UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!



As a result of its preponderance in the alliance, the Soviet Union imposed a level of standardization in the Warsaw Pact that NATO ccould not match. Standardization in NATO focused primarily on the compatibility of ammunition and communications equipment among national armies. By contrast, the Soviet concept of standardization involved a broad complex of measures aimed at achieving "unified strategic views on the general character of a future war and the capabilities for conducting it." The Soviet Union used the Warsaw Pact framework to bring its allies into line with its view of strategy, operations, tactics, organizational structure, service regulations, field manuals, documents, staff procedures, and maintenance and supply activities.

The Weapons and Equipment of the Non-Soviet Warsaw Pact Armies

By the 1980s, the Soviet Union had achieved a degree of technical interoperability among the allied armies that some observers would consider to be a significant military advantage over NATO. However, the Soviet allies had weapons and equipment that were both outdated and insufficient in number. As one Western analyst has pointed out, the NSWP armies remained fully one generation behind the Soviet Union in their inventories of modern equipment and weapons systems and well below Soviet norms in force structure quantities. Although T-64 and T-72 tanks had become standard and modern infantry combat vehicles, including the BMP-1, comprised two-thirds of the armored infantry vehicles in Soviet Army units deployed in Eastern Europe, the NSWP armies still relied primarily on older T-54 and T-55 tanks and domestically produced versions of Soviet BTR-50 and BTR-60 armored personnel carriers. The East European air forces did not receive the MiG-23, first built in 1971, until the late 1970s, and they still did not have the most modern Soviet ground attack fighter-bombers, like the MiG-25, MiG-27, and Su-24, in the mid-to late 1980s. These deficiencies called into question NSWP capabilities for joining in Soviet offensive operations against NATO and indicated primarily a rear-area role for the NSWP armies in Soviet strategy.

Within the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union decides which of the allies receive the most up-to-date weapons. Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Soviet Union provided the strategically located Northern Tier countries, East Germany and Poland especially, with greater quantities of advanced armaments. By contrast, the less important Southern Tier, consisting of Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, received used equipment that was being replaced in Soviet or Northern Tier forces. In the mid- 1970s, overall NSWP force development slowed suddenly as the Soviet Union became more interested in selling arms to earn hard currency and gain greater influence in the Third World, particularly in the oil-rich Arab states of the Middle East. At the same time, growing economic problems in Eastern Europe made many Third World countries look like better customers for Soviet arms sales. Between 1974 and 1978, the Soviet Union sent the equivalent of US$18.5 million of a total US$27 million in arms transfers outside the Warsaw Pact. Moreover, massive Soviet efforts to replace heavy Arab equipment losses in the 1973 war against Israel and the 1982 Syrian-Israeli air war over Lebanon came largely at the expense of modernization for the East European allies. In the late 1980s, the NSWP countries clearly resented the fact that some Soviet Third World allies, including Algeria, Libya, and Syria, had taken delivery of the newest Soviet weapons systems, such as the MiG-25, not yet in their own inventories. The Soviet Union probably looked at a complete modernization program for the NSWP armies as unnecessary and prohibitively costly for either it or its allies to undertake.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:45:01 ZULU