By Amnon Sella
This is a key question for all Western military strategists. If the Soviets are indeed willing to tolerate high human sacrifice in warfare this obviously puts them at a military advantage. The perceived wisdom, hitherto, is that the Soviets are indeed willing to tolerate high casualties in battle - this, initial, view is reinforced by myths about Stalin clearing minefields by marching penal battalions across them. Professor Sella, however, comes to a different conclusion. He surveys Soviet attitudes to the military-medical service; to its own prisoners of war; and to the ethos of fighting to the death, considering how attitudes have changed from Czarist times to the present. He concludes that the Soviets are less ready to tolerate massive sacrifices than has been supposed; but that this position stems as much from utilitarian-military logic as from compassion.
- New York