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Non-Soviet Warsaw Pact and Soviet Military Strategy

The Soviet ground forces constituted the bulk of the Warsaw Pact's military power. In 1987 the Soviet Union provided 73 of the 126 Warsaw Pact tank and motorized rifle divisions. Located in the Soviet Groups of Forces (SGFs) and four westernmost military districts of the Soviet Union, these Soviet Army divisions comprise the majority of the Warsaw Pact's combat-ready, full-strength units.

Looking at the numbers of Soviet troops stationed in or near Eastern Europe, and the historical record, one could conclude that the Warsaw Pact is only a Soviet mechanism for organizing intra-alliance interventions or maintaining control of Eastern Europe and does not significantly augment Soviet offensive power vis--vis NATO. Essentially a peacetime structure for NSWP training and mobilization, the Warsaw Pact has no independent role in wartime nor a military strategy distinct from Soviet military strategy. However, the individual NSWP armies play important parts in Soviet strategy for war, outside the formal context of the Warsaw Pact.

The Warsaw Pact had no multilateral command or decision-making structure independent of the Soviet Army. NSWP forces would fight in Soviet, rather than joint Warsaw Pact, military operations. Soviet military writings about the alliances of World War I and World War II, as well as numerous works marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Warsaw Pact in 1985, reveal the current Soviet view of coalition warfare. The Warsaw Pact's chief of staff, A. I. Gribkov, has written that centralized strategic control, like that the Red Army exercised over the allied East European national units between 1943 and 1945 remained valid for the Warsaw Pact's JAF .

Soviet military historians indicate that the East European allies did not establish or direct operations on independent national fronts during World War II. The East European forces fought in units, at and below the army level, on Soviet fronts and under the Soviet command structure. The headquarters of the Soviet Supreme High Command exercised control over all allied units through the Soviet General Staff. At the same time, the commanders in chief of the allied countries were attached to and "advised" the Soviet Supreme High Command. There were no special coalition bodies to make joint decisions on operational problems. A chart adapted from a Soviet journal indicates that the Soviet- directed alliance in World War II lacked a multilateral command structure independent of the Red Army's chain of command, an arrangement that also reflects the actual situation in the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact's lack of a wartime command structure independent of the Soviet command structure was clear evidence of the subordination of the NSWP armies to the Soviet Army.

Since the early 1960s, the Soviet Union had used the Warsaw Pact to prepare non-Soviet forces to take part in Soviet Army operations in the European theater of war. In wartime the Warsaw Pact commander in chief and chief of staff would transfer NSWP forces, mobilized and deployed under the Warsaw Pact aegis, to the operational control of the Soviet ground forces. After deployment the Soviet Union could employ NSWP armies, comprised of various East European divisions, on its fronts. In joint Warsaw Pact exercises, the Soviet Union detached carefully selected, highly reliable East European units, at and below the division-level, from their national command structures. These specific contingents are trained for offensive operations within Soviet ground forces divisions. NSWP units, integrated in this manner, would fight as component parts of Soviet armies on Soviet fronts.

The East European countries played specific roles in Soviet strategy against NATO based on their particular military capabilities. Poland has the largest and best NSWP air force that the Soviet Union could employ in a theater air offensive. Both Poland and East Germany have substantial naval forces that, in wartime, would revert to the command of the Soviet Baltic Fleet to render fire support for Soviet ground operations. These two Soviet allies also had amphibious forces that could carry out assault landings along the Baltic Sea coast into NATO's rear areas. While its mobile groups would penetrate deep into NATO territory, the Soviet Union would entrust the less reliable or capable East European armies, like those of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, with a basically defensive mission. The East European countries were responsible for securing their territory, Soviet rear areas, and lines of communication. The air defense systems of all NSWP countries are linked directly into the Soviet Air Defense Forces command. This gave the Soviet Union an impressive early warning network against NATO air attacks.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2019 18:51:08 ZULU