The Soviet Union after Brezhnev

By Martin McCauley | Go to book overview

7 The Military Build-up

Jonathan Alford

In general usage, adjectival qualifications often dramatise the nature of change in the Soviet military establishment - 'massive', 'unprecedented', 'terrifying', 'unjustified' and 'brutal' are all words which spring to mind as preceding the words 'military build-up' in recent public statements by Western political leaders. That there has been upward change in both the quality and quantity of Soviet forces is generally true in all components of an already large and diverse capability. However, it is not the purpose of this chapter to chart that change in any detail. Nor is it the purpose of this chapter to be unduly polemical. To argue what is a Soviet initiative in this respect and what is a Soviet reaction to a Western military initiative is not particularly helpful. There seem to be elements of both in that interaction between East and West which is often inaccurately and simplistically called 'the arms race'.

The aim is altogether less complicated: it is simply to ask why the Soviet Union continues to invest massively in a military capability, at a time when most Soviet economic indicators are more or less adverse, when the Western threat seems not to be increasing (although Soviet perceptions may be different) and when common prudence might indicate, at the least, some diversion of scarce resources to the civil sector. In the absence of internally consistent Soviet statements of intent, much of what is said here is inferred from what little we know. For example the Soviet Union is unlikely to admit publicly the need to garrison adjacent states for fear of defection, yet there can be little doubt that at least one purpose of the Soviet army is to enforce loyalty in neighbours, where loyalty is suspect.

In writing about the Soviet Union and its external policy one can never quite escape the essentially circular discussion about intentions and capabilities nor can one ever categorically state that the Soviet military capability is not being acquired with the intention sooner or later of defeating the forces of the West in battle. Even without worst‐ case analysis, one has to admit that, given favourable circumstances, any Soviet leadership might decide to resolve the dispute between socialism and capitalism by force. On the other hand, a wholly benign interpretation of Soviet motives, concentrating exclusively on the defensive concerns of Soviet planners and the need to maintain internal

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The Soviet Union after Brezhnev
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Soviet Union After Brezhnev *
  • Contents *
  • Maps and Tables *
  • The Contributors *
  • Preface *
  • I the Post-Brezhnev Era *
  • 2 Leadership and the Succession Struggle *
  • 3 Dissent, Opposition and Instability *
  • 4 Soviet Economic Prospects: Can the Soviet Economic System Survive? *
  • 5 Agriculture *
  • 6 Foreign Trade Policy: the Ussr, the West and Eastern Europe as an Eternal Triangle *
  • 7 the Military Build-Up *
  • 8 Soviet-East European Relations *
  • 9 Sino—soviet Relations *
  • 10 is Détente Dead? *
  • References *
  • Index *
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