A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 12: Warsaw Pact Views of NATO's
Plans and Capabilities, April 28, 1960

This Czechoslovak General Staff description shows what information the Soviets and their allies had about NATO's views of war and how they interpreted them. NATO's strategy is accurately described as including the option of a surprise attack, but what is left out is the fact that the West contemplated this action only in response to an immi- nent Soviet offensive. Considerable detail is provided about NATO's preparedness to launch massive nuclear strikes against Warsaw Treaty air defenses and command cen- ters, in order to prevent Soviet bloc forces from advancing beyond the Vistula and Danube rivers and Carpathian mountains. NATO's aim is described as being to knock out the peripheral countries of the Warsaw Pact (those lying between the Soviet Union and NATO), to occupy these countries and to fight the Soviet Union on its own terri- tory. The materials also assume that Western nuclear bombers and missiles would reach Czechoslovakia within 20–25 minutes, and would be able to cover the entire country. However, the document ends on the reassuring note that complete surprise is unlike- ly to be achieved (see also Document No. 15).

It is difficult to tell from this document to what extent it was based on publicly avail- able materials as distinguished from intelligence. It is known that NATO was first hop- ing to stop the Soviets at the Rhine and later do its best to hold them as close to West Germany's eastern border as possible, but there is no indication from available evidence that NATO had any hopes to advance as deep as this description shows—to occupy all of Eastern Europe and fight on Soviet territory. This document thus appears to contra- dict everything that is known about NATO's capabilities and how the alliance perceived itself. It is possible either that the Soviets, ever impressed by Western technological prowess, saw NATO as more capable than it actually was, or conceivably that the Soviet military was attempting to alarm the East Europeans by exaggerating the West's intentions.

1. "…" Opinions regarding the conduct of war in its early stages

Insofar as its preparations for a new war of aggression are concerned, the general approach of the West is based on assumptions that the future "major" war will be a global conflict, waged by coalitions of states, affecting all aspects of the lives of nations both on the frontline and in the rear, and taking place in every war theater of the world.

"…" It is expected that the achievement of operational and strategic surprise and the massive use of weapons of mass destruction, which should swing the balance in favor of the attacker even when the ratio of forces does not play into the attacker's hands at the outbreak of hostilities, will play a key role in bringing the war to an early end.

Basically, these requirements are also reflected in the West's concept of how the war will be initiated.

-105-

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