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This paper was written as a chapter in the book Gorbachev and the Soviet Future (L. Lerner and D. Treadgold, eds.). It considers whether changes that Mikhail Gorbachev has introduced within the Soviet Union signal the decline of the Soviet military's role as an institution within the country's political power structure. The author discusses three points: the growth of Soviet defense expenditures, the dynamics of personnel changes, and changes in the military's political status. He concludes that the changes Gorbachev has introduced have not reduced the importance of the military, but have increased it. The role the military plays in society has changed, however, because the role of the Communist Party and the KGB in military affairs has increased. The Soviet military is, and will remain, one of the most important and indispensable components of Soviet society.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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