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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Soviet Nuclear Threat AUTHOR Major Mark S. Spacher, USAF CSC 1989 SUBJECT AREA - Foreign Policy EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: THE SOVIET NUCLEAR THREAT I. Purpose: To investigate the window of vulnerability of a successful Soviet first strike against the U.S. and outline what the U.S. must do to reduce this window of vulnerability. II. Problem: The window of vulnerability for nuclear black- mail and/or a successful first strike against the U.S. is widening. III. Data: General Secretary Gorbachev is trying to project a less threatening Soviet image with his new program of "glasnost" and his new "defensive" military doctrine. How- ever, an assessment of Soviet strategic offensive forces will show these forces are not consistent with Gorbachev's "defensive" military strategy. The Soviet Union's 308 SS-18's alone have more warheads than all of our ICBMs com- bined. The SS-18 force by itself could destroy 65 to 80 percent of all our ICBM silos using two warheads per target, and still have over 1,000 warheads remaining. Furthermore, the Soviets now have two new mobile ICBM systems (U.S. has none), and they continue to modernize their nuclear-powered, ballistic-missile submarine force and bomber force. Soviet military doctrine emphasizes surprise (exploit an unprepared enemy), and, ironically, we rely on strategic warning to generate a large portion of our strategic forces. Today, if the USSR launched a first strike without prior strategic warning, we could lose over two-thirds of our nonalert bomber force, approximately one-half of our in-port submarines, and 65 to 80 percent of our nonmobile ICBMs (if we failed to launch the ICBMs in time - less than 30 minutes). After the first strike, the Soviet Union could then immediately call our President and give him an ultimatum: surrender or the major cities in the U.S. and in our allied countries will be destroyed. IV. Conclusion: In January 1988, President Reagan stated Soviet intentions best when he concluded, "Their goal has been, and remains, an effective disarming first strike capability. " V. Recommendations: To reduce this window of vulnerability of a successful Soviet first strike against the U.S., we must do the following: 1) educate Americans of the Soviet threat, 2) modernize our strategic forces to ensure they can survive and retaliate against a Soviet first strike, 3) vigorously pursue arms control discussions for meaningful and verifiable reductions in the two superpowers' nuclear arsenals, and 4) continue to pursue SDI and build a strong civil defense system to protect Americans should deterrence fail. THE SOVIET NUCLEAR THREAT Thesis statement: To reduce the window of vulnerability of a successful Soviet first strike against the U.S., we must educate Americans of the Soviet threat, modernize our stra- tegic forces, vigorously pursue arms control discussions, and protect American citizens should deterrence fail by pursuing SDI and building a strong civil defense. I. Soviet strategic modernization A. No signs of slowing down B. Window of vulnerability widening C. Forces not consistent with "defensive" doctrine D. Disarming first strike capability II. Educate Americans of the Soviet threat A. Soviet propaganda programs B. Threat will not go away III. Modernize U.S. strategic forces A. Mobile ICBMs B. Stealth bombers C. Silent submarines with D-5 missiles D. Survivable command and control IV. Arms control discussions A. Reduce superpower arsenals B. Continue modernizing U.S. forces to provide Soviets incentive to negotiate C. Ban nuclear cruise missiles D. Arms control agreements must be verifiable and equitable V. SDI and civil defense A. Protect Americans should deterrence fail B. Complicate Soviet attack planning THE SOVIET NUCLEAR THREAT by Major Mark S. Spacher, USAF If the Soviet leadership believed that in response to a nuclear attack by them, we would be forced to choose between suicide and surrender, might they not conclude that we would decide not to respond to an attack at all?(12:680) Caspar W. Weinberger The Soviets have amassed enormous military power, far in excess of what might be required for defense. (3:8) Frank C. Carlucci The Soviet Union has shown no signs of slowing down its strategic modernization programs. Today, seventy percent of the Soviet nuclear TRIAD consists of its fixed land-based ICBMs. Many critics call these ICBMs first strike weapons because these missiles have the accuracy to destroy our fixed land-based ICBMs. Consequently, the window of vulner- ability for nuclear blackmail and/or a first strike attack against the U.S. is widening. In January 1988, President Reagan stated: The Soviets continue to invest heavily in accurate, fast-flying ballistic missiles which can destroy hard targets. Their goal has been, and remains, an effective disarming first strike capability. More over, they are continuing to enhance their ICBM survivability through silo hardening and mobility, including deployment of the road-mobile SS-25 and the rail-based SS-24. At the same time, they invest roughly the same amount in their stra- tegic defense programs as in their offensive force modernization. They are expanding and improving the world's only deployed anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system, violating the ABM Treaty with con- struction of their radar at Krasnoyarsk and other radar deployments, and increasing their capability to deploy a territorial ABM defense. Their vast growing network of deep underground leadership shelters is aimed at ensuring the survival of communist Party control over the Soviet nation, economy, and military forces in war. Their strategic communications are highly redundant, survivable, and hardened against nuclear effects. . . . The Soviets active and passive defenses, their buildup of offensive forces, and their published doctrine all continue to provide evidence of Soviet nuclear warfighting mentality. (9:15) To reduce this window of vulnerability of a successful first strike against the U.S., we must do the following: 1) educate Americans of the Soviet threat, 2) modernize our strategic forces to ensure they can survive and retali- ate against a Soviet first strike, 3) vigorously pursue arms control discussions for meaningful and verifiable reductions in the two superpowers' nuclear arsenals, and 4) continue to pursue SDI and build a strong civil defense system to protect Americans should deterrence fail. General Secretary Gorbachev's program of "glasnost" and his new "defensive" military doctrine is more Soviet propaganda designed to hide their national goal of world domination (also called security for the motherland). An assessment of Soviet strategic offensive forces will show these forces are not consistent with Gorbachev's "defensive" military strategy. The table on the next page compares the two superpowers' strategic military forces. Click here to view image Sources: "Soviet Aerospace Almanac," Air Force Magazine, March 1989, 84, and "Major Weapon Systems and Combat Forces, Defense 88, September/October 1988, 40. The above table reflects the number of delivery vehicles. However, to better analyze and compare the USSR's strategic forces to ours, one should also compare the number of war- heads. Unfortunately, this research paper is unclassified and cannot present all of these numbers in detail. However, this paper can present the following: Click here to view image Source: "Soviet Aerospace Almanac," Air Force Magazine, March 1989, 84. The Soviet Union's SS-18's alone have more warheads than all of our ICBMs combined. The SS-18 force by itself could destroy 65 to 80 percent of all our ICBM silos using two warheads per target, and still have over 1,000 warheads remaining.(3:46) The Soviets have been hardening their silos (U.S. has not), and they now have two new mobile ICBM systems (U.S. has none). More importantly, the SS-24 rail- based missiles with 10 warheads each and the SS-25 road- mobile single -warhead missiles violate the SALT agreements (two new systems - SALT II only authorizes one new system). In addition to the modernization of the Soviet ICBM forces, the Soviets continue to modernize their nuclear- powered, ballistic-missile submarine force, the world's largest, with the Typhoon and Delta IV submarines. Further- more, the Soviets have enhanced its bomber force with the new Blackjack, the world's largest and heaviest bomber. Also, the recent introduction of the longer-range AS-15 cruise missile has substantially improved the flexibility and survivability of the Bear H.(7:12) Today, the Soviets have a very strong ABM defense around Moscow, and they continue to upgrade this defense. In a retaliatory nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, our missiles in order to attack Moscow must penetrate the Soviet ABM defense system and then have the task of striking deep underground leadership facilities. Conversely, the Soviet missiles must strike a U.S. target base that is basically soft (not hardened) and unprotected (no ABM defense system). In other words, the Soviet missiles get a free ride to their assigned targets. The Soviets also have a formidable civil defense system to protect their people. Regrettably, our civil defense system, at best, is mediocre. If the sirens sounded today, most Americans would not know where to go or what to do. Soviet military doctrine emphasizes surprise (exploit an unprepared enemy), and, ironically, we rely on strategic warning to generate a large portion of our strategic forces. Day-to-day, less than one-third of our strategic bombers are on alert, and approximately one-half of our submarines are out to sea. Fortunately, 98 percent of our fixed land- based ICBMs are on alert. However, should the USSR launch a first strike without prior strategic warning, we could lose over two-thirds of our nonalert bomber force, approximately one-half of our in-port submarines, and 65 to 80 percent of our nonmobile ICBMs (if we failed to launch the ICBMs in time - less than 30 minutes). After the first strike, the Soviet Union could then immediately call our President and give him an ultimatum: surrender or the major cities in the U.S. and in our allied countries will be destroyed. What must the U.S. do to ensure the Soviet Union will not be able to successfully carry out a first strike attack against us? We must, first and foremost, educate the American people of the Soviet threat. We need to-emphasize that the Soviet Union is our adversary, and that the Soviet threat will not go away. In January 1988, President Reagan stated: The differences between the United States and the Soviet Union are fundamental in nature, given the great disparities in our political, economic and social systems, and our divergent geostrategic interests. While the much-publicized reforms of the new Soviet leadership have raised expectations of more benign Soviet policies, there is as yet no evidence that the Soviets have abandoned their long-term objectives. This means that U.S. strat- egy to counter these objectives must also remain consistent and aimed at the long-term. We must remain sufficiently flexible to seize the initia- tive and explore positive shifts in Soviet policy which may strengthen U.S. security; but we must not delude ourselves into believing that the Soviet threat has yet been fundamentally altered, or that our vigilance can be reduced.(9:26) As stated earlier, General Secretary Gorbachev is trying to project a less threatening Soviet image with his new programs. This new image being projected is giving rise to false hopes to some of our politicians and media that Soviet behavior will also change. However, behind closed doors, Mr. Gorbachev's behavior is quite different. Ambassador Ken Adelman, Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) from 1983-1987, stated: In my five years as head of ACDA, I observed Mikhail Gorbachev close up. Despite his telegenic personality, in private he is the most brutish Soviet leader since Nikita Khrushchev. (1:66) Clearly, we must not diminish our military capabilities solely on the basis of Soviet public statements.(7:17) The Soviet threat is real and will not go away. Second, to deter a Soviet first strike, we must modern- ize our strategic forces to ensure our forces can survive and retaliate against a Soviet attack. Our strategic forces include not only the ICBMs, bombers, and submarines, but also the command and control for our TRIAD systems. In order to modernize the ICBM leg of the TRIAD, our missiles need to be mobile in order to survive a Soviet attack. If the USSR and the U.S. eliminated all fixed land- based ICBMs and agreed to only having single-warhead mobile ICBMs, this would reduce the risk of a first strike being successful by either superpower. Fixed land -based ICBMs are easy targets for a first strike, and MIRV'd ICBMs make it possible for one missile (with 10 warheads) to destroy up to 10 missiles. In a nuclear war, a country with fixed land-based ICBMs is forced into a use-it-or-lose-it option. This can be especially dangerous if a country's early warning system erroneously reports a nuclear first strike attack. Without a doubt, single-warhead mobile ICBMs are stabilizing compared to MIRV'd fixed land-based ICBMs. In modernizing our ICBMs, we must not neglect the other two legs of the TRIAD. Afterall, each leg of the TRIAD has its own distinct advantages. The ICBMs have the highest alert rate and are the most accurate leg of the TRIAD. The bombers can be recalled after launching, and they can search for and destroy Soviet mobile targets. And finally, sub- marines are the most survivable and provide a strong reserve force. A strong TRIAD also forces the USSR to both defend against and target more than one type of weapon system. Moreover, a strong TRIAD protects our country from an unforeseen Soviet technological breakthrough against one leg of the TRIAD. The USSR recognizes the synergistic effect of the TRIAD; this is indicated by their current modernization programs involving their ICBMs, bombers, and submarines. In modernizing our bomber force, the Air Force needs to press ahead with the B-2 (stealth bomber) and fix the problems associated with the B-l. The B-52's should be retired or limited to a conventional role, and the FB-111's should be transferred to the tactical air forces to be used in conventional roles only. The FB-111's are currently scheduled to begin transferring to the tactical air forces in the early 1990's as F-111G's.(8:40) Some military strategists argue the B-52's should be kept as part of our strategic nuclear forces; the B-52's would be utilized in a standoff role using long-range cruise missiles. However, I contend nuclear warheads on cruise missiles should be banned. Cruise missiles are destabilizing because they are near impossible to detect and can possibly encourage a first strike (especially if launched from sub- marines) . Mr. Robert A. Moore, Deputy Director for Systems and Technology, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, stated that cruise missiles "pose great difficulties for our continental air defense" and are grave threats to SAC bases and U.S. ballistic missile submarines "as they egress from their ports." He called Soviet cruise missiles his "greatest concern" on the strategic front.(4:75) In modernizing our submarines, the Navy needs to field the D-5 missile into their submarine fleet as soon as pos- sible. The accuracy of the D-5 will give the U.S. the capability to destroy hard targets that is lacking with the current C-3 and C-4 missiles. The Navy also needs to pursue a technological breakthrough in making U.S. submarines less noisy. Recent reports in the news have given disconcerting reports of Soviet submarines being more quiet and harder to detect than U.S. submarines. This could have grave conse- quences in monitoring Soviet submarines off our coasts and protecting the open seas around the world. In modernizing our command and control, the U.S. needs a system that will survive a Soviet first strike attack. Our current strategy of "flexible response" is dependent on a survivable command and control system. Afterall, the ability and resolve to retaliate is what deters a surprise first attack. Conversely, the U.S. also needs to develop an earth penetrating weapon to hold at risk the deep under- ground leadership shelters in the Soviet Union. Earth penetrating weapons will create doubt in the Soviet planner's mind that the Soviet leadership could survive a retaliatory strike. Third, to deter a Soviet first strike, we must vigor- ously pursue arms control discussions for meaningful and verifiable reductions in the two superpowers' nuclear arsenals. In January 1988, President Reagan stated: Continuing the modernization of our strategic forces is essential to assure reliable deterrence, enhance stability, and provide motivation for the Soviets to negotiate broad, deep, equitable and verifiable reductions in strategic offensive arms. . . . Neglecting modernization in expecta- tion of arms reduction agreements would actually decrease the likelihood of such agreements by reducing Soviet incentives to negotiate.(9:15) Therefore, arms control discussions with the Soviet Union should proceed while we modernize our strategic forces. In arms control discussions, considerations should be made for the threat China poses to the USSR and the U.S Also, where practicable, the strategic forces of our allies must be taken into consideration as a threat to the USSR. Ideally, our allies would be part of the arms control discus- sions; however, it has been U.S. policy not to consider her allies' strategic forces in U.S. nuclear war plans because the U.S. has no control over allied forces. As mentioned earlier, both sides should eliminate fixed land-based ICBMs and agree to a fixed number of single- warhead mobile ICBMs. Both superpowers should also agree to a fixed number of strategic bombers and submarines, along with the number of delivery vehicles/warheads each bomber and submarine can carry. Once again, nuclear warheads on cruise missiles should be banned, and, most importantly, any arms control agreement must be mutually verifiable and equitable. Fourth, to deter a Soviet first strike, we must continue to pursue SDI and build a strong civil defense system to protect Americans should deterrence fail. SDI is stabilizing because it complicates Soviet attack planning and creates more doubt in the Soviet planner's mind. Ambassador Max Kampelman, Head of the U.S. Delegation to the negotiations on nuclear and space arms in Geneva, stated, "The U.S. would be derelict in its duty not to pursue SDI." (6: ) Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger gave the best reason for SDI: If we could defend our people, who would prefer to avenge them? If we could live secure in the knowledge that our survival did not rest upon the threat of retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, would this not be a preferable moral position? The search for something beyond reli- ance on retaliation is neither cynical nor naive. (12:683) In addition to SDI, we must develop a civil defense system that will help protect Americans in case of war. One of the principle responsibilities for our government is the protection and security of American citizens. A strong civil defense system will provide this protection and will also reduce the risk of nuclear blackmail against our cur- rently unprotected populace. In summary, to reduce this window of vulnerability of a successful first strike against the U.S., we must do the following: 1) educate Americans of the Soviet threat, 2) modernize our strategic forces to ensure they can survive and retaliate against a Soviet first strike, 3) vigorously pursue arms control discussions for meaningful and verifiable reductions in the two superpowers' nuclear arsenals, and 4) continue to pursue SDI and build a strong civil defense system to protect Americans should deterrence fail. Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated: The central lesson of World War II and the past four decades is this: American military power is the prerequisite of peace. Strength is the price for peace. If peace seems expensive, con- sider the alternatives. By scrimping on strength we will reduce our security and increase the risks of war. But if we fail to keep the peace, the costs will be incalcuable. (12:696) In deterring the Soviet Union, our strategic force planners must look at deterrence through the Soviet's eyes, e.g., What deters the Soviet first strike planners? As the Scowcroft Commission's report stated: Deterrence is the set of beliefs in the minds of the Soviet leaders, given their own values and attitudes, about our capabilities and our will. It requires us to determine, as best we can, what would deter them from considering aggression, even in a crisis--not to determine what would deter us.(10:3) Henceforth, the U.S. must remain strong militarily so that each day the Defense Minister of the Soviet Union will go into Mr. Gorbachev's office and say "Sir, not today for a first strike against the U.S." BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Adelman, Kenneth. "Arms Control: Games Soviets Play." Reader's Digest, March 1989, 65-69. 2. Carlucci, Frank C. "America...and the Defense Challenges Ahead." Defense 89, January/February 1989, 2-9. 3. Carlucci, Frank C. Soviet Military Power: An Assessment of the Threat 1988. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988. 4. Casan, James W., ed. "The Dangerous Lull in Strategic Modernization." Air Force Magazine, October 1988, 70-75. 5. Deterrence: The Ultimate Challenge. Volume 12. Air Command and Staff College, March 1988. 6. Kampelman, Max M. Lecture about arms control and Soviet relations. Quantico, Virginia, l March 1989. 7. Lehman, Ronald F. "Soviet Defense Policy." Defense 89, January/February 1989, 10-17. 8. "Major Weapon Systems and Combat Forces." Defense 88, September/October 1988, 40. 9. Reagan, Ronald. "National Security Strategy of the United States." The White House, January 1988. 10. Scowcroft, Brent M., Lt Gen, USAF (Ret). "Report of the President's Commission on Strategic Forces." April 1983. 11. "Soviet Aerospace Almanac." Air Force Magazine, March 1989, 84. 12. Weinberger, Caspar W. "U.S. Defense Strategy." Foreign Affairs, Spring 1986, 675-697.



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