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Group of Soviet Forces in Germany
Western Group of Forces (WGF)

During the Cold War the westernmost and most formidable concentration of Soviet armed might outside the borders of the Soviet Union was the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany [GSFG], later renamed the Western Group of Forces (WGF). In 1989 this force of about 380,000 men, organized into 20 ground force divisions and one air army and stationed entirely in East Germany, was over twice the size of the East German Army [NVA].

The importance that the Soviets attach to their position in East Germany was underscored by the disparity in size between the GSFG and the other Soviet groups of forces in Eastern Europe. The Northern Group of Forces in Poland, for instance, comprised three divisions, the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia numbered six divisions, and the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary had four divisions. The other groups totaled slightly more than half the size of the GSFG. The GSFG dominated not only East Germany but also the rest of Eastern Europe, not to mention the image that it projected into Western Europe. In 1987 the GSFG, under the command of General Valerii Aleksandrovich Belikov, had its headquarters in the former Wehrmacht command center in Zossen-Wünsdorf, south of Berlin.

In 1987 the ground forces of the GSFG were organized into five armies, which had been strengthened continually during the 1980s. These forces were fully motorized, equipped with tactical nuclear weapons, and provided with high operational mobility. The ground forces included about 5,000 to 6,000 main battle tanks, the majority of them T-72s. The First Guards Tank Army, headquartered at Dresden, included four tank divisions and one motorized rifle division; the Second Guards Army, at Fürstenberg, had one tank and two motorized rifle divisions; the Eighth Guards Army, at Weimar-Nohra, had one tank and three motorized rifle divisions; the Twentieth Guards Army, at Eberswalde, had three motorized rifle divisions; and the Third Shock Army, at Magdeburg, had four tank divisions and one motorized rifle division. In addition to the necessary artillery units at army and division levels, artillery support was provided by an independent division of rocket troops and artillery--the Thirty-fourth Artillery Division--stationed at Potsdam-Elstal and directly subordinate to the GSFG. A Spetsnaz (see Glossary) company was assigned to each army, and an independent Spetsnaz brigade was stationed in Neuruppin. Air support was provided by the Twenty-fourth Air Army, with headquarters at Wünsdorf. It is considered the best-equipped part of the Soviet air forces. In 1987 about 80 percent of the 1,000 to 2,000 aircraft were potential carriers of nuclear weapons.

The GSFG conducted its own maneuvers and training independently of the NVA. There was a program, however, called Brotherhood-in-Arms, which promotes contacts and cooperation between the East German and Soviet troops. Both the NVA and the GSFG participate in the various joint Warsaw Pact maneuvers and exercises.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:16:14 ZULU