The State of Western Research on Soviet Military Strategy and Policy

by Benjamin S. Lambeth

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This Note reviews Western research on Soviet military thought, with special emphasis on Soviet doctrine and its impact on Soviet force planning and behavior. It traces the evolution of the field since the 1950s; examines the ongoing debate over major issues regarding the Soviet military challenge; discusses problems of evidence and interpretation as they apply to Soviet military research; and suggests new directions for the field. It is the overall character of the Soviet "threat," not Soviet doctrine in isolation, that inspires the most heated contention in the current national security debate. Although some of this contention revolves about legitimate differences over the meaning of ambiguous data, it stems for the most part from conflicting a priori assumptions about the Soviet Union. The Note suggests a view of the Soviet challenge that lies between the two conflicting views that dominate public discussion. It also argues that we know as much as we are going to learn from available materials on Soviet military thought and maintains that future research should aim toward broadening our appreciation of how Soviet forces might actually be brought to bear in combat.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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