The Collapse of the Soviet Military

Article excerpt

The Collapse of the Soviet Military by William E. Odom. Yale University Press (http://www.yale. edu/yup), PO. Box 209040, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-9040, 1998, 544 pages, $37.50 (cloth).

William E. Odom, a retired Army general officer and noted scholar of Russian and Soviet affairs, presents a new and compelling book about how and why the Soviet military collapsed and the connection of that event to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a succinct and readable style, Odom illustrates why the Soviet military, once the feared behemoth that threatened western Europe, expired alongside the Soviet Union and the Communist Party.

Odom's analytical approach differs from that of many others who came before him. He realizes that a study of any country's military must include the political and economic context and concludes that this is particularly important in the case of Russia and the Soviet Union. By examining the politics, economy, and military of both Russia and the Soviet Union, as well as their interrelationship, Odom draws sound conclusions about the nature of the Soviet military without running the risk of oversimplifying the problem by leaving out important information.

The author sets the stage for his explanation by providing the reader an understanding of the complicated organizational arrangements of the Soviet military, Communist Party, economy, and state. He does so by examining these issues separately in the opening chapters. Odom first explains how one can view Marxism as a theory of war and why Lenin found it compatible with the writings of Clausewitz. After that, he examines the Soviet military's organizational structure, its manpower policies, and military and industrial arrangements that evolved over time.

In the process, Odom stakes out his own position in a number of contentious areas. For example, he concludes that the Soviet Union's goals in the arms-control arena prior to the Gorbachev regime were not concerned with ensuring strategic stability between it and the West. Instead, those goals sought either to mitigate problems in the Soviet economic structure or to retain or increase a military advantage. This runs counter to the two prevailing schools of thought on this issue: Soviet senior leadership, if not the military leadership, accepted US conceptions of strategic stability and deterrence theory, or it never seriously entertained them. …