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Soviet Naval Personnel - 1991

Soviet seapower hinged upon more than weapons platforms. operational deployment patterns, and strategic designs. The human element-the attributes of the individual sailor and the organizational framework within which he must labor - was an equally essential component of the overall maritime might of the USSR. In assessing the abilities and mindset of the Soviet naval officer or enlisted man, it is important to bear in mind his unique vantage point and to avoid "mirror-imaging" the American or Western experience. What determines his thoughts, his motivation to learn or fight, is quite different from what drives his American counterpart. In short, an important part of understanding Soviet naval developments revolves around the Soviet sailor, both as an individual and as a member of a crew.

When ranked by the number of active-duty personnel, the Soviet Navy was second in size only to the United States, numbering about 396,000 in mid-1991. The transfer of four Motorized Rifle Divisions and nearly 670 combat aircraft to the Soviet Navy since 1989 brought additional manpower, but the overall number is expected to continue to decline over the next several years as older, manpower intensive warships are phased out. The Soviets themselves admitted to having only 437,300 personnel in March of 1989, but it is not known how the total was arrived at.

There were also a great many civilians working for the Soviet than one in three sailors on active duty, served aboard ship. and another 75,000 or so were attached to Soviet Naval Aviation. In addition, there were an estimated 17,000 Naval Infantry (marines) and 23,000 personnel assigned to coastal defense, communications, and observation forces, including the four Motorized Rifle Divisions transferred to the Soviet Navy in 1990. A large shore support establishment comprised some 109,000 men and women, and there were approximately 17,000 personnel in training.

The KGB maintained a large maritime border - 25,000 or more strong - principally to police emigration and customs, and the MVD and other internal security organizations operate port security and riverine patrol forces.

Although the number of men and women serv ing on active duty in the Soviet Navy had remained steady throughout the 1980s, demographic trends and fundamental economic reforms in the USSR, including the disposal of large numbers of older, manpower-intensive ships, would in any event have led to a reduction of naval personnel in the 1990s. While a decline in the number of 18-year-old males in the USSR has finally bottomed out, the number of Russians and other Slavs continued to decrease relative to non-Slavic, principally Central Asian. peoples.

The non-Slavic nationalities were considered by most ethnic Russians to be somewhat incompetent and untrustworthy, not the least because of their inability or unwillingness to speak and read Russian. While other Soviet forces were expected to be greatly affected, the Navy, because it was a smaller, more homogeneous group, was less likely than the other armed forces to suffer from shifting demographics. But the Navy was no less likely than the other services to be spared from major policy shifts under the Soviet central government. which needed military cutbacks in inorder to help finance economic reforms. Undeniably, there is still much room for trimming the massive Soviet conventional forces.




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