsar, and lived there, writing his books, the best of which
By the time of the First World War, the government was no longer making
any great efforts to colour reality. A certain Vladimir Ulyanov, a student
who had not obtained his degree, and who concealed his identity behind the
pseudonym `Lenin', began to publish Communist newspapers, in editions of
millions, exposing every attempt to mislead the public. His newspapers were
free, although it cost millions of gold roubles to print them. Where did
such a half-educated man lay his hands on so much money?
But then the anarchy came to an end. The Tsar was overthrown, the
bourgeoisie were driven off and the people inherited everything. Publishing
houses, being large undertakings, were immediately nationalised. From then
on the newspapers began to contain not whatever might come into someone's
head but what the people really needed, and whatever would benefit the
people. Since, naturally, the people as a whole cannot run a newspaper, it
is run by the best representatives of the people. They take great care that
no one uses the newspapers against the people. If a young officer, an
uneducated sailor or a student without a degree should approach the editors,
these representatives would immediately ask--do our people need this? Is it
necessary to frighten or disillusion them? Should they be corrupted? Perhaps
it is not such immature, subjective writings, which are detrimental to the
popular interests which should be published, but what the people need.
That is how things developed--if an article or story did not serve the
people's interests it was not published in the people's newspapers.
Everything had been nationalised, everything belonged to the people. That
being so, why should their representatives waste public money on the
publication of a harmful article or a story?
It is said that nationalised undertakings belong to the whole
community. But try sitting in the compartment of a nationalised train
without a ticket--you will be made to get out and will be fined. In other
words, the nationalised railways are not yours or mine or his or ours. They
belong to the people who run it--in the final instance, to the government.
The same applies to a nationalised newspaper. It, too, belongs to the
government. In the Soviet Union all newspapers are nationalised and thus all
belong to the government. Is it necessary for the government to criticise
its own actions in its own newspaper? That is the reason why there is
absolutely no criticism of the government in the Soviet newspapers. That is
why no unqualified student would be able, nowadays, to voice criticisms of
any representative of the Soviet people. On the other hand, the government
has acquired excellent facilities to publish anything they wish, without
risking public exposure; the whole press now belongs to it. And it is this
freedom from control which allows the government and all its institutions to
make daily, even hourly, use of an exceptionally powerful and effective
Soviet leaders use bluff on a large scale in international politics and
they use it in masterly fashion. They employ it with particular skill in the
military field: everything is secret--just try to find out what is true and
what is not.
During the Cuban crisis Khrushchev threatened to reduce capitalism to
ashes by pressing a button; this was at a time when Soviet rockets were
still blind, having completely unreliable guidance systems, which meant that they could only be launched on strictly limited courses, otherwise no one could be sure where they would end up.
After Khrushchev all work directed at deception of the enemy was
centralised. I have already mentioned the Chief Directorate for Strategic
Deception, which is commanded by General N. V. Ogarkov. Here is an example
of its work.
The Soviet Union had been alarming the rest of the world with its
rockets for some time before the United States began to deploy a system for anti-missile defence. For the Soviet Union this American system was like a knife at its throat--because of it Soviet rockets had lost much of their power to terrorise. The USSR was quite simply unable to deploy its own similar system and it had no intention of doing so--it does not hold defensive systems in any great esteem. But it was essential somehow to stop the Americans.
So the whole Soviet (nationalised) press began saying--in unison--`We have been working on this question for a long time and we have had some success'. Then, casually, they showed the whole world some lengths of film showing one rocket destroying another. A very primitive trick. A circus clown who knows the precise trajectory characteristics of a rocket and its launch-time could hit it with an airgun. If a trick like this was shown to Soviet schoolchildren in a circus, they would not be taken in. They would know quite well that there are no miracles and that the clown must have fixed it somehow. In Western capitals, too, they knew that there are no miracles, and that until the US gave the USSR computers no system of the sort could be built there.
But the tricks continued. A gigantic rocket appeared in a Moscow
parade, not in the contingent from the Strategic Rocket Forces but in that
of the National Air Defence Forces--obviously, therefore, it must be an
anti-ballistic missile. Finally, the USSR set about erecting a most
important building--an ABM guidance station. A station of this sort built by
the Americans would be fully automated, needing a team of more than a
thousand, with high engineering qualifications, to run it. This station
looks like the Pyramid of Cheops, although it is much larger.
They began to build it right in the outskirts of Moscow, directly on
the ring-road round the capital. Let all the foreign diplomats take a good
look at it. Occasionally incomprehensible high-powered signals would be
transmitted by the station which careful analysis showed to be exactly the
sort of signals such a station would transmit. But, inside, the building was
empty, without its most essential component--a computer and command complex.
However, the dimensions of the building, the incomprehensible transmissions, the lengths of film and various dark hints dropped by Soviet generals produced the required effect. And the Soviet press provided further evidence--defence against missiles, it said, is a very expensive and not very effective business, although we are putting every effort into it. Soviet intelligence agents suddenly received orders to suspend all their efforts to acquire information on American ABM systems. The display of such disrespect for and such lack of interest in America's first-class electronic industry was calculated to indicate clearly that the Soviet Union enjoyed enormous superiority in this field. The West’s nerve failed and the SALT I talks followed. At the signing ceremony the American President sat at the conference table with Brezhnev--and signed. The world sighed with relief and applauded the treaty as a victory for common sense, as a step forward taken by two giants, together.
But did the American President know that he was sitting at the table
with the head of an organisation which calls itself the Communist Party of
the Soviet Union? Did he know that this organisation has shot 60 million
people in its own country and that it has set itself the goal of doing the
same throughout the world? Not even the American Mafia could dream of doing things on this scale. When he made his quick decision to hold talks with the ringleader of the most terrible band of gangsters in the history of civilisation, did he not realise that they might simply fool him, as they would a naive schoolchild? Did he take appropriate steps against this? Were his advisers sufficiently alert?
When, next day, the Soviet newspapers published photographs of the
smiling faces of the participants in the conference, the Soviet Army could
not believe its eyes. Imagine: the US President with his closest advisers,
Brezhnev and--right behind Brezhnev--General Ogarkov!
Unbelievable! How could such a thing happen? What were the American
presidential advisers thinking of? Did they learn nothing from Pearl Harbor? Could anyone be more negligent than these people were at the signing of this treaty? Why did none of them realise that behind Brezhnev there stood not the chief ideologist, not the Politburo member responsible for scientific research, not the Politburo member responsible for the world's largest military industrial system, not the Minister of Defence, not the Chief of the General Staff, not even the Commander-in-Chief of the National Air Defence Forces, who should be in charge of the anti-missile defence system? Why was nobody there except Ogarkov, head of the Chief Directorate of Strategic Deception? This Chief Directorate is the most powerful in the Soviet General Staff. It is even more powerful than either the First or the Second Chief Directorate. Strategic Deception is that part of the General Staff which is responsible for all military censorship--for all censorship in the fields of science, technology, economics and so forth. This directorate makes a careful study of everything that is known in the West about the Soviet Union and fabricates an enormous amount of material in order to distort the true picture. This most powerful organisation supervises all military parades and any military exercises at which foreigners are to be present, it is responsible for relations with the service attaches of all foreign countries, including those with `fraternal' ties with the Soviet Union. This octopus-like organisation runs Red Star, Soviet Union, Standard Bearer, Equipment and Armament and a hundred other military newspapers and journals. The Military Publishing House of the Soviet Ministry of Defence is part of this Chief Directorate. Nothing can be published in the USSR without a permit from its head, no film can appear without one, not a single troop movement can take place without permission from the Chief Directorate, no rocket-base, no barracks--even for the troops of the KGB--can be built without its agreement, nor can a single factory, collective farm, pipe-line or railway be constructed without its prior permission. Everything in this huge country must be done in such a way that the enemy always has a false impression of what is going on. In some fields achievements are deliberately concealed; in others--as was done with antimissile defence--they are exaggerated out of all recognition. In addition, of course, representatives of the Chief Directorate, helped by Soviet military intelligence, have recruited a collection of mercenary hack journalists abroad, through which it spreads false information, disguised as serious studies. Its representatives attend negotiations concerned with detente, peace, disarmament, etc. For instance, the head of the 7th Department of the Chief Directorate, Colonel-General Trusov, is a permanent member of the Soviet delegation attending the SALT O discussions. When the stakes were at their highest, the head of the Chief Directorate, General Ogarkov himself, joined the delegation. He made a brilliant success of the operation to fool the American delegation. For this he was made Chief of the General Staff and at the same time he was promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union. It is significant that his predecessor, Kulikov, reached the rank of Marshal only when he left the General Staff.
Ogarkov's presence in the delegation produced no reaction. The American
delegation did not break off the negotiations when he appeared, did not
leave the conference hall as a sign of protest, did not slam the door. On
the contrary, it was his arrival which got the talks, which had come to a
standstill, going again, after which they moved quickly to a triumphant
conclusion. Both sides exchanged applause and threw their cards on the
table, having agreed on a drawn game.
But, for heaven's sake, if the agreement was shortly going to halt the
further growth of anti-missile systems, if the game was almost over, surely this was the moment to take a peep at the enemy's cards? Just as a precaution, against what might happen in the future? What was the point of simply signing the agreement, after which nothing could be put right, without letting a small group from each side catch a brief glimpse of things as they were in the enemy camp? The agreement should not have been signed without some arrangement of this sort.
Or if only, once the agreement had been signed, the Soviets had shown
their American opposite numbers something, not a film in a cinema, but
something real--in the most general terms, by all means, and without giving any details away. The Soviet delegation, too, would have been not uninterested to see something of the American achievements. But the Soviet card-sharpers knew in advance that the Americans had at least three aces in their hand, and that is why the Soviet side threw their cards on the table, without showing them, and quickly proceeded to shuffle the pack.
Incidentally, shortly after this, having exploited the credulity of
America, the Soviet Union built an excellent rocket, with the industrial
index number 8-K-84 and the military designation UR-100. UR means `universal rocket'. It can be used both to deliver a nuclear strike and to repel one. It is the largest of the Soviet strategic rockets. Its manufacture is an out-and-out violation of the SALT I agreement, but no protest has come from the American side. This is because Ogarkov’s organisation succeeded in concealing the rocket’s second function, so that it is officially regarded as a purely offensive weapon. The SALT I agreement was got round in another way, too. An excellent Soviet anti-aircraft rocket, the S-200, which was developed to destroy enemy aircraft, was modernised and made suitable--with certain limitations--for use against enemy missiles. Ogarkov's organisation never allowed this rocket to appear at parades, even in its original, anti-aircraft variant. The Chief Directorate of Strategic Deception is strict in its observance of the principle: `The enemy should see only what Ogarkov wishes to show them.' This is the reason why all foreign diplomats were enabled to see the huge construction right in the very outskirts of Moscow.
Ever since I first found myself in the West, I have been soaking up
information of all kinds. I have visited dozens of libraries, seen hundreds
of films. I have taken in everything, indiscriminately--James Bond,
Emmanuelle, Dracula, the Emperor Caligula, the Godfather, noble heroes and crafty villains. To someone who had only seen films about the need to fulfil production plans and to build a brighter future, it was impossible even to imagine such variety. I kept on and on going to films. One day I went to an excellent one about the burglary of a diamond warehouse. The thieves broke into the enormous building with great skill, put a dozen alarms out of action, opened enormously thick doors and finally reached the secret innermost room in which the safes stood. Of course, in addition to all the transmitters, alarm devices and so on, there were TV cameras, through which a guard kept constant watch on what was happening in the room where the safes were. But the thieves, too, were ingenious. They had with them a photograph of the room, taken earlier. They put this in front of the cameras and, using it as a screen, emptied the safes. The guards sensed that something was happening. They began to feel vaguely uneasy. But looking at the television screen they were able to convince themselves that everything was quiet in the safe room.
I am sometimes told that the American spy-satellites are keeping a
careful watch on what is happening in the Soviet Union. They take infra-red photographs of the country from above and from oblique angles, their photographs are compared, electronic, heat and all other emissions are measured, radio transmissions are intercepted and painstakingly analysed. It is impossible to fool the satellites. When I hear this, I always think of the trio of sympathetic villains who hid from the cameras behind a photograph, using it as a shield behind which to fill their bags with diamonds. Incidentally, the film ended happily for the thieves. When I remember the cheerful smiles they exchanged at the end of their successful operation, I also think of Ogarkov's beaming countenance at the moment the agreement was signed.
The Chief Directorate of Strategic Deception does exactly what the
sympathetic trio did--they show the watchful eye of the camera a reassuring picture, behind the shelter of which the gangsters who call themselves the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Army, Military Industry and so forth go about their business.
This is the way it is done in practice. A huge American computer, which has been installed at the Central Command Post of the Chief Directorate of Strategic Deception, maintains a constant record of all intelligence-gathering satellites and orbiting space stations and of their trajectories. Extremely precise short- and long-term forecasts are prepared of the times at which the satellites will pass over various areas of the Soviet Union and over all the other territories and sea areas in which the Armed Services of the USSR are active. Each Chief Directorate unit serving with a military district, a group of armies or a fleet makes use of data provided by this same American computer to carry out similar work for its own force and area. Each army, division and regiment receives constantly up-dated schedules showing the precise times at which enemy reconnaissance satellites will overfly their area, with details of the type of satellite concerned (photo-reconnaissance, signals intelligence, all-purpose, etc.), and the track it will follow. Neither the soldiers nor most of the officers know the precise reason for daily orders, like `From 12.20 to 12.55 all radio transmissions are to cease and all radars are to be switched off', but they must obey them. At the same time, each division has several radio transmitters and radars which work only during this period and which are there solely to provide signals for the enemy's satellites.
The Chief Directorate has its own intelligence-gathering satellites,
but, unlike those working for the Chief Intelligence Directorate, they
maintain a watch over Soviet territory, looking constantly for radio
transmitters and radars which fail to observe the timetables laid down for
communication security. Severe punishments await divisional or regimental commanders who are found to be ignoring the timetables.
In addition to these bogus signals, the Chief Directorate is constantly
organising nights by aircraft, tests of rockets, troop movements and other
operations to take place as the satellites' cameras pass overhead, with the
aim of emphasising one aspect of activity while concealing others. Thus, in
the period running up to the SALT I negotiations, every sort of attempt was
made to present a picture of Soviet activity and success in anti-missile
operations. After the negotiations, great pains were taken to hide activity
and successes in this field, since these represented a violation of the
agreements which had been reached. The Chief Directorate differs from our
resourceful burglars in presenting false pictures not for a few hours but
for decades. It has at its disposal not three crooks but tens of thousands
of highly-qualified specialists and almost unlimited powers in its dealings
with generals, marshals and those who run the military industries over the
concealment of the true state of affairs.
There is no doubt that these activities enable the Politburo, without great difficulty, to empty the pockets of those in the West who will not understand that they are dealing with organised crime, committed by a state which is operating on a world-wide scale.
We have already seen that the unit known as a `motor-rifle regiment' in
the Soviet Army is in fact an all-arms unit with half the numerical strength
of brigades in Western armies, which is nevertheless equal or even superior
to the latter in fire-power and striking-power. This position is reached
through the merciless exploitation of Soviet soldiers, who are regarded
solely as fighting machines, rather than as human beings who require rest,
good food, recreation and so forth.
Having a strength of 2,000, a motor-rifle regiment is equipped with 41
battle tanks, 3 reconnaissance tanks, 100 armoured personnel carriers, 6
130mm heavy assault guns, 18 122mm self-propelled howitzers, 6 `Grad-P'
multiple rocket launchers, 18 self-propelled mortars, 18 automatic grenade
launchers, 4 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, 4 surface-to-air missile
complexes, 100 light anti-aircraft and several hundred light anti-tank
weapons, including the `Mukha', and the RPG-16 anti-tank rocket launchers,
both portable and mounted on vehicles, together with the requisite engineer,
chemical warfare, medical, repair and other supporting sub-units.
A modern Soviet tank regiment is organised along almost exactly the
same lines as a motor-rifle, regiment, except that it has three tank
battalions rather than one and one motor-rifle battalion instead of three.
Its other sub-units are exactly the same: a battalion of self-propelled
artillery, a battery of multiple rocket launchers, an anti-aircraft battery,
reconnaissance, communications, engineering, chemical warfare and repair
companies. The strength of such a regiment is 1,300. It has considerably
fewer light anti-tank weapons than a motor-rifle regiment, reasonably enough
in a regiment with a total of 97 tanks, since tank guns are the best of all
A Soviet motor-rifle division is more of an all-arms unit than a
motor-rifle regiment, containing, as it does, sub-units with the most varied
functions and capabilities. The organisation of a division is simple and
well-balanced. The strength of a motor-rifle division is 13,000. It is
commanded by a Major-General. It is made up of:
A headquarters staff.
A communications battalion--the division's nerve-system, used for
communications with all its elements, with the higher command and with
A reconnaissance battalion--the eyes and ears of the division.
A rocket battalion--the most powerful weapon in the hands of the
divisional commander, with six launchers which can fire chemical and nuclear
weapons for distances of up to 150 kilometres.
An independent tank battalion--the divisional commander's bodyguard,
which protects divisional headquarters and the rocket battalion, and which
can be used in battle when the divisional commander needs all his resources.
A tank regiment--the division's striking force.
Three motor-rifle regiments, two of which are equipped with armoured
personnel carriers and light weapons and which attack on a wide front during
an offensive, probing for weak spots in the enemy's defences. The third
regiment, equipped with infantry combat vehicles and with heavy weapons, is
used with the tank regiment to attack the enemy at his weakest point--`in
the liver' as the Soviet Army says.
An artillery regiment--the main fire-power of the division--which
consists of three battalions of 152 self-propelled howitzers and one
battalion of BM-27 heavy multiple rocket launchers. In all, the regiment has
54 howitzers and 18 heavy rocket launchers. The full strength of the
regiment is used in the division's main axis of advance, in which the tank
and heavy motor-rifle regiments are also active--that is, in the area in
which the enemy has been proved to be most vulnerable.
The anti-aircraft (SAM) regiment has as its primary task the protection
of the divisional headquarters and of the rocket battalion. It must also
provide protection for the division's main battle group, even though this is
already capable of defending itself against enemy aircraft. The regiment has
five batteries, each with six rocket launchers. In peacetime, two of the
launchers of each battery are held in reserve and the fact that they exist
must not in any circumstances be disclosed until the outbreak of war. This
has led Western experts to underestimate the defence capabilities of Soviet
divisions, believing that each regiment has only 20 launchers whereas in
fact it has 30. In order to maintain this illusion, the armies of all the
Soviet allies actually do have only 20 launchers in each regiment.
The anti-tank battalion acts as the divisional commander's trump card
when he finds himself in a critical situation. Until then it is kept in
reserve. It is brought into action during a defensive action, when the
enemy's tanks have broken through fairly deeply and once the direction of
his main thrust can be clearly identified. In an offensive it is used when
the division's main battle force has broken through in depth and the enemy
is attacking its flank and rear. The battalion is armed with 18 100 or 125mm
anti-tank guns and six anti-tank missile complexes.
The engineer battalion is used, together with the anti-tank battalion,
to lay minefields rapidly in front of enemy tanks which have broken through,
in order to stop them or at least to slow them down in front of the
division's anti-tank guns. It also clears mines ahead of the division's
advancing troops during an offensive and helps them to cross water
The chemical warfare battalion carries out the measures necessary for
defence against nuclear, chemical or biological attacks by the enemy.
The transport battalion supplies the division with fuel and with
ammunition. Its 200 vehicles enable it to move 1,000 tons of fuel and
ammunition at the same time.
The repair battalion recovers and replaces combat equipment.
The medical battalion does the same, but for the division's personnel.
The helicopter flight, which has 6 helicopters, is used for command and
communications duties and to land the division's diversionary troops behind
the enemy's lines.
The division has a total of 34 battalions. Those battalions which are
subordinated directly to the divisional commander are given the designation
`independent'--for instance `Independent Communications Battalion of the
24th Division'. This system is also used in all higher formations. For
instance, an Army consists of divisions. But it also contains regiments and
battalions which do not form part of its complement, which are called
`independent' as, for instance in the `41st Independent Pontoon Bridge
Regiment of the 13th Army'.
The total complement of a Soviet motor-rifle division is 287 tanks, 150
infantry combat vehicles, 221 armoured personnel carriers, 6 rocket
launchers, 18 130mm heavy assault guns, 18 anti-tank guns, 126
self-propelled and towed howitzers, 96 mortars and multiple rocket
launchers, 46 mobile anti-aircraft missile complexes, 16 self-propelled
automatic anti-aircraft guns, and hundreds of light anti-tank and
A tank division is organised in the same way as a motor-rifle division,
except that it has three tank regiments rather than one and one motor-rifle
regiment instead of three. In addition, a tank division has no independent
tank or anti-tank battalions, since its anti-tank strength is much greater
than that of a motor-rifle division.
A tank division has 10,500 men. It is equipped with 341 tanks, 232
infantry combat vehicles, 6 rocket launchers, 6 heavy assault guns, 126
self-propelled howitzers, 78 mortars and multiple rocket launchers, 62
self-propelled anti-aircraft missiles and artillery complexes and hundreds
of light anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. While it has fewer personnel,
a tank division has far greater striking power than a motor-rifle division.
Until the mid-1950s, divisions were organised in corps, and a number of
corps made up an Army. However, because of the greatly increased combat
strength of the divisions, and also because an Army Commander had acquired
the means to control all his divisions simultaneously, the corps came to be
considered unnecessary as an intermediate formation and was therefore
Today, however, a relatively small number of corps are left in the
Soviet armed forces. They exist where a division is too small a unit for the
task in hand and an Army too large.
From time to time in this book we have used the term `All-Arms Army'.
This has been done in order to distinguish this type of Army from Tank
Armies, Air Armies, Air Defence Armies and Rocket Armies. However, in normal
usage the expression `all-arms' is not used; instead, the units concerned
are simply referred to as the 13th or the 69th Army. Some have honorary
titles, such as `2nd Shock Army' or `9th Guards Army'. These titles add
nothing to the present-day strength of these armies--they are simply
reflections of past glory. For instance, the 3rd Army, which has no honorary
title, is considerably better equipped than the 11th Guards Army.
Sometimes Armies evolve along new lines but keep their former
designations, which do not fit their present functions. Thus, the 2nd Tank
Army is now an All-Arms Army. By contrast, the 3rd Shock Army, despite its
designation, is in fact a Tank Army.
During the Second World War the Red Army had a total of 18 Air Armies,
11 Air Defence Armies, 6 Guards Tank Armies, and 70 other armies, of which 5
were known as Shock Armies and 11 as Guards Armies.
Today there are fewer armies but their strengths vary considerably. The
Soviet Armed Forces now have 3 Rocket Armies, 10 Air Defence Armies, 16 Air
Armies, 8 Guards Tank Armies and 33 other armies, a number of which are
still referred to as either Shock or Guards Armies.
In the West it is firmly believed that today's Soviet Armies lack a
clear organisational structure. A superficial analysis of the complement of
each of the Soviet Armies seems to confirm this: some Armies have 7
divisions while others have only 3. The proportion of tank and motor-rifle
divisions which they contain also varies constantly.
In fact, though, Armies do have quite clear organisational structures.
However, the Soviet Union does not think it advisable to display this
clarity in peacetime; this would throw too much light on their plans for
war. Divisions have a high degree of administrative autonomy and can be
quickly regrouped from one Army to another. In peacetime the system
certainly does seem illogical, but once a war began each Army would take on
an entirely clear shape.
There is one further cause for this apparent confusion. This is that
the Soviet Union has forbidden its East European allies to establish Armies
in either peacetime or wartime. If a homogeneous mass becomes too large it
may explode. The Soviet High Command avoids this danger within the Soviet
Army itself, by constantly moving the various nationalities around, to
produce a featureless grey mass of soldiery, unable to understand one
another. In peacetime, the armed forces of the East European countries only
have divisions. In wartime these divisions would immediately join Soviet
Armies which were under strength. This is precisely what happened in the
summer of 1968.
In peacetime, these East European divisions see themselves as part of
their own national armed forces. In wartime they would be distributed
throughout the Soviet Armies; for administrative purposes they would come
under their national Ministries of Defence and, ultimately, under the
Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. For military purposes
they would be subordinated to the Soviet Armies, Fronts and Strategic
Directions and, ultimately, to the Soviet Supreme Commander and to his
General Staff. It is because of this that the Staff of the Warsaw Treaty
Organisation is a bureaucratic institution rather than operational
headquarters. And this is why, in peacetime, many Soviet Armies appear
unstructured. In wartime they would be brought up to strength with East
European contingents and they would then assume their proper forms.
In wartime an Army consists of five divisions, one of which is a tank
division, and the remaining four motor-rifle divisions. In various instances
in which the mass use of tanks would be difficult, an Army may have nothing
but motor-rifle divisions, which have only a limited number of tanks. But
the Armies which are earmarked to operate in Western Europe are made up in
this way--one tank and four motor-rifle divisions.
Besides these five divisions each Army has:
A headquarters staff--the brain of the Army.
A communications regiment--its nervous system.
An independent SPETSNAZ diversionary company and two signals
intelligence battalions--its eyes and ears.
A rocket brigade--the most powerful weapon in the hands of the Army's
commander, which enables him to deliver nuclear and chemical attacks.
Earlier each brigade had 9 launchers, with a range of up to 300 kilometres.
Today a brigade has 18 launchers, with a greatly increased range.
An independent tank battalion--the Army Commander's personal guard.
This defends the Army's control post and the rocket brigade and is brought
into action only in the most critical situations, when everything is at
An artillery brigade--the main fire-power of the Army. This consists of
five battalions--three with 18 130mm guns each, one with 18 152 mm
gun-howitzers and one with 18 BM-27 multiple rocket launchers.
An anti-aircraft brigade, which covers the Army's command Post and
Rocket Brigades with its fire and which also operates in the Army's main
axis of advance, supplementing the anti-aircraft coverage which the
divisions can provide for themselves. This brigade consists of a command
battalion, a supply battalion and three fire-battalions, each with three
The camouflage service has decreed that one of the launchers in each of
these batteries is never to show itself. It therefore appears to observers
that these batteries consist of three launchers, whereas in fact they have
four, one of which is always kept in reserve. An anti-aircraft brigade is
therefore generally believed to have 27 launchers, whereas in fact it has
An anti-aircraft regiment, which has 30 57mm S-60 anti-aircraft guns.
Experience in Vietnam and in wars in the Middle East has shown that
conventional anti-aircraft artillery has by no means outlived its usefulness
and that there are many situations in which the effectiveness of
anti-aircraft rockets falls off sharply and that anti-aircraft guns can
supplement these most usefully.
An anti-tank regiment, which consists of three battalions. This has 57
heavy anti-tank guns and 18 anti-tank missile complexes.
An independent anti-tank battalion, which has 40 IT-1 tracked anti-tank
rocket launchers. The existence of these battalions, and of the IT-1 itself,
is a carefully guarded secret. These batteries do not form part of the
anti-tank regiment, and there is a sound reason for this, since they carry
out operations using quite different tactics. The independent anti-tank
battalions, with their highly mobile launchers, harass the enemy constantly,
making surprise attacks from vehicles and manoeuvring from area to area
under the pressure exerted by the enemy's superior forces. Meanwhile the
anti-tank regiment, armed with more powerful but less manoeuvrable guns, has
the task of stopping the enemy tanks, at absolutely any cost, when they
reach a previously defined line. Thus the more mobile battalion goes into
action against the enemy's tanks from the momient the latter break through,
while the anti-tank regiment, deep in the rear, is preparing an impassable
barrier, behind which it will fight to the last man.
The helicopter squadron is used for communications and for control, and
sometimes to land troops behind the enemy lines. It has 16 medium and 4
The Army's supporting sub-units include:
An engineer regiment
A pontoon bridge regiment
An independent assault crossing battalion
A transport regiment
An independent pipe-laying battalion
A chemical warfare battalion
A medical battalion
A mobile tank-repair workshop, with a tank recovery company
In wartime the complement of an Army is 83,000. It has 1,541 tanks, 48
rocket launchers, 832 infantry combat vehicles, 1,100 armoured personel
carriers, 1,386 guns, mortars and multiple rocket launchers, 376 heavy
anti-aircraft missile launchers and anti-aircraft guns, 40 transport
helicopters and thousands of light anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.
A Tank Army, like an All-Arms Army, has a permanent complement which is
strictly observed. Its organisation is standardised with that of an All-Arms
Army. It is therefore simpler not to list the rocket brigade, the
diversionary company and so forth but simply to pick out the features which
distinguish a Tank Army from an All-Arms Army. There are three such
(1) An All-Arms Army has five divisions, one of which is a tank
division. A Tank Army has only four, all of which are tank divisions.
(2) A Tank Army does not break through the enemy's defences. This is
done for it by the All-Arms Armies. Therefore a Tank Army does not have an
artillery brigade, of which it has no need. But while it is operating deep
in the defences of the enemy it may suddenly encounter strong enemy forces
against which massed intense fire must be brought down very quickly. For
this purpose, in place of an artillery brigade, a Tank Army has a regiment
of BM-27 multiple rocket launchers.
(3) A Tank Army does not fight to hold areas or lines: its task is
solely to attack the enemy. It therefore has no anti-tank regiment (which
holds territory) or independent anti-tank battalion (which harasses the
advancing enemy). It has no need of these sub-units, which would contribute
nothing to its proper function.
In the near future there will be one further special feature in the
organisation of a Tank Army. It will include an air-borne assault brigade,
which has the function of seizing and holding bridges, crossing points and
road junctions ahead of the avalanche of advancing tanks. At present only
Fronts have these brigades. Temporarily, until they come into service, Tank
Armies are forced to use motor-rifle regiments, or sometimes divisions,
which have battalions with special training in helicopter assault landings.
Once the air-borne assault brigades join the Tank Armies, the need for such
motor-rifle regiments and divisions will disappear.
In all, in wartime, a Tank Army has 54,000 men, 1,416 tanks, 993
infantry combat vehicles, 894 guns, mortars and multiple rocket launchers,
42 rocket launchers, 314 heavy anti-aircraft missile launchers and
anti-aircraft guns, 64 combat and 34 transport helicopters and thousands of
light anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.
If we compare the weapons available to an All-Arms Army with those of a
tank Army, we discover an apparently paradoxical situation; the Tank Army
has fewer tanks than the All-Arms Army, but more infantry combat vehicles
than the latter, whose very foundation is its motor-rifle sub-units!
In fact, though, this is not a paradox. An All-Arms Army is a
combination of tanks, of heavy and light motorised infantry, artillery and
other forces whose job is to break through the enemy's lines.
A Tank Army is far smaller than an All-Arms Army. It is a combination
of tanks and heavy infantry, with artillery and operational helicopter
sub-units, whose job it is to operate deep in the enemy's rear.
An All-Arms Army has more than 1,000 armoured personnel carriers (for
light infantry) and a Tank Army has practically none.
A Tank Army, being smaller, has far better cross-country performance,
and greater manoeuvrability and striking power. It has fewer tanks than an
All-Arms Army, but they are far more highly concentrated. This gives the
Tank Army a clearly defined offensive character, while the All-Arms Army is
essentially a universal weapon.
The Front is a group of Armies, unified under a single command to carry
out combat operations in wartime. It is set up either during or immediately
before the outbreak of a war. It is an all-arms formation in every respect,
incorporating elements of the various Armed Services.
The Commander of a Front has an operational, not an administrative
function. He possesses very considerable authority and the forces under his
command are not subordinate to the Commanders-in-Chief of their respective
Services. The different Services from which the forces making up a Front are
drawn are not permitted to interfere in the operational use of these forces.
A Front Commander has sole and personal responsibility for the preparation,
conduct and outcome of combat operations. He is subordinated either to the
Commander-in-Chief of a Strategic Direction who is in control of operations
or directly to the Supreme Commander himself. The Armed Services from which
the forces making up a Front are taken are concerned only with the
reinforcement, reequipment, provisioning and supply of these forces.
This clear differentiation between operational and administrative
functions makes it possible to concentrate complete authority in individual
hands, to avoid duplication of control, to ensure proper cooperation between
sub-units of different Armed Services and to avoid friction between them.
At the beginning of the war between the Soviet Union and Germany, five
Fronts were created. In the course of the war their number was increased to
fifteen. During its final stages the Fronts operating in the Central
Direction were made up of 1 or 2 Air Armies, 2 or 3 Tank Armies, 8 or 9
All-Arms Armies and a considerable number of independent tank, artillery and
motor-rifle corps. These Fronts had strengths of up to a million soldiers,
three thousand tanks, three thousand aircraft, and up to fifteen thousand
guns and mortars.
After the war, because of the introduction of nuclear weapons and as
part of the continuous technical improvement of the Armed Forces, it was
decided that in any future war more powerful, more compact and therefore
more easily controlled Fronts would be used.
Contrary to the belief held in the West, Fronts have a quite clearly
defined combat organisation, like battalions, regiments, divisions and
A Front comprises:
A command staff.
A communications regiment--the nerve system.
A diversionary `SPETSNAZ' brigade, a signals intelligence regiment and
a radar battlefield surveillance regiment--the eyes and ears of the Front.
An Air Army.
A Tank Army--the Front's striking force.
Two All-Arms Armies.
An independent tank brigade--the Front Commander's personal guard,
which defends his command post and the Front's rocket brigades. This brigade
is only brought into action in the most critical situations.
Two rocket brigades. One has 12 launchers with a range of 9-1,200
kilometres and is used in accordance with the plans of the Front Commander.
The second brigade is similar in composition and armament to an Army's
rocket brigade and is used to strengthen the Army which is having the
An artillery division, consisting of six regiments and an anti-tank
battalion. Three of the regiments have 54 130mm M46 guns each and two of the
remainder have 54 152mm D20 howitzers each. The other regiment has 54 240mm
mortars. The artillery division, in its entirety, is used, to strengthen the
artillery of the Army which is having the greatest success.
A specially strengthened artillery brigade, consisting of five
battalions. The first three each have 12 180mm S-23 guns, the other two each
have 12 203mm B-4M howitzers. The brigade is used to strengthen the Army
which is having the greatest success.
A tank-destroyer brigade, of five battalions, armed with 90 heavy
anti-tank guns and 30 anti-tank rocket complexes.
Two anti-aircraft missile brigades and two anti-aircraft artillery
regiments, equipped and organised like similar sub-units in an Army.
An airborne assault brigade, used for the rapid capture of important
lines, bridges, crossings and mountain passes in support of the Front's
advancing forces. In the next few years commanders of the Tank Armies of a
Front will also each have one such brigade.
Several penal battalions, which are used to negotiate minefields and
for attacks on strongly fortified enemy positions. The number of penal
battalions available depends on the numbers of soldiers and officers who are
unwilling to fight for socialism.
The supporting sub-units include:
An engineer brigade.
A pontoon bridge brigade.
An assault-crossing battalion.
A transport brigade.
A pipe-laying regiment.
A CW protection regiment.
Several field and evacuation hospitals.
A mobile tank repair workshop.
A tank transport regiment.
In territories in which it is difficult to use tanks, a Front will have
no Tank Armies. Instead of these it may have an independent tank division
but it may not have this either. This does not, of course, apply to Western
Fronts earmarked for operations in Western Europe will have up to 5,600
tanks, 772 combat aircraft, 220 helicopters, 3,000 infantry combat vehicles,
3,000 armoured personnel carriers, and up to 4,100 guns, mortars and
salvo-firing rocket-launchers together with a large quantity of other arms
and combat equipment.
It will, of course, be pointed out that the forces stationed on East
German territory are precisely twice as strong as those I have listed,
Not one Tank Army, but two
An Air Army which has a considerably larger number of aircraft than I
Two airborne assault brigades, rather than one
Not one diversionary brigade, but two
Four rocket brigades, instead of two
Two engineer brigades, not one
Two pontoon bridge brigades, rather than one
An artillery division which has more than 700 guns, as against the 324
How can this be explained? There is nothing mysterious about it. A
Front advancing against a strong enemy may have a zone of advance of 200-250
kilometres. In East Germany there is thus room for two Fronts. In
Czechoslovakia there is room for only one.
Two routes lead from East Germany to the West, separated from each
other by a considerable distance. Because of this, it is convenient to
employ two different Fronts; control over a single Front advancing in two
different directions is bound to produce difficulties. If the Soviet forces
are supplemented with East German units there will be precisely two Fronts
in the GDR. No publicity is given to this intention in peacetime, in order
to keep it secret. Besides, it is quite simply inconvenient to keep two
generals of equal seniority in the same country. For the senior Soviet
officer in the GDR is not only a military commander, he is also the
administrative head of a Communist colony. For this reason the staffs of the
Fronts are unified, although even for annual exercises they separate, as do
the Air Armies and the artillery divisions. A single telephone call is all
that is needed to set up two separate fronts--everything else has been
Why are there 20 Soviet Divisions in Germany, but only 5 in Czechoslovakia?
The Soviet Union maintains 10 motor-rifle, 1 artillery and 9 tank
divisions in East Germany. In Poland it has 2 tank divisions, in
Czechoslovakia it has 2 tank and 3 motor-rifle divisions. In the
Byelorussian Military District, which borders on Poland, it has 9 tank and 4
motor-rifle divisions; Poland has 5 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions,
Czechoslovakia has 5 tank and 5 motor-rifle divisions.
At first sight, these figures seem to be an arbitrary and nonsensical
However, let us recall the basic fact that the East European divisions,
brigades and regiments are not permitted to form their own Armies or Fronts.
They simply form parts of various Soviet Armies, taking the place of missing
elements. We should therefore not regard Soviet and East European divisions
as separate entities. Instead, we should see them as forces of the Warsaw
Treaty Organisation, without national distinctions. Once we do this, we see
an entirely harmonious picture.
Let us take Czechoslovakia as an example. In Prague there is a Soviet
Colonel-General, who commands the Central Group of Forces. Under him are the
staffs of an Air Army and of two All-Arms Armies. The Air Army has a
complement of only 150 Soviet combat aircraft, but, if we add to these 500
Czech combat aircraft, we have a complete Air Army, with a Soviet general at
Altogether in Czechoslovakia there are 7 tank and 8 motor-rifle
divisions. This is exactly the number needed to make up a Front. 4 of the
tank divisions constitute a Tank Army. 2 of the remaining tank divisions and
the 8 motor-rifle divisions form two Armies and the remaining tank division
acts as a reserve. In peacetime, Czechoslovakia has two artillery brigaides
and two anti-tank regiments. This is exactly what is needed to complete two
Armies, but the Tank Army does not need these sub-units. Czechoslovakia has
three rocket brigades and this is precisely what is needed--one brigade for
each Army, including the Tank Army. All the front-line sub-units are Soviet.
The Soviet Colonel-General in Prague is the Commander of the Central
Front. The commanders of the Air Army and of the two All-Arms Armies are
also Soviet, while the divisions, brigades and regiments are both Soviet and
Czech, but all are entirely under Soviet control. Already in peacetime,
there is a complete Front in Czechoslovakia; only one element is lacking--a
headquarters staff for the Tank Army. Everything else is there. However,
five hundred kilometres from the Soviet-Czech frontier, in the small
Ukrainian town of Zhitomir, is the staff of the 8th Guards Tank Army. This
staff has no one under its command. So that the generals should not become
bored, they frequently make trips to Czechoslovakia to inspect the tank
divisions. Then they return home. All that would be needed to move them to
Czechoslovakia is a two-hour flight by passenger aircraft. Once this is done
the Central Front is ready for battle.
In Warsaw, too, there is a Soviet Colonel-General. He also has at his
disposal the headquarters staff of an Air Army (the 37th Air Army which has
360 combat aircraft) but he has only two Soviet tank divisions. There are no
staffs for land armies, for it would be odd to have three Army staffs for
two tank divisions. So the Soviet Colonel-General has a huge staff in
Legnica on which there are sufficient generals to form both the headquarters
staff of a Front and those of three Armies. And in Poland, too, there are
just the right number of divisions to form a Front--7 tank and 8
motor-rifle. As in Czechoslovakia, there are 4 tank divisions--a Tank
Army--2 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions--two Armies--and one tank division,
to act as a reserve. There are exactly the number of auxiliary sub-units
needed for the Front and for the Armies from which it is made up. The number
of combat aircraft is sufficient to reinforce both the 37th Air Army and the
Air Army in Czechoslovakia.
In peacetime there is already a complete Front in Poland; it needs no
further strengthening. The transformation of the Soviet staff in Legnica
into a headquarters staff for a Front and staffs for three Land Armies can
take place automatically. In 1968 it was completed in a matter of minutes.
What appears to be one staff, in fact, functions, even in peacetime, as four
independent staffs; they are all located in one place in order to camouflage
In East Germany there are two Fronts. The overall total of Soviet and
East German aircraft is precisely the number needed to make up two Air
Armies. The staff of the 16th Air Army is already stationed in East Germany;
that of the 1st Air Army can be brought from Byelorussia in a single
transport aircraft within a couple of hours and once this has been done the
two Fronts have their complete contingent.
In peacetime, there are two Tank Army staffs in East Germany--each
Front has one--and three staffs for All-Arms Armies. In other words, one
more is needed. This, too--the staff of the 28th Army--would come from
Byelorussia, in a single aircraft and within two hours. There would then be
two Fronts, each with one Air Army, one Tank Army and Two All-Arms Armies.
The move of the staffs can be accomplished so quickly because it is only
necessary to move five generals and twelve colonels for each staff--the
remainder are already in East Germany.
In all, there are 1 tank and 14 motor-rifle divisions in East Germany.
Each Front needs a minimum of 6 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions. Thus only
three more divisions are needed and they, too, would come from Byelorussia.
This would take twenty-four hours. The two Fronts could begin combat
operations without them and they, too, would be in action within a day.
But what about poor Byelorussia, robbed of the staff of an Air Army,
the staff of an All-Arms Army and three divisions--one tank and two
motor-rifle? She has plenty left.
To be specific, she has a Colonel-General and his staff, two rocket
brigades, two anti-aircraft SAM brigades, a diversionary brigade, an
airborne assault brigade, the staffs of the 5th and 7th Guards Tank Armies
and eight tank divisions--four with each Tank Army.
With a very small number of moves--three Army staffs and three
divisions--we have produced a structure which has the precision and harmony
of a mathematical formula.
We now have the following picture:
In the first echelon there are three Fronts, two in East Germany, one
In the second echelon--one Front in Poland. In the third echelon--a
Group of Tank Armies.
The seaward flank is covered by the Soviet Baltic Fleet which in
wartime would incorporate all the ships of the Polish and East German
At the head of each of these formations is a Commander. Above him is
the Commander-in-Chief, whose headquarters is at Zossen-Wünsdorf. There
could be no better place for a headquarters anywhere in the world. It is
very close to West Berlin which, with its immediate surroundings would, of
course, be immune from Western nuclear attacks. The C-in-C makes use of West
Berlin as a hostage and as a safeguard; he is thoroughly protected against
conventional weapons by concrete shelters and by Tank Armies.
Each Army has one tank and four motor-rifle divisions. Each Tank Army
has four tank divisions. Each Front has one Air Army, one Tank Army and two
All-Arms Armies. The Group of Tank Armies has two Tank Armies. In all, each
Front has six tank and eight motor-rifle divisions. There are a total of six
Tank Armies and eight All-Arms Armies. The Strategic Direction has four
Fronts (All-Arms) and one Group of Tank Armies.
The Armies of this Strategic Directorate have a total of 32 tank
divisions and 32 motor-rifle divisions.
In addition, the C-in-C of the Western Strategic Direction has at his
disposal two tank divisions, one in Poland, the other in Czechoslovakia and
two airborne divisions (the 6th Polish and the 103rd Guards division, which
is in Byelorussia).
Also at the disposal of the C-in-C of the Strategic Direction are a
diversionary long-range reconnaissance SPETSNAZ regiment, a regiment of
pilotless `Yastreb' reconnaissance aircraft, a Guards communications
brigade, a transport brigade, a division of railway troops, a pipe-laying
brigade, a CW protection brigade, an engineer brigade, a pontoon bridge
brigade and other sub-units.
For the duration of a particular operation he may have temporary
One Corps from the Strategic Rocket Forces
One--or in some cases all three--Corps from the Long Range Air Force
One Army from the National Air Defence Forces
The whole of Military Transport Aviation
The Western Strategic Directorate is the mightiest grouping of forces
on this planet. It has the task of breaking through the West's defences to
rescue the West Europeans from the fetters of capitalism. The plan for its
operational use is simple--a simultaneous attack by all three Fronts. The
Front which is most successful will be immediately strengthened by the
addition of the second echelon Front from Poland, which has the task of
smashing through the enemy's defences, after which the Group of Tank Armies
will be used to widen the breach, supported by parachute drops by the
airborne divisions. Divisions which suffer heavy losses will not be
reinforced but will be immediately withdrawn from battle and replaced by
fresh divisions from the Moscow, Volga or Urals Military Districts. In the
event of a breakthrough into France, the Western Strategic Direction may be
allocated a further Group of Tank Armies, which is located in the Kiev
Military District in peacetime and is made up of the 3rd and 6th Guards Tank
It must be emphasised that the task of the C-in-C of the Western
Strategic Direction is to advance swiftly westwards and to concentrate all
his efforts on this and this alone. He is covered on the south by neutral
Austria and Switzerland, which, it is planned, will be liberated somewhat
later, while on the north of the Strategic Directorate lie the West German
`Land' of Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark. A plan has been devised to prevent
the forces of the Directorate from moving northwards as well as westwards.
The Baltic Military District will become the Baltic Front in wartime. It
will not come under the command of the Western Strategic Directorate but
will be independent--in other words it will be subordinated directly to the
Supreme Commander. This Front will cross Polish territory into Germany and
will deploy northwards, with the task of covering the northern flank of the
Western Strategic Directorate, of liberating Denmark and of seizing the
Baltic Straits. Because it will have to work on a very narrow front and to
carry out operations on islands, the composition of the Front has been
somewhat modified. It will include:
The 30th Air Army
The 9th and 11th Guards Armies, each consisting of one tank division
and of three motor-rifle divisions instead of four
One tank division, rather than a Tank Army
An artillery division and all the remaining units which ordinarily
constitute a Front.
As compensation for the divisions it lacks, the Front has one most
unusual component--a Polish marine infantry division. In addition, the
Soviet 107th Guards Airborne Division will operate in support of the Front,
although it will not be subordinated to it.
To the North another Front will operate, independently of any Strategic
Direction, subordinated directly to the Supreme Commander. This Front will
be established on the base provided by the Leningrad Military District. It
will be made up of one Air Army, two All-Arms Armies and an independent tank
division. An airborne division based in the Leningrad Military District, but
not subordinated to it, will provide operational support. This Front will
operate against Norway and, possibly, Sweden.
The Organisation of the South-Western Strategic Direction
The South-Western Strategic Direction stands shoulder to shoulder with
the Western and is organised in exactly the same way: three Fronts in the
first echelon, one Front in the second echelon, a Group of Tank Armies in
the third echelon, and a seaward flank protected by the Black Sea Fleet,
which would be joined in wartime by all the ships of the Bulgarian and
Unlike its Western equivalent, the South-Western Strategic Direction
covers terrain which is unsuitable for the deployment of a large quantity of
tanks. In addition, of course, the enemy is not as strong here as he is in
the West. The Fronts of the South-Western Strategic Direction therefore have
no Tank Armies. Each Front consists of an Air Army and two All-Arms Armies.
The staffs for all the Armies are brought from military districts in
the USSR. In order to examine the structure of this Strategic Direction, we
will do two things: we will assume five Bulgarian tank brigades to equal two
tank divisions--an equation which any military specialist will confirm is
reasonable. We will also move one Soviet motor-rifle division forward just
200 metres from the town of Uzhgorod on to Hungarian territory. We will then
have the following picture:
In Hungary there are 3 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions. The Front
there will consist of two Armies each of 1 tank and 4 motor-rifle divisions,
with 1 tank division in reserve.
In Romania there are 2 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions--these will
also form a Front of two standard Armies together with an Air Army.
In Bulgaria there are 2 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions.
In the second echelon is the Carpathian Military District, consisting
of the 58th Air Army and the 13th and 38th Armies. We already know that the
staff of the 8th Guards Tank Army has no one under its command and is to
move to Czechoslovakia in the event of war. Having made this assumption and
after moving one motor-rifle division forward 200 metres, the Front will
have 3 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions--2 Armies with one division in
Finally, in the third echelon, there is the Kiev Military District, in
which are located the staff of the C-in-C of the Strategic Direction and the
Group of Tank Armies (the 3rd and 6th Guards Tank Armies, with a total
complement of 8 tank divisions).
In reserve the C-in-C has two tank divisions (in Hungary and
Czechoslovakia) four motor-rifle divisions and the 102nd Guards Airborne
division. In addition he has a diversionary regiment and the variety of
supporting formations and units which the C-in-C of the Western Strategic
Direction also has.
Of course, it is no accident that the Group of Tank Armies is located
in the Kiev Military District. From here the Group can move quickly forward
to the Front by which it is most needed. But it could also be quickly
brought under the command of the Western Strategic Direction and, by
violating the neutrality of Austria from Hungary, could attack the
undefended Austro-German frontier.
The proportions laid down for the South-Western Direction are observed
as precisely as those of its Western counterpart.
In each Army there are 4 motor-rifle divisions and 1 tank division. In
the Strategic Direction there are 4 All-Arms Fronts and 1 Group of Tank
In each Front there are 2 tank and 8 motor-rifle divisions. In all
there are 2 Tank Armies and 8 All-Arms Armies made up of 16 tank and 32
motor-rifle divisions. You will recall that in the Western Direction there
are 32 tank and 32 motor-rifle divisions.
The South-Western Strategic Direction can be strengthened with forces
from the Odessa and North Caucasus Military Districts.
Types of Division
The Soviet Army is armed with dozens of types of artillery weapons:
guns, howitzers, gun-howitzers, and howitzer-guns, ordinary and automatic
mortars, multi-barrelled, salvo-firing rocket launchers, anti-tank and
anti-aircraft guns. In each of these classes of weapons there is a whole
array of models--from very small to very large--and most of these exist in
many variants--self-propelled, auxiliary-propelled, towed, assault, mountain
But despite the wide variety of artillery systems, all of these have
one feature in common; no matter how many men there are in the crew of a
gun--three or thirty--only two qualified specialists--the commander and the
gunlayer--are needed. All the rest of the crew can perform their duties
without any kind of specialised training. Any No 2 loader, rammer number,
fuse-setter, ammunition handler or other member of a gun's crew, can have
his duties explained in three minutes and the crew can be working like
automata within a few hours. The same applies to the driver of a
self-propelled gun or of a gun tractor. If he was previously a tractor
driver he too will quickly master his new functions.
Soviet generals know that it is possible to teach a bear to ride a
bicycle--and very quickly. Why, they reason, do we need to maintain a
peacetime army of hundreds of thousands of soldiers whose wartime tasks
would be so simple? Surely it is easier to replace the thirty men in a
two-gun howitzer platoon with five--the platoon commander, two
gun-commanders and two loaders and to moth-ball both guns and their
tractors? If war comes, the others--the bears--can be trained very quickly.
For the present let them occupy themselves with peaceful work--casting steel
(armoured, of course) or building electrical power-stations (for the
production of aluminium, which is used only for military purposes in the
In peacetime the great majority of Soviet artillery regiments, brigades
and divisions therefore have only 5% of the soldiers they would need in
wartime. Only those units (an insignificant minority) stationed in the
countries of Eastern Europe or on the Chinese frontier are up to full
This principle applies not only to the artillery but to most of the
land forces and indeed to the bulk of the whole Soviet Armed Forces. It is
almost impossible to apply it to certain categories--to tank forces or to
submarines say. But it does apply in many cases, particularly to the
infantry, to the marine infantry, to repair, transport and engineer
sub-units and to units manning Fortified Areas.
Because of this, the enormous Soviet land forces, with their peacetime
strength of 183 divisions as well as a very large number of independent
brigades, regiments and battalions, have a laughably small numerical
strength--little more than one and a half million men.
This astonishingly small figure is deceptive. Simply bringing the
existing divisions and the independent brigades, regiments and battalions up
to strength on the first day of mobilisation will raise the strength of the
land forces to 4,100,000. But this is just the first stage of mobilisation.
Soviet divisions are divided into three categories, depending on the
number of `bears' absent in peacetime:
Category A--divisions which have 80% or more of their full strength
Category B--those with between 30% and 50%
Category C--those with between 5% and 10%
Some Western observers use categories 1, 2 and 3 in referring to Soviet
divisions. This does not affect the crux of the matter, but is not quite
accurate. Categories 1 to 3 are used in the USSR only when referring to
military districts. Divisions are always referred to by letters of the
alphabet. This is because it is simpler to use letters in secret
abbreviations. For instance, `213 C MRD' refers to the 213th motor-rifle
division, which falls in category C. The use of a numerical category in such
a message could lead to confusion. In referring to military districts, which
have titles but no numbers, it is more convenient to use figures to indicate
Some Western observers overestimate the number of soldiers on the
strength of category B and C divisions. In fact there are considerably fewer
soldiers than it would appear to an outside observer. These overestimates
presumably result from the fact that in many military camps, in addition to
the personnel of divisions which are below strength, there are other
sub-units and units, also below strength but not included in the complement
of the division. The Soviet land forces have some 300 independent brigades,
more than 500 independent regiments and some thousands of independent
battalions and companies, which do not belong to divisions. In most cases
their personnel are quartered in the barracks of divisions which are below
strength, which gives a misleading impression of the strength of the
division itself. In many cases, too, for camouflage purposes, these
sub-units wear the insignia of the divisions with which they are quartered.
This applies primarily to rocket, diversionary and
reconnaissance/intelligence personnel but is also the case with units
concerned with the delivery, storage and transport of nuclear and chemical
About a third of the divisions in the Soviet Army fall into category A.
They include all divisions stationed abroad and a number of divisions on the
Categories B and C, too, account for approximately a third of all
Soviet divisions. In recent years there has been a constant shift of
divisions from category B to category C, because of the introduction of such
new arms of forces as airborne assault troops and fortified area troops. The
new sub-units and units need entirely new troops, which are always taken
from category B divisions. They cannot be taken from category A divisions,
because these represent the minimum number of troops who must be kept at
readiness, or from category C divisions because these have no one to spare.
It must also be noted that in category B divisions the three most
important battalions--rocket, reconnaissance and communications are kept at
category A strength. In category C divisions these battalions are maintained
at category B strength.
The same applies to similar sub-units serving with Armies and Fronts.
All rocket, reconnaissance, diversionary and communications sub-units of
Armies and Fronts are maintained at a strength one category higher than that
of all the other elements of the particular Army or Front.
It must be emphasised that the category allocated to a division has no
effect whatsoever upon the extent to which it is supplied with new weapons.
Divisions stationed abroad, which are all, without exception, in category A,
take second place when new combat equipment is being issued.
The newest equipment is issued first of all to the frontier Military
Districts--Baltic, Byelorussian, Carpathian, Far Eastern and Trans-Baykal.
Only five or seven, sometimes even ten years after a particular piece
of equipment has first been issued, is it supplied to divisions stationed
abroad. Third to be supplied, after them, are the Soviet Union's allies.
Once the requirements of all these three elements have been fully satisfied,
the production of the particular model is discontinued. Once production of a
new version has begun, the re-equipment of the frontier military districts
begins once again, and the material withdrawn from them is used to bring
units located in the rear areas up to the required scale. Once the Soviet
frontier military districts have been re-equipped, the process of supplying
their used equipment to Category C divisions follows. Then the whole process
begins again--to the second echelon, then to the first, then from the second
via the first to the third.
Such a system of supplying combat equipment has undeniable advantages.
Firstly, secrecy is greatly increased. Both friends and enemies assume
that the equipment issued to the Group of Forces in Germany is the very
latest available. Enemies therefore greatly underestimate the fighting
potential and capabilities of the Soviet Army. Friends, too, are misled and
it therefore becomes possible to sell them a piece of equipment which is
being issued in East Germany as if it were the most up-to-date model.
Secondly, it becomes far more difficult for a Soviet soldier to defect
to the enemy with details of the newest equipment--or even, perhaps, to
drive across the border in the latest tank or fighting vehicle. It is
practically impossible to do this from the Baltic or Byelorussian Military
Districts. The Soviet command does not worry at all about the Trans-Baykal
or Far Eastern Military Districts. It knows very well that every Soviet
soldier hates socialism and that he would therefore defect only to one of
the capitalist countries. No one would ever think of defecting to socialist
Thirdly, in the event of war, it is the first echelon forces which
would suffer the greatest losses in the first few hours--good equipment must
be lost, of course, but it should not be the very latest. But then, after
this, the Carpathian, Byelorussian and Baltic divisions go into battle
equipped with the new weapons, whose existence is unsuspected by the enemy.
This system of re-equipment has been in existence for several decades.
It is significant that the T-34 tank, which went into mass production as
early as 1940, was issued only to military districts in the rear areas.
Although the USSR was unprepared for Germany's surprise attack, these
security measures were taken automatically, simple as they were to enforce.
The surprise onslaught made by the Germans destroyed thousands of Soviet
tanks, but there was not a single T-34 among them. Nor, despite the fact
that the Soviet Army had some 2,000 of these tanks, did they appear in
battle during the first weeks of the war. It was only after the first
echelon of the Soviet forces had been completely destroyed, that the German
forces first met the excellent T-34. It is also significant that German
Intelligence did not suspect even the existence of that tank, let alone the
fact that it was in mass production.
The Invisible Divisions
On 31 December, 1940, the German General Staff finished work on a
directive on the strategic deployment of the Wehrmacht for the surprise
attack on the USSR. A top-secret appendix to the directive was prepared from
data provided by German Intelligence, containing an appreciation of the
fighting strength of the Red Army. The German generals believed that the
Soviet land forces possessed 182 divisions, of which only 141 could be
brought into a War against Germany. Because of the tense situation on the
Asian frontiers of the USSR, a minimum of 41 divisions must at all costs be
left guarding these frontiers. The whole plan for the war against the USSR
was therefore based on an estimate of the speed with which 141 Soviet
divisions could be destroyed.
On 22 June Germany attacked, taking everyone in the USSR, Stalin
included, by surprise. The way the war developed could not have been better
for Germany. In the first few hours, thousands of aircraft were blazing on
Soviet airfields while thousands of Soviet tanks and guns did not even
succeed in leaving their depots. In the first days of the war, dozens of
Soviet divisions, finding themselves encircled and without ammunition, fuel
or provisions, surrendered ingloriously. German armoured spearheads carried
out brilliant encirclement operations surrounding not just Soviet divisions
or corps but entire Armies. On the third day of the war the 3rd and the 10th
Soviet Armies were surrounded near Bialystok. Immediately after this an
equally large encirclement operation was carried out near Minsk, Vitebsk and
Orsha, near Smolensk. Two Soviet armies were destroyed after being
surrounded near Uman' and five Armies in a huge pocket near Kiev.
However, already, even while the bells were ringing for their
victories, the sober-minded German generals were biting their fingernails,
as they bent over maps; the number of Soviet divisions was not
diminishing--on the contrary, it was rising fast. Already in mid-August
General Halder was writing in his diary: `We underestimated them. We have
now discovered and identified 360 of their divisions!' But Halder was only
talking about the Soviet divisions which were directly involved at that
moment in fighting in the forward areas--that is, first echelon divisions.
But how many were there in the second echelon? And in the third? And in the
reserves of the Armies and the Fronts? And in the internal military
districts? And in the Stavka's reserve? And how many divisions had the NKVD?
How many were there in all?
The miscalculation proved fatal. 153 German and 37 allied divisions
proved insufficient to destroy the Red Army, even given the most favourable
The German generals' miscalculation was twofold. Firstly, the Red Army
consisted, not of 182 but of 303 divisions, without counting the divisions
of the NKVD, the airborne forces, the marine infantry, the frontier troops,
the Fortified Area troops and others.
Secondly, and this was most important, the German generals knew
absolutely nothing about the `second formation' system--the system which
splits Soviet divisions into two in the course of one night. This is a
system which enables the Soviet General Staff to increase the number of its
divisions by precisely one hundred per cent, within a remarkably short time.
The system of `invisible' divisions was adopted by the Red Army at the
beginning of the 1930s. It saved the Soviet Union from defeat in the Second
World War. It is still in use today.
The process, which enables the Soviet leadership to expand the fighting
strength of its Armed Forces with great speed, is simple and reliable and
uses almost no material resources.
In peacetime every divisional commander has not one but two deputies.
One of these carries out his duties continuously, the other does so only
from time to time, since he has an additional series of responsibilities. He
also has a secret designation--`Divisional Commander--Second Formation'.
The chief of staff of a division, a Colonel, also has two deputies,
Lieutenant-Colonels, one of whom also has a secret designation--`Divisional
Chief of Staff--Second Formation'.
The same system applies in every regiment.
Every battalion has a commander (a Lieutenant-Colonel) and a deputy,
who is secretly designated `Battalion Commander--Second Formation'.
Let us imagine that a conflict has broken out on the Soviet-Chinese
frontier. A division receives its stand-to signal and moves off immediately
to its operational zone. The divisional commander has only one deputy--the
officer who has been carrying out this function, with all its
responsibilities, in peacetime. His chief of staff and his regimental
commanders, too, have only one deputy apiece. The battalion commanders have
no deputies, but in a situation of this sort one of the company commanders
in each battalion immediately becomes deputy to the battalion commander and
one of the platoon commanders automatically takes his place.
Such unimportant moves of officers do not reduce the fighting
efficiency of the division in any way.
So, the division leaves its camp at full strength, with all its
soldiers and equipment. If it has less than its complement of soldiers and
junior officers, it will be brought up to strength as it moves to the
operational zone. The absorption of reservists is an operation which has
been very carefully worked out.
However, after the departure of the division the military camp is not
left empty. The Colonel who functioned as deputy to the division's chief in
peacetime has remained there. There, too, are six Lieutenant-Colonels, who
were the deputies of the regimental commanders, together with the deputy
battalion commanders and with one third of the platoon commanders, who now
become company commanders.
Thus, an entire command staff remains in the camp. Their previously
secret titles become overt. Within twenty-four hours this new division
receives 10,000 reserve soldiers and the military camp from which one
division has only just set out is already occupied by a new one.
Unquestionably, of course, the new division is inferior in fighting power to
the one which has just departed for the front. Of course, the reservists
have long ago forgotten what they were taught during their army service many
years earlier. It is understandable that the platoons, companies and
battalions have not shaken down and are not yet capable of obeying the
orders of their commanders promptly and accurately. Nevertheless, this is a
division. At its head is a trained and experienced officer who for several
years has been, essentially, an understudy to the commander of a real
operational division and who has often performed the latter's functions.
Those in command of the new regiments, battalions and, companies, too, are
all operational officers, rather than reservists. Each of them has worked
constantly with real soldiers and with up-to-date equipment, has taken part
in battle exercises and has borne constant, heavy responsibility for his
actions and for those of his subordinates. In addition, all the officers of
the new division from the commander downwards know one another and have
worked together for many years.
But where does enough equipment for so many new divisions come from?
This question is simple. These `invisible' divisions use old equipment. For
instance, immediately after the end of the war, Soviet infantrymen were
armed with PPSh automatic weapons. These were changed for AK-47 assault
rifles. Each division received the number of new weapons which it needed and
the old ones were mothballed and stored in the division's stores for the
`invisible divisions'. Then the AKM rifle replaced the AK-47s, which were
taken to the divisional store, from which the old PPSh weapons were sent
(still fit for use) to government storehouses or were passed on to `national
liberation movements'. The same path has been followed by the RPG-1, RPG-2,
RPG-7 and then the RPG-16 anti-tank rocket launchers. As new weapons were
received, those of the previous generation remain in the division's store,
until the division receives something completely new. Then the contents of
the store are renewed.
The same happens with tanks, artillery, communications equipment and so
forth. I have myself seen, in many divisional stores, mothballed JS-3 tanks
(which were first issued to units at the end of the Second World War) at a
time when the whole division was equipped with the T-64, which was then
brand new. When the Soviet artillery began to be re-equipped with
self-propelled guns, the old, towed guns were certainly not sent away to be
melted down. They were mothballed for the `second formation division'.
So, you say, these `invisible divisions' are not only staffed with
reservists who have grown fat and idle, but are equipped with obsolete
weapons? Quite correct. But why, Soviet generals ask, reasonably, should we
issue fat reservists with the latest equipment? Would they be able to learn
to use it? Would there be enough time to teach them in a war? Is it not
better to keep the old (in other words simple and reliable) equipment, which
is familiar to the reservists? Weapons which they learned to use eight or
ten years ago, when they were in the army? Mothballing an old tank is a
thousand times cheaper than building a new one. Is it not better to put ten
thousand old tanks into storage than to build ten new ones?
Yes, the `invisible divisions' are old-fashioned and they don't bristle
with top-secret equipment, but it costs absolutely nothing to maintain 150
of them in peacetime. And the arrival of 150 divisions, even if they are
old-fashioned, at a critical moment, to reinforce 150 others who are armed
with the very latest equipment, could nonplus the enemy and spoil all his
calculations. That is just what happened in 1941.
The system of `second formation' is not restricted to the land forces.
It is also used by the airborne forces, the frontier troops, the marine
infantry, in the Air Forces and by the National Air Defence Forces.
Here is an example of the use of this system.
At the end of the 1950s the anti-aircraft artillery regiments and
divisions of the National Air Defence Forces began to be rapidly re-equipped
with rocket weapons, in place of conventional artillery. All the
anti-aircraft guns were left with the anti-aircraft regiments and divisions
as secondary weapon systems, in addition to the new rockets. It was intended
that, in the event of war, an anti-aircraft artillery regiment could be set
up as a counterpart to each anti-aircraft rocket regiment and that the same
could be done with each anti-aircraft rocket brigade and division.
Khrushchev himself came out strongly against the system. Those commanding
the National Air Defence Forces suggested that Khrushchev should withdraw
amicably but Khrushchev refused, rejecting what he saw as a whimsical idea
by a handful of conservative generals who were unable to understand the
superiority of anti-aircraft rockets over obsolete anti-aircraft guns. But
then the war in Vietnam began. Suddenly, it was realised that rockets are
useless against aircraft which are flying at extremely low altitudes. It
also became clear, that there are conditions in which it is quite impossible
to transport rockets into certain areas, that during mass attacks it is
almost impossible for rocket launchers to reload so that after the first
launch they are completely useless, that the electronic equipment of rocket
forces is exposed to intense countermeasures by the enemy, and that those
may seriously reduce the effectiveness of missile systems. It was then that
the old-fashioned, simple, reliable, economical anti-aircraft guns were
remembered. Thousands of them were taken out of mothballs and sent to
Vietnam to strengthen the anti-aircraft rocket sub-units. The results they
achieved are well known.
This makes it quite clear why old anti-aircraft guns (tens of thousands
of them) are still stored, today, by the anti-aircraft rocket sub-units of
the Soviet Army. All of them have already been collected together for the
`invisible' regiments, brigades and divisions. If it should become
necessary, all that needs to be done is to call upon those reservists who
have once served in units equipped with these systems and the numerical
strength of the National Air Defence Forces will be doubled. Of course, its
fighting strength will not be increased in proportion to this numerical
growth, but in battle any increase in strength may change the relative
positions of the combatants.
Why is a Military District commanded by a Colonel-General in peacetime, but only by a Major-General in wartime?
No single aspect of the organisation of the Soviet Army gives rise to
so many disagreements and misunderstandings among specialists as the
question of Military Districts. One expert will assert that a district is
under the command of the Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces. Others will
immediately reject this. The commander of a military district has an Air
Army at his disposal and he is in command of it, but the C-in-C Land Forces
is not entitled to exercise command over an Air Army. The commander of a
military district may have naval, rocket or flying training schools in his
area and he must command them, but the C-in-C Land Forces has no authority
over such institutions. In order to understand the role of the military
district in the Soviet Army, we must once again return to wartime and
remember what its function was then.
Before the war, the territory of the Soviet Union was divided into 16
military districts. The same organisational structure still exists today,
with minor changes. Before the war military districts were commanded by
Colonel-Generals and Generals of the Army. Today the situation remains
exactly the same. During the war the forces from these districts went to the
front, under the command of these same Colonel-Generals and Generals. But
the military districts remained in existence. During the war they were
commanded by Major-Generals or, in a few instances, by Lieutenant-Generals.
During the war the military districts were nothing but territorial
military administrative units. Each military district was responsible for:
Maintaining order and discipline among the population, and ensuring the
stability of the Communist regime.
Guarding military and industrial installations. Providing and guarding
Mobilising human, material, economic and natural resources for use by
the fighting armies.
Of course these activities did not fall within the scope of the C-in-C
Land Forces. For this reason, the military districts were subordinated to
the Deputy Minister of Defence and through him to the most influential
section of the Politburo. The military districts contain training schools
for all Services and arms of service and it is in these that new formations
for all the Armed Services are assembled. For example, ten armies, one of
them an Air Army, were formed in the Volga Military District during the war,
together with several brigades of marine infantry, one Polish division and a
Czech battalion. In any future war, the military districts would perform the
same function. While military units and formations were being assembled and
trained they would all come under the orders of the commander of the
military district. He would himself be responsible to the C-in-C Land Forces
for all questions concerning the latter's armies, to the C-in-C of the Navy
on all matters concerning marine infantry, for air questions to the C-in-C
of the Air Forces and for questions relating to foreign units to the C-in-C
of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. Because the overwhelming majority of the
units in a district comes from the Land Forces, it has come to be believed
that the C-in-C Land Forces is the direct superior of the commanders of the
military districts. But this is a misapprehension. Each C-in-C controls only
his own forces in any given military district. He has no authority to become
involved in the wide range of questions for which the commander of a
military district is responsible, in addition to the training of reservists.
As soon as new formations have completed their training, they pass from the
responsibility of the commander of the military district to the Stavka and
are sent to the front. Thus, the commander of a military district is simply
the military governor of a huge territory. As such, he is in command of
every military formation located on his territory, whichever Armed Service
it comes from.
At the end of the war staffs and fighting units would be dispersed
throughout the country in accordance with the plans of the General Staff. It
would be normal for a Front, consisting of a Tank, an Air and two All-Arms
Armies to be located in a military district. By virtue of his position, the
Front Commander, who has the rank of Colonel-General or General of the Army,
is of considerably greater importance than the wartime commander of a
military district. In peacetime, in order to avoid bureaucracy and
duplication, the staffs of the Front and of the military district are
merged. The Front Commander then becomes both the military and the
territorial commander, with the peacetime title of Commander of the Forces
of the District. The general, who acted as a purely territorial commander
during the war, becomes the Deputy Commander of the district in peacetime,
with special responsibility for training. The Front's chief of staff becomes
the peacetime chief of staff of the district and the officer who held the
function in the district in wartime becomes his deputy.
Thus, in peacetime a military district is at one and the same time an
operational Front and an enormous expanse of territory. However, it can
split into two parts at any moment. The Front goes off to fight and the
district's organisational framework stays behind to maintain order and to
In some cases something which is either larger or smaller than a Front
may be located in a particular military district. For instance, only a
single Army is stationed in the Siberian Military District, while the Volga
and Ural Military Districts, too, have only one Army, which in both cases is
of reduced strength. In peacetime the staffs of these Armies are merged with
the staffs of the districts in which they are located. The Commanders of
these Armies act as district commanders while the generals who would command
the district in wartime function as their deputies. Since these particular
districts do not contain Fronts, they have no Air Armies. The C-in-C Land
Forces therefore has the sole responsibility for inspecting these troops and
this is what has led to the belief that these Districts are under his
No two districts are in the same situation. The Kiev Military District
contains the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the South-Western Strategic
District and a Group of Tank Armies. The staffs of the Kiev Military
District, of the Group of Tank Armies and of the C-in-C have been merged. In
peacetime, too, the C-in-C goes under the modest title of Commander of the
Kiev Military District. We have already seen how different the position is
in other districts.
In the Byelorussian Military District the staffs of the District and of
a Group of Tank Armies are merged. Although he has more forces than his
colleague in Kiev, the Commander of the District is nevertheless two steps
behind him, since he is not the C-in-C of a Strategic Direction but only the
Commander of a Group of Tank Armies.
In the Trans-Baykal Military District the District staff, that of the
C-in-C of the Far Eastern Strategic Direction and the staff of the Front are
Depending on the forces stationed on its territory, a military district
is assigned to one of three categories, category 1 being the highest. This
classification is kept secret, as are the real titles of the generals who,
in peacetime, each carry the modest title of Commander of a Military
The System for Evacuating the Politburo from the Kremlin
The Kremlin is one of the mightiest fortresses in Europe. The thickness
of the walls in some places is as much as 6-5 metres and their height
reaches 19 metres. Above the walls rise eighteen towers, each of which can
defend itself independently and can cover the approaches to the walls.
In the fourteenth century the Kremlin twice withstood sieges by the
Lithuanians and during the fifteenth century the Mongolian Tartars made two
unsuccessful attempts within the space of fifty years to capture it.
After the Tartar yoke had been shaken off, the Kremlin was used as a
national treasury, as a mint, as a prison and as a setting for solemn
ceremonies. But the Russian Tsars lived in Kolomenskoye and in other
residencies outside the town. Peter the Great left Moscow altogether and
built himself a new capital, opening a window on Europe. An unheard-of
idea--to build a new capital on the distant borders of his huge country,
right under the nose of the formidable enemy with whom Peter fought for
almost his whole reign. And all in order to have contact with other
After Peter the Great, not a single Tsar built behind the Kremlin's
stone walls. Go to the capital he built, to Tsarkoye Syelo, to Peterhof, to
the Winter Palace, and you will note that all of them have one feature in
common--enormous windows. And the wider the windows of the imperial palaces
became, the more widely the doors of the empire were thrown open. The
Russian nobility spent at least half of their lives in Paris, some of them
returning home only long enough to fight Napoleon before rushing back there
as quickly as possible. After the 1860 reforms, a Russian peasant did not
even have to seek permission before emigrating. If he wanted to live in
America--well, if he didn't like being at home, to hell with him! Even today
in the United States and in Canada millions of people still cling to their
Slavonic background. Foreigners were allowed into the country without visas
of any sort--and not just as tourists. They were taken into Government
service and were entrusted with almost everything, given posts in the War
Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior...
The ministries, the crown and the throne were entrusted to Catherine the
Great, who was honoured as the mother of the country, everybody having
forgotten that she was a German. There is no need even to mention the
freedom given to foreign business undertakings which set themselves up on
Russian territory. It was, in short, an idyllic state of affairs, or perhaps
not quite idyllic but certainly something entirely different to the state of
affairs which exists today.
Under Lenin, everything changed. He began by closing all the frontiers.
Before the First World War more than 300,000 people went to Germany alone,
each year, for seasonal work. Vladimir Ilyich soon put a stop to that. And
having closed the country's frontiers he soon became aware that it would be
no bad thing to shut himself away from the people behind a stone wall. He
suddenly thought of the Kremlin. Lenin realised quite clearly that he would
be shot at more often than the Emperors of Russia had ever been and without
a moment's hesitation he abandoned the wide windows of the imperial palaces
for the blank walls of the Kremlin.
Having shut his people in behind a wall of iron and having put a stone
one between them and himself, Lenin then took a precaution which had not
been resorted to in Russia for a thousand years. He brought in foreign
mercenaries to guard the Kremlin--the 4th Latvian rifles to be precise.
Lenin did not trust Russians with this job--he must have had his reasons.
These mercenaries claimed, as one man, that they were guarding Lenin
out of purely ideological motives, since they were convinced socialists.
Despite this, however, not one of them would acknowledge the validity of
Soviet bank notes; they demanded that Lenin should pay them in the Tsar's
gold. Thanks to Lenin, there was enough of this available. At the same time,
a brave preacher in Riga prophesied that the whole of free Latvia would one
day pay with its blood for these handfuls of gold.
The Kremlin also had a great appeal for Stalin, who inherited it from
Lenin. He strengthened and modernised all its buildings thoroughly. Among
the first of the changes he was responsible for was a series of large-scale
underground constructions--a secret corridor leading to the Metro, an
underground exit on to Red Square and an underground command post and
communications centre. Stalin threw Lenin's foreign mercenaries out of the
Kremlin. Many of them were executed straight away, others many years
later--before the seizure of Latvia itself.
Stalin chose to spend a large proportion of his thirty years in power
immured in the Kremlin. He also arranged for a number of underground
fortresses to be built in the grounds of his various dachas in the country
round Moscow. The most substantial of these was at Kuntsevo. His complex
pattern of movement between the Kremlin and these dacha fortresses enabled
Stalin to confuse even those closest to him about where he was at any
Stalin's system of governing the country and of controlling its armed
services is still in operation today. In peacetime all the threads still
lead back to the Kremlin and to the underground fortresses around Moscow. In
wartime, control is exercised from the control post of the High Command,
which, incidentally, was also built by Stalin.
It is quite impossible to acquire a plot of land in the centre of
Moscow--even in a cemetery. This is not surprising if you visualise a city
which contains seventy Ministries. For Moscow is not only the capital of the
Soviet Union but also of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federal Socialist
Republic), which means that it must house not only Soviet ministries but
dozens of republican ones as well. Besides these Moscow houses the KGB, the
General Staff, the Headquarters of the Moscow Military District, the
Headquarters of the Moscow District Air Defence Forces, the Headquarters of
the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, CMEA, more than one hundred embassies,
twelve military academies, the Academy of Sciences, hundreds of committees
(including the Central Committee), and of directorates (including the Chief
Intelligence Directorate--GRU), editorial offices, libraries, communications
Each of these wishes to put up its buildings as close as possible to
the centre of the city and to build accommodation for its thousands of
bureaucrats as close to its main buildings as it can.
A fierce battle goes on for every square metre of ground in the centre
of Moscow and only the Politburo can decide who should be given permission
to build and who should be refused.
And yet, almost in the centre, a huge, apparently endless field lies
fallow. This is Khodinka, or, as it is known today, the Central Airfield. If
this field were built on there would be room for all the bureaucrats. Their
glass skyscrapers would rise right along the Leningradskiy Prospekt, which
runs into Gorky Street and leads straight to the Kremlin. Many people look
enviously at Khodinka musing about ways of cutting small slices out of
it--after all this `Central Airfield' is not used by aircraft: it simply
lies there, empty and idle.
For several years the KGB made efforts to acquire a small piece of land
at Khodinka. The Lubyanka could not be enlarged any further, but the KGB was
still growing. A vast new building was needed. But all attempts by the KGB
to persuade the Politburo to allocate it some land at Khodinka were
unsuccessful. That was how the huge new KGB building came to be built right
out beyond the ring-road--a highly inconvenient location. Meanwhile the
endless field still stretches through the centre of Moscow, lying empty as
it always has done. Once a year rehearsals for the Red Square military
parade are held there and then the field sinks back into lethargy. Naturally
this valuable piece of ground is not being kept just for these rehearsals.
The troops could be trained on any other field--there are enough of them
Why does the Politburo refuse even the KGB, its favourite offspring,
permission to cut the smallest corner off this vast unused field? Because
the field is connected to the Kremlin by a direct underground Metro
line--Sverdlov Square (under the Kremlin
itself)--Mayakovskaya--Byelorusskaya--Dinamo--Aeroport. Muscovites know how
often and how quickly this line is closed during any kind of holiday or
celebration, or any other event which breaks the normal rhythm of life in
the Soviet capital.
Why do the Soviet leaders particularly like this Metro line? Already
before the war many spacious underground halls had been built for Moscow
Metro stations and the ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the revolution,
on 6 November, 1941, were actually held in the Mayakovskiy Metro station.
Everyone invited to attend had to reach the station from above, because the
line had been closed. Once they were there a special Metro train appeared
carrying Stalin, Molotov and Beriya. They came from the Sverdlov Square
Metro station. To reach this, they do not, of course, leave the Kremlin.
They have their own secret corridor leading to the Metro from right inside
Stalin's route out of the Kremlin has existed unchanged for several
decades. If necessary, any or all of the members of the Politburo can be
taken underground, in complete secrecy and security, to Khodinka, where
government aircraft await them in well-guarded hangars. With normal
organisation, the Politburo can leave the huge, traffic-laden city within
fifteen minutes, during which no outsider will spot official cars speeding
along streets in the centre or helicopters flying out of the Kremlin.
North-west of Moscow is another government airfield--Podlipki.
(Incidentally, just beside this airfield is the centre at which cosmonauts
are trained.) The sub-unit stationed at Podlipki is known as the 1st Task
Force of the Civil Air Fleet. In fact it has virtually nothing to do with
the Civil Air Fleet--it is a group of government aircraft. Ordinary official
flights begin and end at Podlipki. Special official flights, involving
ceremonial meetings and escorts, make the brief flight to Sheremetyevo or to
one of Moscow's other large airports. In an emergency the Politburo could be
evacuated in various ways:
- from the Kremlin in official cars to Podlipki and from there by air
to the Supreme Command Post; this is a long and inconvenient route. In
addition all Moscow can see what is happening.
- from the Kremlin by Metro to Khodinka and from there by helicopter to
Podlipki; this too, is a fairly long route, involving as it does changing
from the helicopter to a fixed-wing aircraft.
- the shortest variation--an aircraft of the 1st Task Force of the
Civil Air Fleet is either permanently stationed at Khodinka or makes the
short flight there from Podlipki, takes the members of the Politburo on
board, and vanishes.
The special aircraft soars up into the early morning mist over sleeping
Moscow. As it gains height it makes a wide turn and sets course for the
SCP--the Supreme Command Post, built by Stalin and modernised by his
successors. Where is the SCP? How can it be found? Where would Stalin have
chosen to site it?
Most probably it is not in Siberia. Today the eastern regions are
threatened by China, as they were before the war by Japan. Of course the SCP
would not be located in any area which might be threatened, even
theoretically, by an aggressor, so it cannot be in the Ukraine, in the
Baltic region, in the Caucasus or in the Crimea. Common sense suggests that
it must be somewhere as far away as possible from any frontier--in other
words in the central part of the RSFSR, which could hardly be over-run by
enemy tanks and which could scarcely be reached by enemy bombers, or by
aircraft carrying airborne troops. And if hostile aircraft were to reach the
spot they could only do so without fighter cover, so they would be
Secondly, the SCP cannot, of course, be sited in an open field. There
must be a minimum of 200 metres of solid granite above its many kilometres
of tunnels and roads. This being so, it can only be in either the Urals or
Thirdly it stands to reason that it must be surrounded by natural
barriers which are so impenetrable that no hunter who happens to enter the
area, no geologist who loses his way, no gaol-breaker, no pilot who has
survived a crash and wandered for weeks through the taiga can come across
the SCP's huge ventilator shafts, descending into terrifying chasms or its
gigantic tunnels, their entrances sealed by armoured shields weighing
thousands of tons. If Stalin set out to keep the location of the SCP secret
he would not have chosen the Urals, whose gentle slopes were being
completely worn away by the feet of tens of millions of prisoners. Where
could one build a whole town, so that no trace of it would be found by a
single living soul? The only possible place is Zhiguli.
Would it be possible to find a better place, anywhere on earth, to
build an underground town? Zhiguli is a real natural miracle--a granite
monolith 80 kilometres long and 40 wide.
Some geologists maintain that Zhiguli is one single rock, crumbling
slightly at the edges but retaining the original, massive unity of all its
millions of tons.
It rises out of the boundless steppes, almost entirely encircled by the
huge river Volga, which turns it into a peninsula, with rocky shores which
stretch for 150 kilometres and fall sheer to the water's edge. Zhiguli is a
gigantic fortress built by nature, with granite walls hundreds of metres
high, bounded by the waters of the great river. From the air, Zhiguli
presents an almost flat surface, overgrown with age-old, impenetrable
The climate is excellent--a cold winter, with hard frosts, but no wind.
The summer is dry and hot. This would be the place to build sanatoriums!
Here and there in clearings in the virgin forests there are beautiful
private houses, fences, barbed wire, Alsatian dogs. One of Stalin's dachas
was built here, but nothing was ever written about it, any more than about
those at Kuntsevo or Yalta. In the vicinity were the villas of Molotov and
Beriya and later of Khrushchev, Brezhnev and others.
Anyone who has travelled on the Moscow Metro will say that there is no
better underground system in the world. But I would disagree with
this--there is a much better one. In Zhiguli. It was built by the best of
the engineers who worked on the Moscow Metro--and by thousands of prisoners.
In Zhiguli tens of kilometres of tunnels have been cut, hundreds of
metres deep into the granite monolith and command posts, communications
centres, stores and shelters have been built for those who will control the
gigantic armies during a war.
In peacetime, no aircraft may fly over this region. Not even the most
friendly of foreigners may enter the Zhiguli area, which is protected by a
corps of the National Air Defence Forces and by a division of the KGB.
Nearby is a huge airfield, at Kurumoch, which is completely empty. This is
where the special aircraft will land but it is also intended for use by
additional fighter aircraft, to strengthen the defences in the event of war.
Close to Zhiguli is the city of Kuybishev. It, too, is closed to
foreigners, and it is useful to remember that this was where the whole
Soviet government was based during the last war.
Strategy and tactics
The Axe Theory
For decades, Western military theorists have unanimously asserted that
any nuclear war would begin with a first stage during which only
conventional weapons would be used. Then, after a certain period, each side
would begin, uncertainly and irresolutely at first, to use nuclear weapons
of the lowest calibre. Gradually, larger and larger nuclear weapons would be
brought into action. These theorists hold varying views on the period which
this escalation would take, ranging from a few weeks to several months.
Being unopposed, this theory was to be found in the pages of both
serious studies and light novels--the latter being fantasies with happy
endings, in which a nuclear war was brought to a halt in such a way that it
could never recur.
The theory that a nuclear war would take a long time to build up
originated in the West at the beginning of the nuclear age. It is
incomprehensible and absurd, and it completely mystifies Soviet marshals.
For a long time there was a secret debate at the highest levels of the
Soviet government--have the Western politicians and generals gone off their
heads or are they bluffing? It was concluded that, of course, no one really
believed in the theory but that it had been thought up in order to hide what
Western policy-makers really believed about the subject. But then the
question arose: for whose benefit could such an unconvincing and, to put it
mildly, such a silly idea have been dreamed up? Presumably not for that of
the Soviet leadership. The theory is too naive for specialists to believe.
That must mean that it was devised for the ignorant and for the popular
masses in the West, to reassure the man in the street.
The first American film I ever saw was The Magnificent Seven with Yul
Brynner in the main role. At that time all I knew about the Americans was
what Communist propaganda said about them and I had not believed that since
my earliest childhood. Thus it was from a cowboy film that I began to try to
form my own independent opinions about the American people and about the
principles by which they live.
American films are not often shown in the Soviet Union, but after The
Magnificent Seven I did not miss a single one. The country as I saw it on
the screen pleased me and the people even more so--good-looking, strong,
masculine and decisive. It seemed that the Americans spent all their time in
the saddle, riding on marvellous horses in blazing sunlight through deserts,
shooting down villains without mercy. My heart belonged only to America. I
worshipped the Americans--in particular for the decisiveness with which they
kept down the number of crooks in their society. The heroes of American
films would submit for long periods and with great patience to humiliation
and insults and were cheated at every turn, but matters were always settled
with a dramatically decisive gunfight. The two enemies gaze unflinchingly
into each other's eyes. Each has his hands tensely over his holsters. No
exchange of curses, no insults, not a superfluous movement. Dramatic
silence. Both are calm and collected. Clearly death has spread its black
wings above them. The gunfight itself almost represents death, for each of
them. They look long and hard into each other's eyes. Suddenly and
simultaneously both of them realise, not from what they see or hear, not
with their minds or their hearts but from pure animal instinct, that the
moment has come. Two shots ring out as one. It is impossible to detect the
moment at which they draw their guns and pull the triggers. The denouement
is instantaneous, without preamble. A corpse rolls on the ground.
Occasionally there are two corpses. Usually the villain is killed but the
hero is only wounded. In the hand.
Many years passed and I became an officer serving with the General
Staff. Suddenly, as I studied American theories of war, I came to an
appalling realisation. It became clear to me that a modern American cowboy
who is working up to a decisive fight will always expect to begin by
spitting at and insulting his opponent and to continue by throwing whisky in
his face and chucking custard pies at him before resorting to more serious
weapons. He expects to hurl chairs and bottles at his enemy and to try to
stick a fork or a tableknife into his behind and then to fight with his
fists and only after all this to fight it out with his gun.
This is a very dangerous philosophy. You are going to end up by using
pistols. Why not start with them? Why should the bandit you are fighting
wait for you to remember your gun? He may shoot you before you do, just as
you are going to slap his face. By using his most deadly weapon at the
beginning of the fight, your enemy saves his strength. Why should he waste
it throwing chairs at you? Moreover, this will enable him to save his own
despicable life. After all, he does not know, either, when you, the noble
hero, will decide to use your gun. Why should he wait for this moment? You
might make a sudden decision to shoot him immediately after throwing custard
pies at him, without waiting for the exchange of chairs. Of course he won't
wait for you when it comes to staying alive. He will shoot first. At the
very start of the fight.
I consoled myself for a long time with the hope that the theory of
escalation in a nuclear war had been dreamed up by the American specialists
to reassure nervous old-age pensioners. Clearly, the theory is too fatally
dangerous to serve as a basis for secret military planning. Yet, suddenly,
the American specialists demonstrated to the whole world that they really
believed that this theory would apply to a world-wide nuclear war. They
really did believe that the bandit they would be fighting would give them
time to throw custard pies and chairs at him before he made use of his most
The demonstration was as public as it possibly could be. At the end of
the 1960s the Americans began to deploy their anti-missile defence system.
They could not, of course, use it to defend more than one vitally important
objective. The objective they chose to protect was their strategic rockets.
They did not decide to safeguard the heart and mind of their country--the
President, their government or their capital. Instead they would protect
their pistol--in other words they were showing the whole world that, in the
event of a fight, they did not intend to use it. This revelation was greeted
with the greatest delight in the Kremlin and by the General Staff.
Inside the Soviet Army (III)