Perestroika and Change in Soviet Weapons Acquisition

by Arthur J. Alexander

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Focusing on two major issues — the "conversion" of defense industry resources to civilian uses and the influence of contemporary weapons technology and complexity on the Soviet Union's ability to meet military requirements — this report identifies and explains the major elements of continuity and change in Soviet military organization, concepts, and goals since the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev and his "new political thinking." Soviet military research and development and production evolved from the 1930s to the 1980s in a manner that was consistent with the political-military doctrine and economic base that supported it. Now, with the dramatic changes in Soviet political choices, doctrine, economics, and technology, the Soviet Union's defense production complex is engaged in adapting to a conversion to civilian production as it tries to meet military demands for higher performance, increased reliability, lower costs, and the application of new technologies. Analysts must now shift from dealing with established and familiar elements to grappling with the uncertainties of evolving Soviet politics and policies.

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