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Soviet Union (former) Laws of War
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    The belief that history was on the side of socialism and that Marxism-Leninism was a basis for discovering "objective" laws governing social and economic change has caused a proliferation of laws and principles in Soviet military thought. On the most general level, the laws of war were factors determining the course and outcome of wars. These laws expressed the political philosophy of the CPSU in the military sphere. These laws, however, were not immutable and could change with the emergence of new military technologies and new operational concepts.

    Joseph V. Stalin, general secretary of the party between 1922 and 1953, believed in the existence of five "permanently operating factors": the stability of the rear, the morale of the army, the quantity and quality of divisions, the armaments of the armed forces, and the organizational ability of the commanders. These factors served as forerunners of the laws of war that were in force in 1989. Because Stalin's permanently operating factors did not take nuclear weapons into account, by the 1960s Soviet military political writers had largely discounted them. A new set of laws, taking into account new weapons, the new strategic environment, and the probability that future war would be mainly nuclear, did not appear until l972, with the publication of Colonel Vasilii E. Savkin's The Basic Principles of Operational Art and Tactics. Savkin's four laws of war in the nuclear era specified four factors upon which the course and outcome of a war waged with unlimited use of all means of conflict depended. First, he said it depended on the correlation of available military forces; second, on the correlation of the overall military potential of each side; third, on the political content of the war; and fourth, on the correlation of the moral-political capabilities (see Glossary) and the psychological capabilities of the people and armies of the combatants.

    In l977 the Soviet Military Encyclopedia refined and augmented Savkin's laws and listed six laws of war that the l984 edition of Marxist-Leninist Teaching on War and the Army reiterated almost verbatim. According to the most recent set of laws, the course and outcome of war depended on the following factors: the political goals of the war, which had to be just and revolutionary; and the correlation of the economic forces, scientific potentials, moral-political forces, and military forces of the warring sides. Yet another law, added in the 1984 edition of Marxist-Leninist Teaching on War and the Army, stressed the "dependence of the development and changes in the methods of warfare on quantitative and qualitative changes in military technology and on the moral and combat qualities of the military personnel."

    Since Savkin first formulated his laws of war in l972, a reordering of priorities has occurred. Savkin put the strictly military, primarily nuclear capabilities in first place. In l977 and l984, however, they occupied last place, with political goals in first place. The l984 edition reflected the realization that new weapons and new strategies could revolutionize future warfare and that high standards of training and combat readiness of military personnel would assume more importance than before.

    In addition to the laws of war just listed, which mainly influenced the course of war, Marxist-Leninist thought ostensibly has discovered the "law of objective victory," which predetermined the outcome of war and expressed the "historical inevitability of the triumph of the new over the old." That is, victory would go to the side that represented the new, more progressive socioeconomic system and that used the country's potential more effectively. Soviet military-political writers often cited Soviet victory in World War II as historic proof that no force in the world was capable of stopping the progress of a socialist society. Soviet military theorists also have invoked the experience of World War II to prove the superiority of a socialist economy in supplying weapons and war matériel. They have stressed Soviet ability to produce sophisticated military technology. "Victory will be with the countries of the world socialist system," Soviet military writers announced confidently in l968, because "they have the latest weapons." In l984 Colonel General Dmitrii A. Volkogonov, chief editor of the 1984 edition of Marxist-Leninist Teaching on War and the Army, made the relationship between weapons and victory even more specific when he wrote that "the attainment of victory is directly dependent on the availability [of] and sufficient quantity of modern means of warfare."

    Data as of May 1989

    NOTE: The information regarding Soviet Union (former) on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Soviet Union (former) Laws of War information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Soviet Union (former) Laws of War should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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