Defense and Counteroffensive Under the New Soviet Military Doctrine

by John G. Hines, Don Mahoney


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This report presents an examination of the reorientation in Soviet operational concepts for fighting a conventional war in Europe brought on by changes in their military doctrine between 1987 and 1989. The Soviet military's new concepts for large-scale defensive actions are assessed according to three analytical criteria: the role of reserves and second echelons, use of fire assets, and the balance between positional and maneuver forms of combat. In so doing, this study endeavors to determine whether and to what extent the emerging Soviet strategy for the initial period of a war is unambiguously "defensive." Next, concepts for the counteroffensive phase are assessed, with an emphasis on the indeterminacy and vagueness apparent in current discussions by Soviet theorists. The authors focus heavily on the linkage between political exigencies and the General Staff's deliberations, and emphasize the role of Soviet threat assessments in the current evolution of military art. Military Thought, the General Staff's theoretical journal, is the primary source for this study.

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