The Soviet Military Scene

Institutional and Defense Policy Considerations

by Thomas W. Wolfe


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Since Khrushchev's fall, the growing importance of professional expertise and the return to collective leadership have tended indirectly to strengthen the influence of military professionals on Soviet defense policy. The Party, however, is clearly determined to prevent the military from intruding into essentially political affairs. In any case, the military elite does not seem to want formal political power. Despite a heightened sense of group identity among the military, there are tensions between the technical experts of the armed forces and the more conservative, traditional type of officers. The political leadership has seemed uncertain and divided over the allocation of resources to economic and defense requirements. By the spring of 1966, military claims seemed to have an edge over stated economic goals. (Marshal Rotmistrov speaks for a group that would upgrade the ground-air theatre forces.) The ambitious Soviet program of military research and development suggests a quest for qualitative excellence and new systems rather than a determination to alter radically the present strategic power balance. In spite of the present atmosphere of detente between the superpowers, it cannot be assumed that the Soviet Union is now ready to underwrite international stability and orderly change in concert with the United States.

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