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Soviet Union (former) Strategic Offense
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    The Strategic Rocket Forces, the Naval Forces, the Air Forces, and the Ground Forces have had predominantly offensive missions. Since their founding in l959, the Strategic Rocket Forces have been charged with using their intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to destroy military and economic targets in the United States and on the Eurasian landmass in the initial period of war. The Strategic Rocket Forces were to preempt an enemy attack by launching Soviet missiles first or to prevent the destruction of Soviet missiles by launching them soon after the enemy's missiles had left their silos. Thus the Soviet initial strike could be both offensive and defensive. In their offensive posture, the Strategic Rocket Forces could change the correlation of forces and resources and tip the nuclear balance in the Soviet Union's favor. At the same time, should the Soviet strike succeed in destroying United States missiles before launch, it would prevent a United States nuclear strike (see Military Doctrine in the Late 1980s , this ch.).

    In the 1960s and 1970s, the Strategic Rocket Forces enjoyed an undisputed predominance in nuclear strategy. By the 1980s, however, the Soviet military appeared to have downgraded the Strategic Rocket Forces. Soviet spokesmen, beginning with Ogarkov in 1981, began to refer to these forces, together with the nuclear Naval Forces and the Air Forces, as an integral part of a combined arms triad of "strategic nuclear forces."

    The Air Forces also have had an offensive-defensive mission similar to that of the Strategic Rocket Forces. In contrast to the Strategic Rocket Forces, however, the Air Forces' intercontinental capabilities had been very limited until the early l980s. In addition to the Tu-26 (Backfire) bomber with a largely theaterlevel use, in the mid-1980s the Soviet military deployed the intercontinental Tu-160 bomber and equipped its Tu-95 bombers with air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). Because cruise missiles could be conventionally armed, in the late 1980s the Air Forces were beginning to acquire a significant conventional capability for strategic missions.

    Of all the services, the Naval Forces experienced the most dramatic mission expansion after the 1960s. Their mission evolved from coastal defense to worldwide power projection in peacetime and to denial of the use of the seas to adversaries in wartime through the disruption of sea lines of communication. In the 1970s, the "father" of the modern Soviet Naval Forces, Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, had lobbied for independent strategic missions for the Naval Forces. Admiral Vladimir Chernavin, however, who succeeded Gorshkov as the Naval Forces commander in chief in l986, appeared content to have a strong but less independent Naval Forces, well integrated into the traditional combined arms concept and a uniform, all-services strategy. The strategic nuclear mission was the only Naval Forces mission in which Western analysts had noted some retrenchment since the 1960s. In the 1960s, nuclear war was expected to start with a massive nuclear exchange, and strikes by submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) were to supplement the initial strike by the Strategic Rocket Forces. In the 1970s and 1980s, when the Strategic Rocket Forces built up their counterforce capability, the primary strategic mission of the Naval Forces was to provide a secure reserve force, withheld from the initial nuclear strikes, and to protect this force from enemy antisubmarine warfare.

    The strategic mission of the Ground Forces has been defense of the territorial and political integrity of the Soviet Union and its socialist allies and, in case of war, conducting combined arms operations in the TVDs with the support of air, air defense, and navy elements. In Europe the goal of the strategic combined arms mission has been defeating NATO as quickly as possible and occupying Western Europe without destroying its economic base.

    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) Strategic Offense information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Soviet Union (former) Strategic Offense should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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