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Soviet military doctrine is highly systematic, unambiguously martial, and explicitly geared to a belief that should nuclear deterrence fail, some recognizable form of victory is attainable through the skillful exploitation of mass, initiative, and surprise. This orientation has played an important role in guiding the comprehensive Soviet military buildup of the past decade. It is less clear, however, to what extent doctrine would govern actual Soviet military behavior in a war. Soviet doctrine may provide a useful intellectual ordering device for military planners, but it is not binding on the Soviet political leadership. Given their natural conservatism, the Soviet leaders would undoubtedly feel strong compulsions toward caution and restraint in a major superpower confrontation. Nonetheless, Soviet military doctrine is an important indicator of Soviet leadership attitudes toward the nature of modern war, the strategies and forces required to deter it, and the broad objectives to be pursued should it occur.

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