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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 66: Speech by Marshal Grechko at
the "Zapad" Exercise, October 16, 1969

This speech by Defense Minister Andrei Grechko at the end of the annual "Zapad" ("West") exercise shows that since the onset of détente little had changed in Warsaw Pact military planning. As always, the exercise began with a NATO conventional attack. Even with French participation, the offensive succeeded in penetrating only 10–70 kilometers into Warsaw Pact territory before being repulsed all the way back to the Rhine. According to the scenario, the West would prepare to use nuclear weapons while the East would try to prevent their use.

Speaking about the international situation, Grechko admits that no immediate threat of Western attack exists but warns that it could arise suddenly. Here again, apparently little had changed in the détente era. Grechko's conclusion is that there is still a need to prepare for both nuclear and conventional war. He says that the USSR in princi- ple will not be the first to use nuclear weapons but if the enemy chose to strike, the Soviets would not back away from their use. This was similar to the Western approach, except that no-one in the West spoke quite so openly about it at the time.

Evaluating generally the military and political situation in Europe we believe that today there is no immediate threat of attack against our countries. But one could appear suddenly. "…"

Under the current conditions one should take into consideration the possibility of waging a war with as well as without the use of nuclear weapons.

We are guided in this respect by the principle, which our party is implementing, not to use nuclear weapons first. But this does not mean that in a certain military and political situation, when the enemy reveals his aggressive intentions, we will not use our might in order to remove the threat of attack. "…"

In terms of the deployment depth, the forces of the NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries are in roughly similar positions. Thus, the divisions of the first echelon of both sides are located at most one day's march from one another. However, the "East" has considerably more of these forces, and this is their advantage. For example, at the depth of 100 km from the FRG border, the "East" has 1.5 times more divisions, and at the depth of 500 km—1.6 times more. Therefore, increasing military forces at the theater level must always happen with the "East's" overwhelming superiority, and the correlation of forces must turn more and more in their favor.

During our game, the deployment of military forces began with bringing them into a state of battle readiness. At the same time, the two sides began to do this practically simultaneously, and this allowed us to compare and evaluate the military capabilities of the "West" and the "East" at the start of the war.

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