Is Soviet Defense Policy Becoming Civilianized?

by Benjamin S. Lambeth

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Since Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in 1985, aspiring players from outside the military have sought to influence the Soviet defense decisionmaking process. As a result, there has been a significant erosion of the monopoly held by the Defense Ministry and the General Staff in formulating Soviet military programs and policy. This report examines the changing structure and context of Soviet defense decisionmaking, emphasizing the growing role of civilians in shaping Soviet national security policy. If these defense intellectuals and other civilians succeed, it may or may not mean an end to the historic competition between the Soviet Union and the West. It will, however, guarantee that any relationship that eventually emerges will entail a more cosmopolitan Soviet adversary and a major alteration in the geopolitical challenge it represents.

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