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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 81: Marshal Ogarkov Analysis of
the "Zapad" Exercise, May 30–June 9, 1977

The 1977 "Zapad" ("West") maneuvers, which took place in East Germany, were intended to assess the Warsaw Pact's ability to counteract the marked progress in NATO's combat readiness. The Western alliance had recently completed the compa- rable "Wintex" maneuvers, the largest ever, and according to an East German report, the results showed the Pact falling short of its objective.

Adding to the significance of "Zapad," the scenario assumed that NATO would ini- tiate hostilities under the guise of maneuvers (such as Wintex). This theme appears with greater frequency in the late 1970s. Warsaw Pact intelligence was well aware of NATO's actual plans, but that did not entirely quell uneasiness over the presence of so many troops on maneuvers in the immediate vicinity. In his closing remarks following the exercise, Nikolai V. Ogarkov, chief of the Soviet General Staff, is fairly candid about the shortcomings revealed by "Zapad", as is Marshal Dmitrii Ustinov, the minister of defense and the exercise's commander. Ustinov notes that the Pact needs to acquire completely new (conventional) weapons systems to counter the West's growing supe- riority in advanced technology. During the 1970s, Soviet bloc analysts realized that the gap in military technology continued to widen and might never be bridged.

As always, the "Zapad" exercise ended on an upbeat note with the East eventually launching an offensive deep into the FRG and winning the war, despite Ogarkov's acknowledgement that not a single division had fulfilled its task.


REPORT

The exercise had three characteristics:

First, the exercise was distinct from previous ones in its large, spatial scope. The commanders and headquarters of the allied armies worked in locations with realistic space for administrative field stations and transfer points with great distances between them, and they worked through the questions under study during the entire exercise within a realistic timeframe using the "real time" method.

Second, it was carried out on the level of operational–strategic exercise, based on one of the possible variations of joint military action of the Warsaw Pact memberstates for repelling aggression in the Western Theater. At the same time it also included significantly adjusted, realistic military staffing and initial positioning of the opposing sides. This was done deliberately in advance so that the commanders and headquarters could work from actions according to a realistic plan and so that they would show more creativity and initiative in their search for the best means to solve complex operational tasks.

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