The Soviets' response to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) must be understood within the context of their deteriorating economic situation and need to modernize their economy. This Note evaluates the defense burden to the Soviets of both an offsetting and an emulation response to the U.S. SDI effort. The analysis is conducted within the context of General Secretary Gorbachev's modernization program, which is designed to increase the productivity of economic resources. The analysis suggests that the Soviets can partially offset a U.S. SDI effort with a ruble expenditure that is a small percentage of current defense spending. Although the Soviets may regard such a response as unsatisfactory, it is important to consider the striking contrast compared with the burden of an emulation response. The author hypothesizes, therefore, that the Soviets will choose not to directly emulate the U.S. SDI activities, at least until they have modernized their technical-economic base.
Hildebrandt, Gregory G., SDI and the Soviet Defense Burden. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1988. https://www.rand.org/pubs/notes/N2662.html. Also available in print form.
Hildebrandt, Gregory G., SDI and the Soviet Defense Burden, RAND Corporation, N-2662-AF, 1988. As of February 1, 2023: https://www.rand.org/pubs/notes/N2662.html