^■Ol 1 *
UNDERSTANDING THE SOVIET NAVY:
A HAND BOOK
UNDERSTANDING THE SOVIET NAVY:
A HAND BOOK
ROBERT B. BATHURST
Naval War College Press
Newport, Rhode Island
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Bathurst, Robert B 1927-
Understanding the Soviet Navy
1. Russia -Naval policy. 2. Russia (1923-
U.S.S.R.). Voenno-Morskoi Flot. I. Title.
VA573.B37 359'.03'0947 79-28436
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT NAVIES .... vi
PART I: MARXIST/LENINIST STRATEGY
Chapter I: East vs. West: The Two
Languages of War 1
Chapter II: Concepts of War, East and West 16
Chapter III: The Soviet Navy in Marxist Strategy ... 37
PART II: THE RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE
Chapter IV: The Historical Setting 49
Chapter V: War and Revolution 74
Chapter VI: A Soviet/Russian Synthesis 95
PART III: ORGANIZATION FOR WAR
Chapter VII: The Tactics of War 117
Chapter VIII: Preparing the Mind 139
Chapter IX: A Summing Up 152
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 170
My greatest indebtedness for this book is to the assignment
officer who sent me to the Naval War College in 1972 at the
beginning of Admiral Stansfield Turner's reign as President and
revolution as academician. From the very beginning, Admiral
Turner said that he wanted an atmosphere of free intellectual
inquiry. To be truthful, I did not believe him. Such freedom, after
all, is a rare commodity, hardly to be taken for granted even in the
universities, much less in the military. But under Admiral Turner
we had it.
Admiral Julien J. LeBourgeois even continued the policy of that
intellectual freedom. As President of the Naval War College, he
made it possible for this book to be written without making any
demands on the author whatever. He did not know whether it
would support the Navy budget or the current foreign policy
"line." The basis for his decision, so far as I knew it, was that the
author had something different to say which was possibly worth
hearing. That is intellectual freedom.
Authors frequently make a ritual bow to their students. I do
not because in my seminars, I did not have students but
colleagues. They (officers from all services and many government
agencies) were a source of stimulation, pride, and astonishment.
They were on an intellectual par with any groups of students I
have ever met and far exceeded nearly all of them in self-disci-
pline, intellectual honesty, and curiosity. As a result of our
discussions, I have filled several notebooks with ideas that will
keep me writing for years to come. Having come to know these
admirable people, I no longer worry about our country's defense
or tolerate prejudiced notions about "the military mind."
Professor James E. King, Captain Norman Channell, Doctors
Frank Simonie and John Chomeau, Mr. Ervin Kapos, and
Commander Tyrone Martin have been wonderfully helpful and
generous in their criticisms. More importantly, they have stimu-
lated many ideas. Captain Hugh Nott has been very patient and
encouraging. A man with very high standards, he is easily
disappointed. I have kept that very much in mind.
I also owe much to the late (I fear) Dr. Nicholas Shadrin, a
deeply Russian sailor and troubled Soviet/ American citizen, who
disappeared in Vienna in December 1975. Who can doubt that the
KGB has committed another atrocity? I am indebted to Nick for
his insights, not his secrets. If he has somehow survived, I wish him
Professors Victor Terras and Arnold Weinstein, of Brown
University, who teach language and literature, would be surprised
to learn that they were also important influences in this work.
Nevertheless, it was through their vision that I finally saw the
unity between strategy and art.
So much of success or failure is due to chance meetings,
incidental remarks and unpredictable occurrences. In that connec-
tion, I must thank Janet Auchincloss, my fellow seminarian and,
on one critical day, my muse.
Diane Haley Moshier's first reactions, while she transcribed and
typed the manuscript, were an important encouragement. Cynthia
Edwards did a fine job of helping to bring order out of chaos.
Finally, with the gratitude of a belated awareness, I thank the
U.S. Navy which may be a hierarchical elite, but an elite which
shows loyalty downward as well as up.
Although everything in this book, one way or another, is about
the Soviet Navy, much of it may seem to wander far afield. That is
because the object of this study is not just to provide a history of
the Soviet Navy and a review of current tactics and strategic
doctrine, but also to provide a basis for predicting how the Navy
will be used-a guide to action, as it were.
Prediction is a military necessity. The strategist cannot afford
the intellectual security of traditional scholarship, that of being
able to analyze events after the passage of time. The military
leader, like everyone else, must learn from the past but his
professional competence is determined by his ability to manipu-
late his resources in the present and to be prepared for the future.
It is presumptuous, perhaps, but possible to write about the
employment of the Soviet Navy in the future. Because of rapidly
changing policies and administrations^ one hardly could, and then
only with too many qualifications to make it meaningful, write
about the future of the U.S. Navy or that of many of the major
navies in the free world. However, in the Soviet Union changes
occur slowly within a system that sets up a series of absolute
limitations. The variables within those limitations may be numer-
ous but they are controlled by an ideology that makes them more
easily predictable. It is the thesis here that once one understands
the operations of the culture and ideology, one can make
reasonably accurate predictions about the composition and use of
the Soviet Navy in future years.
Understanding those elements of Soviet ideology that pertain to
the use of the navy also prepares one to understand patterns of
response that may occur in crises. In crisis management one must
not only know patterns of an adversary's response but also how he
views his adversary and what decisions he is likely to make on the
basis of his assumptions about that adversary's behavior. For
example, Americans usually think of themselves as logical,
rational, and rather conservative in their decisionmaking. The
Soviets, however, appear to view Americans as impetuous,
emotional, and easily angered. Whether that is justified is not
particularly important. The point is that those are the qualities
that the Soviets will take into consideration when deciding how to
respond to situations with a crisis potential.
In understanding the Soviet Navy it is practical to stop reacting
to the veracity of Soviet claims and to ask only if a given notion is
an operative concept. Whether true or false, does it seem to
influence Soviet behavior? For example, the Soviet line is that
skillful Soviet diplomacy and restraint kept the Cuban missile
crisis from becoming more serious than it was and that Soviet
intervention caused the Japanese surrender in 1945. In view of the
complete Soviet control of information, one must accept those
versions of history as "operative" within the Soviet Navy. No one
within the Soviet Navy would dare to argue otherwise.
This study will try to avoid organizing naval activities into
discrete categories, paired opposites, such as offense and defense,
coastal and blue-water, etc., for two reasons. First, there are
certain emotional responses that have become attached to these
terms that tend, by standardizing responses to them, to channel
thought too narrowly. For example, "offensive" is widely con-
sidered to be much better and more honorable than "defensive."
When the Soviet Navy was considered a "defensive" navy, it was
not taken very seriously and the radical developments that were
occurring and that laid the foundations for the modern "offen-
sive" Soviet Navy tended to be ignored or inaccurately appraised.
As we shall see, the Soviet concept of warfare is such that these
terms are at best misleading and in Soviet epistemology only
The second reason for avoiding such terms is that in trying to
understand the Soviet Navy as a dynamic force, it is undoubtedly
wise to avoid— as much as possible— the language of mechanistic
categories. In doing so one can more easily see new combinations
and escape one of the major pitfalls of current and past analysis,
that of translating Soviet reality into our own terms and then
responding as if Soviet concepts were identical to ours— the
There are excellent studies of the Soviet Navy by Robert
Herrick, Michael MccGwire, and John Moore, among others, that
tell us nearly all of the facts that we can hope to learn from
available sources. This book is intended to fill a different gap. To
date there have been no studies by Western analysts of the Soviet
Navy as a Marxist- Leninist force. In fact, there are few studies in
any of the disciplines related to political science that focus on
Soviet naval developments through Soviet ideology. As a result,
few of those whose business it is to react to the Soviet Navy realize
how much of Soviet behavior can be predicted, how dissimilar its
goals are from ours, and how unlike its decisions are from our
Understanding the Soviet Navy is not easy. The Soviet
Government, like the Imperial Russian Government before it,
makes considerable use of false information— disinformation.
(Anyone from the Premier on down, including the admiral of the
fleet, may be lying as a matter of official policy.) Second, the
language that is used is basically incomprehensible to those who
have not studied the concepts of Marxism- Leninism (which is
perhaps why many assume that the Soviets surely do not mean
what they say). And finally, what is said is based upon a very
different hierarchy of values from our own.
As the reader will have guessed, there will have to be some
lengthy discussions before we get to the crux of the matter.
However, to win at chess, or in war, the victor will be the one who
has had the foresight to move his assets to the right initial
positions. Ideas can be like that, too. It is difficult to figure out
what someone is doing until you have watched him from all sides.
This book is intended to give the view from some of the missing
THINKING ABOUT NAVIES
When one reads a Soviet analysis of war-that it is the result of
the class hatred, that its cause is economically determined, or that
naval power is related to an attempt to control the means of
production— one wonders if the Soviets really believe that. We see
the world so much as a reflection of our own notions that we
doubt others' realities. This becomes extremely serious when one
government tries to convey a threatening signal to another but
when the signal is interpreted to have a different meaning. Such a
signal was our proposed evacuation of refugees from Bangladesh
by aircraft carrier in 1970, interpreted by the Indian Government
as a signal of hostility, approaching an act of war. Relations
between the two countries have not been the same since.
Navies can be used to convey signals. In fact the chief function
of a navy, or any military force for that matter, is not to fight, but
to convey signals that are so clear that battle becomes unneces-
sary. Admiral Gorshkov acknowledged that when he wrote:
Many examples from history attest to the fact that under
feudalism, as well as under capitalism, problems of foreign
policy have always been decided on the basis of the military
strength of the "negotiating" sides, and that the potential
military strength of one state or another, created in accord-
ance with its economic resources and taking into account its
political orientation, frequently made it possible for it to
implement an advantageous policy to the detriment of other
states not possessing commensurate military strength. 1
(That Admiral Gorshkov put quotations around the word "negoti-
ating" is significant. One of the somewhat ominous arguments
running through his book is that sufficient power can bring rapid
The idea of a naval ship as a sign was specifically stated by
Engels when he said, "A modern naval ship is not only the product
of a major industry, but is at the same time an example of it." 2
Gorshkov concludes that a "Navy can be a graphic affirmation of
this and an arbitrary indication of the level of development of the
country's economy." 3
Of course, in a political system of signals a navy is not just a
deterrent— for deterrence means preventing someone from doing
something that he wants to do— but part of a large group of signs
that may actually define a nation's view of its political reality.
Those things that a nation sees as quite vital are easily influenced
by its system of interpretation, which is to say by its peculiar
pattern of signals.
For example, in the United States it is widely assumed that an
attack against one of our naval ships would be tantamount to an
attack against the country itself. That is part of the U.S. system of
interpretation. Through our foreign policy, we teach other
countries "to respect" our system of values. It is probable that the
U.S.S.R. would not interpret such an event in a similar way. The
Soviet system is different.
How enormously different a system of signs can be is illustrated
by the fact that Iceland, with no significant navy whatsoever,
would undertake a so-called "cod war" against Great Britain, an
infinitely greater power; or that another small island, Malta, would
challenge, as it did in 1970, not only Great Britain but all of
NATO. These countries were responding not only to signals but
also to the absence of signals that had existed in the first half of
the 20th century. At that time, they would not have dared to defy
the great powers.
Obviously, signals are interpreted according to cultural differ-
ences. A "rational" analysis can be very unimportant in predicting
behavior. The problem is that signals are always part of a cultural
system, a code, and one has to be able to decipher the code from
within that system to assign values accurately. If one is outside the
system, then one reacts only to the signals that one perceives and
assigns values to them in accordance with one's own system. For
example, the importance of the adaptation of the surface-to-
surface missile to the small torpedo patrol boats was for many
years not generally perceived in the West. For Western navies, signs
had to have a certain dimension to attract attention. We were
reacting to big ships, big guns, and big kill ratios. We tended not to
react to mere words, either. We did not understand until 1975 the
significance of Admiral Gorshkov 's statement, first made in 1967,
that the navy should serve in defense of state interests.
It is perhaps helpful to think of the Soviet Navy as a mass of
signs about power relationships, some of which we will interpret
correctly, some of which we will not understand, and many of
which we will not perceive at all. For example, when in the 60s
the Soviets shadowed U.S. Atlantic carrier crossings, they were
conveying signals that we did not understand. It was only later,
when we understood that the Soviet aircraft were part of a system
meant to prove that the carrier "problem" was solved, that the
reason for the shadowing became clear.
Of course, no one even within the system can respond with
consistent accuracy to these signs that are always confusing,
frequently contradictory, and sometimes purposefully false. Even
when one does respond one is also conveying signals that, of
course, immediately alter all of the values. Reading the code is a
dialectic game with infinite variations. It never ends.
Whether they like it or not, military leaders are in the business
of reading the signals and devising a system for conveying their
own. They must determine the code to which the signals relate (in
this case it is Soviet military strategy that is the result of a very
different mentality) .
The problem is always to understand the alien code, the foreign
system of signals. For instance, after years of denigrating the
aircraft carrier as being obsolete, a floating coffin, an easy target,
the Soviets have built two. What is the signal to foreign navies?
What is this change in their strategy that has made the aircraft
carrier a justifiable undertaking? In reversing their position, what
are the Soviets telling their own people, their navy, their allies?
Understanding the Soviet system of signals is not easy because it
is very different from our own. Sometimes the Soviets seem
irrational; they do not properly understand their own vital
interests, we think; they misjudge us; and they lag behind in what
we consider important fields. That is to say that the Soviets do not
choose, whether they wish to or not, the same system of signs. It
is surely a commonplace notion, but one almost always forgotten
in asking our favorite question -"Who is ahead?", that with a
different perception, one has a different code. That is a double-
edged sword. We tend to ask the wrong questions and are satisfied
with the wrong answers. We do not recognize what they are up to
because our code is different. The first video-data link between
submarine, bomber, and missile was such an example. It took us
some time to read because that was not our way. The invasion of
Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the expulsion of poets were others.
We could not comprehend the Soviet logic.
In order to get a handle on the different systems, let us make a
comparison of the codes, signs, and signals used by the United
States and the Soviet Union, not in order to say who is ahead, but
in order to grasp how the two systems work. First, let us consider
military strategy. Here the Soviet code is quite clear. There are at
least two major aspects. The first is that war with the capitalist
nations is probably inevitable although there is some possibility
that it may be avoided. The first strategic principle for the Soviet
Union is that now the main law of war is to attack first with a
surprise and devastating blow. The objective has to be complete
victory which means that one must have superiority of forces and
destroy the warmaking potential— both industrial and human— of
the enemy. Obviously, deception is one of the principal rules of
war and intimidation is one of the primary rules of peace. The late
Marshal Malinovsky, the Soviet Minister of Defense, explained this
when he said:
The best method of defense is to warn the enemy of our
strength and readiness to smash him at his very first attempt to
commit an act of aggression .... This is why we do not hide
our points of view on the nature of future war and the means of
conducting it and present them in this book Military Strategy. 4
A second implication of this overall military strategy of the Soviet
Union is that as the leading socialist power it will inevitably be the
object of attack. It follows that the defense of the Soviet Union is in
part the defense of the future of socialism for all mankind.
Therefore, the various sacrifices that are to be made both at home
and abroad to insure the military victory of the Soviet Union are
both moral, justified, and assumed to be obvious to the international
proletariat. A second major implication of this strategic doctrine is
that since this war that will take place is a class war, its nature will
not be limited to national boundaries. Just as the Soviet Union is the
leader of the workers' movement, so the United States is the leader
of industrialists. Therefore, the distinction between the United
States and its "cohorts" and satellites becomes somewhat blurred.
This concept was behind the situation that emerged in the SALT
talks in which the Soviet Union wanted to lump the British and
French nuclear submarines together with those of the United States.
Soviet strategy gravitates toward emphasis on people's (primarily
workers') rebellions and guerrilla warfare and assumes that ours
concentrates on coordinated armed conflict directed by govern-
ments composed of the servants of the capitalists.
The United States, on the other hand, in spite of its alliances in
NATO and other organizations, tends to think of itself as
strategically alone in its military calculations. It recalls with
difficulty that the Soviets might take a war with Western Europe,
but without the United States, seriously or that Soviet cruise
missiles may have to be considered strategic weapons in France.
Part of the problem in adjusting our concepts is that Soviet
strategy is not an aggressive strategy in the sense that Napoleon
and Hitler had aggressive strategies. This is because of its class
nature and its domination by the rules of "scientific" Marxism.
Scientific Marxism argues that until the proletariat is ready for a
socialist revolution, it is premature to try to force it into action.
This idea of Marx was extremely annoying to Lenin and to
Communist theoreticians who were impatient for the advent of
socialism. But it has been a useful, face-saving device in such
embarrassing situations as the Egyptian debacle and the Sudan.
One could always argue that conditions were not ripe for socialist
power. But although this feature of Marxism is not in its nature
aggressive, it always contains within itself a plan for aggression.
The Soviet Union's duty is always to support the progressive
proletariat whenever the Soviet center, socialism's heartland, is not
threatened and to thwart the capitalists' designs. A corollary that
promotes aggressiveness is that because socialism is the wave of the
future, it is always moral. Those things done to advance its
interests, including war and aggression, are justified and those
capitalist efforts to thwart or delay the advent of socialism are
immoral. Thus, any action taken against capitalism is ethically
If we turn to the basic strategic doctrine of the United States,
we have an immediate problem. An overall strategic code is
difficult to cite. The Soviet principles provide a kind of grand
strategy. In the United States, there is nothing comparable unless
it is the idea of maintaining the current balance of power, the
international status quo. This is not evolutionary doctrine. Since
Vietnam, our previously messianic code calling for world democ-
racy has been in a decline. Certainly we do not view international
relations as dynamic, developmental, or dialectical. Such a code is
quite sensible for a rich and comfortable nation, but it does not
translate into any clear military, much less naval, strategy. This is
reflected in the American Navy's mission statement that primarily
outlines the Navy's functions or capabilities. The signals that this
and the counterpart statements by the Army and Air Force give
are that they are flexible, useful, and reliable instruments of
executive policy. Such mission statements are what the Soviet
military writers would call "operational art." They relate not
to strategy but to problems that would require tactical plan-
ning for their implementation.
Our major strategic goal is largely negative— that of deter-
rence. It is important to note that the two basically different
understandings of deterrence lead to two different interpretations.
The United States and its armed forces, through their expenditures
and planning, intend to convey the signal that war is impossible. In
conveying this signal, they tend to minimize or ignore the nuclear
aspects of modern war which the Soviets emphasize. We concen-
trate on the feasibility of limited war and practice for that.
The Soviets, who have a doctrine that war with the United States
is very difficult to avoid, if not inevitable, emphasize the need to
fight and win that war under nuclear conditions. Therefore, Soviet
training and exercises stress nuclear war and only secondarily take
into account the possibility or importance of limited war. Given the
Marxist/Leninist interpretation of history, this is very reasonable.
Only through a nuclear war with a nation of the magnitude of the
United States could the advent of world socialism be seriously
delayed. Other wars, so long as they can be contained, are only of
transitional historic importance.
Soviet naval officers study operational art in addition to
strategy. The primary task of the Soviet Navy is to intercept the
threat as far from the shores of the Motherland as possible.
Massive naval exercises, such as Okean I and II, were designed to
signal the Soviet Navy's superior ability to accomplish this task.
Through the construction of an enormous number of submarines,
the Soviet Navy signaled its plan to prevent the resupply of
Because of their defensive nature these demonstrations of Soviet
naval operational art are sometimes interpreted in the West as signs
of the inferiority of the Soviet Navy. 5 Such an evaluation is not
invalid but it is a projection of Western values based upon the
Western system of thought. In any case, such judgments are the
prime reason that the true nature of Soviet militarism has been so
largely misunderstood for so many years in the West where a
defensive role is considered an inferior one.
On the other hand, Western demands for aggressive codes
reflect, quite naturally, the competition between the services for
leading roles. They also derive from strategic ideas that date from
the 18th and 19th centuries in which political and social units
were thought of as occupying distinct spacial and temporal areas.
They do not consider ideas such as the international proletariat for
example. They assume that control of the seas, or at least control
of the sea lines of communication or of specific colonial
territories, are definite goals that can be realized by one service
acting alone. Such notions are based on the idea of balances of
power and the assumption of the possibility of a conclusive
victory. Obviously, the origin of such ideas is extremely different
from that based on class warfare. Whatever the strategic problems
the West thinks it faces, they are not the kind that Marx defined,
the kind of problems the Soviets are trying to solve, or the sort
with which Lenin dealt.
Other goals of operational art may not seem military at all at
first glance. They are the kinds of problems that for the success of
the socialist revolution are by far the most crucial and that our
Navy, with its offensive orientation, largely ignores. They are
those that Gorshkov referred to as carrying out state interests.
They may range from largely military— such as the various shows
of force during military crises off the coast of Israel and
Lebanon— to largely cultural such as the former Imperial Navy Day
Celebrations in Ethiopia. These are all part of the Soviet concept
of operational art because a navy, as a sign, cannot divest itself of
its military, and political significance.
For the Soviet Navy these signs have an economic significance
as well. From the Marxist/Leninist point of view, the navy, as a
class symbol, conveys an economic signal to the proletariat of any
country that it is a means of liberation from exploitation.
All of these signs that the Soviet Navy conveys tend to be very
different from those of the U.S. Navy. That is because ships, even
if exactly equal by every standard measurement, are totally
different because of the things they represent. They are signs that
relate to a national past as well as to the present and future. The
interpretation of those signs, either the intention of the originator
or the understanding of the recipient, is not easy. For example,
the Japanese objection to nuclear-powered U.S. ships visiting their
ports does not relate to the ships themselves or perhaps even to
the United States but to associations with the nuclear bombs of
the Second World War. In the same way, U.S. visits to African
ports, where the United States has never been a colonial power,
may crystallize hostility rather than reduce it because of African
associations of periods of European economic exploitation.
The appearance of an extremely sophisticated U.S. naval ship in
the port of an undeveloped nation probably does not have much
of a technological impact because the United States is known to
be the world's technological leader. However, the appearance of a
Soviet ship with sophisticated radars and weapons may convey the
idea of the extraordinary achievements of the proletariat and
peasants of a backward nation in catching up with, and possibly
overcoming, the technological superiority of the former colonial
powers. The propaganda literature that the Soviets on these
occasions dispense is clearly meant to support that idea. It is not a
question of who is superior but of who seems to be so.
It would be extremely shortsighted to underestimate the
importance of the state interests that the Soviet Navy is serving
for, in the end, the competition will be won or lost by the battle
for men's minds, as it was in Vietnam. The Soviets are aware of
this. Their strategic doctrine states that one of the most important
factors in war is the morale, the level of the people's spirit, in the
struggle. Elements of Soviet strategic planning relate to the morale
of not only their own people but also those in the target nation.
This is what we call psychological warfare and in doing so we set it
aside as a category reserved for specialists, but by giving this
operational category a central place in their doctrine, the Soviets
make it a part of the navy's principal (and thus more aggressive)
The problems of "showing the flag" are extremely complex and
studying them yields enormous dividends as Cable's book,
Gunboat Diplomacy, and Ken Booth's articles show. Particularly
important is understanding that in this kind of operation the signal
conveyed and the signal received may fit two different codes of
meaning and be very differently understood. For example, the
easy relationship and informality between officers and their
superiors and between officers and enlisted men as well as the
mixture and quality of races in the U.S. Navy do not go
unnoticed throughout the world. The Soviets, too, are aware of
the importance of public opinion. They greatly modify their
behavior for foreign visits in order to try to convey a democratic
aspect and to mask the totalitarian and class relationships that in
fact have been reestablished in the Soviet Union. But the subtle
signs of authoritarianism are easily detected.
Finally, we must also compare the two navies in terms of
tactics. The postwar U.S. Navy has had, roughly, three tactical
periods: from 1945 until about 1960 tactics that had been
developed in World War II were perfected; from about 1960 until
1973 the tactics of the Navy's new strategic mission were
extrapolated from the presumed role of the aircraft carrier and
strategic ballistic missile submarines; and finally, since 1973, the
Navy, after the decline of the strategic role of naval aircraft, has
had the problem of finding a new mission.
The role of our navy in modern warfare is in doubt but that
only reflects the fact that the nature of modern warfare is in
doubt. This contrasts rather fundamentally with Soviet strategic
goals and concepts that have never been in doubt, although the
tactics of implementation have changed. Our assumptions and
goals were different from those of the Soviets and led to a very
different kind of naval strategy. Take the concept of sea lines of
communication, the foundation of Mahan's theory of sea control.
Mahan's theory was that a strike against the communications of a
country, across the seas, was a strike at the power of that country
itself. It was not at all unlike Lenin's theory of the weakest link,
that to seize control of the source of raw materials in the colonial
nations was to emasculate the industrial powers. But given two
somewhat similar ideas, we concentrated on control of the seas as
an end in itself and the Soviets concentrated on control of the
In recent years, a new dimension has been added. It is no longer
obvious that a strike against one element of the power of a
country is necessarily a strike against the country itself. The
Pueblo incident, the Cuban missile crisis, the rescue of the
Mayaguez, and the cod war off Iceland have demonstrated that
threats to the integrity of a nation do not necessarily lead to war.
This has greatly weakened traditional naval strategy that depended
more on presence— the art of symbolic warfare— than it realized.
The United States has been concerned in a traditional way with
its ability to maintain sea lines of communication to Europe for
the resupply of NATO. The Soviets, who have had no experience
of "sea lines of communication" as being different from "land
lines of communication" have understood this as simply part of
the overall strategy of preparing for the decisive war to destroy the
socialist camp. Consequently, Soviet tactics involved moving out
the perimeter of their defense in accordance with a strategic
theory of defense zones. It was the kind of theory that one might
adopt for defending mountain passes or water barriers.
In the West it was not assumed that the Soviets really believed
what they were saying about our intention to unleash a war for
the destruction of the socialist camp. Other explanations were
required, and most often they centered on the assumption that the
Soviets themselves were preparing for an aggressive war, primarily
one to break our sea lines of communication. The fact that they
did not construct ships that seemed suitable for that mission was a
constant mystery. They did give, however, some encouragement to
such theories in about 1963-64 when they reconstituted the naval
infantry and began constructing amphibious ships. However,
unfortunately for the proponents of Soviet aggression, the
amphibious ships were only used in the Baltic and Black Seas in
conjunction with exercises that the Soviets could view as
defensive -that is, gaining control of access routes through the
straits— and that the West would see as aggressive acts against other
As the Soviets could not be credited with believing the reality
of their own positions— it was assumed that they were operating
with perceptions that fit our assumptions and not theirs— it was
widely believed that they could not be serious about what they
said. That assumption underlay much of our strategic and political
thinking. It stemmed from the naivete of those who did not fully
comprehend the degree to which "reality," or the perception of
"reality," could be very relative.
How it can be so widely assumed that individual Soviet military,
or political, thinkers adopt privately reasonable and logical,
therefore Western, conclusions in spite of party, censorship and
propaganda is quite a mystery. Even in our own service, juniors
jeopardize their careers by questioning forcefully the positions of
their seniors. In the Soviet Union much more is at stake than one's
career. The welfare of one's family, one's freedom to live in cities,
even one's life is dependent upon supporting the party line and
that has always been that the West wants a war of aggression.
In any case, there have been, roughly, three periods of postwar
Soviet strategy. The first was the initial aftermath of the war when
the Soviet Union was in a condition of strategic and economic
inferiority. The Soviet Navy was limited to the mission of
protecting the flanks of the army and of patrolling Soviet waters
and coastlines because of extreme shortages in manpower and in
the economy. (Even under such conditions the gauntlet was
thrown down in Berlin and elsewhere to distract and to divert the
After 1953, planning for a change in missions was begun. It was
based upon the adoption of nuclear power and heavy emphasis on
missile warfare. Tactics were developed for moving the defense
perimeter further out to sea. The threat from aircraft and naval
ballistic missile submarines had led to the need to establish zones
of defense further from Moscow, even at the 1,500 kilometer
mark, to develop successful antisubmarine warfare and to provide
air cover for theaters of action far from Soviet air bases.
With the successful development of missiles and rockets— the
revolution in military affairs that the Soviets emphasize con-
stantly-they began introducing new tactics for the destruction of
Western fleets in specific areas and new strategies for winning, or
at least breaking up and neutralizing, the Third World. The object
was to seriously disturb the world order and to introduce
confusion, at least, into concepts of the ownership of the means of
The Soviets had foreseen the political advantages that would
result not just from nuclear parity but from superiority and
superiority in conventional weapons as well. With superiority, with
the ability to extend military zones of operation, with dictatorial
control of a mobilized population and a servile industrial and
scientific base, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union saw itself
in a position to increase the momentum of international change.
Signals were initiated in such exercises as Okean 70, which was
meant to show the world (and perhaps Soviet political leaders)
that the correlation of forces had indeed changed, that former
concepts of seapower were outmoded, and that the revolution in
military affairs, preceded by a revolution in the control of the
means of production, would be followed by a revolution in the
relations of states.
At the 24th Party Congress in April 1972 Brezhnev enunciated
the new line.
The armed forces of allied states are in a high state of
readiness and in a position to guarantee the peaceful labor of
Protection of socialism under present conditions has taken on
a clearly expressed international character ....
Under this line socialist armed forces had an international role.
Soviet forces in Egypt, Somalia, and the Sudan and Cuban forces
in Angola all helped to confirm what had become obvious from
the navy: the Soviet Armed Forces had a new strategic mission,
but not one that depended upon traditional campaigns ending in
signed documents of victory. Rather it was a new role of helping
to smash the weakest link.
In view of the fact that any reasonable theory of modern
nuclear warfare must assume that it begins with a surprise and
devastating attack, it is essential -certainly for anyone concerned
with crisis management, which must include all military men-to
understand the Soviet code in order to read the signals. Under
conditions of modern warfare, one will not have time to learn the
code after the action has begun.
A MARXIST/LENINIST STRATEGY
EAST VS. WEST: THE TWO LANGUAGES OF WAR
Writing about the Soviet Union is very easy in one way and very
difficult in another. It is easy in the sense that the Soviet Union is
a country that has powerfully resisted any intellectual growth
(except within very narrow limits) for the last 60 years and that
has had a policy of resisting intellectual change for many of the
last 300 years. However unpleasant that resistance was for Russian
citizens, it considerably simplified the work of the historian and
analyst. A country subject to rapid change, even when it is
controlled change as in Japan, for example, is relatively more
difficult to explain.
The Soviet Union is a country in which official policy is not
only to keep its own citizens (and therefore its own leaders, too)
ignorant of some of the things that happen in the world outside
but also in which policy dictates going to enormous and expensive
lengths to keep the outside world from knowing what is happening
internally. Not only does this involve not revealing information—
such as the number of deaths in airplane crashes or earthquakes—
but also in issuing misinformation or official government lies.
These attitudes toward truth cannot be dismissed as un-
important national idiosyncrasies. They indicate differences in
understanding reality. In the United States, the suppression of
truth is taken to be a corruption of the spirit for it is believed that
by concentrating on the negative and unpleasant aspects of life
one can comprehend reality. In czarist and Leninist Russia, reality
is understood officially as that which is planned by the supreme
authority; therefore, that which is negative and ugly is transitory
and of no intellectual importance. It is obvious that with two such
different views of reality, interpretations of concrete events are
very different as well.
The lack of information about the Soviet Union has some
curious results. People in the West tend to ask the kinds of
questions that reflect their view of reality in the West but have
little meaning in the Soviet Union- "how much does it cost; is this
or that leader on the right or the left; who is in line to succeed?"
Because those who ask such questions seldom have time for a
short course in Russian history or Leninist thought, they are
impatient for the answers that are, quite often, supplied by people
who know that they are distorting Soviet reality in order to
For example, it is frequently argued that the growth in the
Soviet Navy is the result of Admiral Gorshkov's very effective
maneuvering within the Soviet hierarchy— there is even one
far-fetched argument that holds that it is because he and Brezhnev
were on the same front during World War II that the Navy is
receiving the biggest share of the budget!— and not because there is
any state policy requiring a larger navy. There is not a shred of
evidence that the enlarged Soviet Navy has anything to do with
Admiral Gorshkov's personality. Nor does anything we know
about how policy is formed in the Soviet Union suggest that that
could be true.
It is therefore very important to understand how we know
anything about the Soviet Union; how valid concepts can be
formed. In Soviet usage, "propaganda" is not a negative word.
It is used to refer to an idealized truth, and as any other kind
may be a defamation of the state, idealized truth is the only
kind that can be printed. Thus, Gorshkov in his book Sea
Power of the State deals with an idealized truth. He does not
hesitate to rewrite history or to omit such significant events as
the Kronshtadt Rebellion or the role of the atomic bomb in
the defeat of Japan.
This concept of idealized truth derives from a theological way
of looking at the universe; truth -whether political, social or
historical -is considered to be revealed by the documents of Marx,
Engels and Lenin, by the pronouncements of the Communist
Party through its spokesmen in the Politburo, and increasingly
through its supreme high priest, the General Secretary, President
and Marshal Leonid Brezhnev. The function, then ; of propaganda
organs (which include such journals as the Soviet equivalent of
Naval Institute Proceedings, the Morskoy sbornik ) is to raise
morale, comment on revealed truth, illustrate doctrinal concepts,
and inform, but they are not a forum for objectivity on any
question. (An American equivalent would be if one could not
discuss the negative implications of SALT I in the Proceedings or
Military Review or even The New York Times because the official
position was favorable to the treaty, or if one could not discuss
the arguments against the Trident submarine because the Chief of
Naval Operations had officially declared that Navy policy was to
That does not mean that in Soviet publications there never is
controversy. Arguments do occur, although rather seldom and in a
ritualized format. There is hierarchy for discussions and debates
that, when one understands it, reveals at what level of the
government or the party a question is being considered.
In a typical situation, a question may be raised by a leading
admiral about whether or not large surface ships are necessary.
This officially opens the subject for debate that will then take
place both in printed form and in party and cell meetings
throughout the navy. Many of the discussions will be led by the
party political workers, the Communist chaplains, whose job it is
to whip up interest and enthusiasm for the discussion at hand.
During such periods there is apparently a comparatively free
debate in which leading admirals and officers even visit ships and
units to develop interest at the lowest levels. However, once a
decision is made (it will be announced in unmistakable terms
either by a senior official or a party worker) debate is cut off.
Ranks are closed behind the party. The matter then becomes
doctrine and further discussion may expand upon it, interpret or
apply it, but will not question it. This is what is known as
For example, in 1975 the Soviet CNO, Admiral Gorshkov,
began publishing a series of articles entitled, "Navies in War and
Peace." They could not have indicated, as so many Western writers
suggested, an argument within the Ministry of Defense about the
need for a larger navy. Such arguments never take place publicly.
Nor could they have suggested that Admiral Gorshkov was turning
to the public to get support for his position. Such a process would
be totally alien and meaningless in the Soviet Union where the
general public would not consider that it had any part whatsoever
in making such a decision and where the government and party
would not allow the public to think that it even had the right to
adopt a position. (In the Soviet Union, a popular saying is that
there is only one kind of vote and that is with your feet. This
means that as a citizen you have the choice of either accepting or
leaving, although leaving is not usually an option either.)
This kind of process was the same during Lenin's life and even
under Stalin's reign. Lenin allowed controversy but after a
decision had been made, there could be no more debate and he,
like Stalin, ruthlessly exterminated all opposition. During Stalin's
dictatorship, controversy was sometimes encouraged such as one
about a big-ship as opposed to a small-ship navy; however, he who
expressed himself on what later turned out to be the wrong side,
usually did not live to repeat his error. Stalin had those who had
disagreed with him, even when he had asked for free discussion,
The Western reader has difficulty understanding the kind of
influence that such a history of tyranny introduces into the
decisionmaking process. That it is seldom taken into account is an
extraordinarily grave error. Obviously one could not be very
outspoken in circumstances such as those. For instance, imagine
how free a discussion would be in the U.S. Navy if it were learned
that because they had opposed the President's budget proposal,
three of the five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been
shot! Yet that is what happened in Russia 40 years ago and
explains why Gorshkov became an admiral at age 31. Most of the
officers senior to him were liquidated which helped to clear the
way for him to be promoted to the Soviet Chief of Naval
Operations at age 45. The current generation of Soviet rulers and
military leaders are those who survived and cooperated with
Stalin during that period. 1
A second important element affects public discussions of
military matters. Soviet concern with security and alertness to the
danger of espionage exceeds all bounds of what, in the West,
would be considered sane. This is one of the great constants in
Russian history, observed by Elizabethan visitors to the court of
Ivan the Terrible, French visitors to the court of Nicholas I and
ordinary tourists who stray from the prescribed path in the Soviet
Union today. (To a Russian citizen, it seems perfectly normal that
a captain in the Soviet Navy should spend 20 years in a prison
camp, as Captain Buinovskiy did in Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the
Life of Ivan Denisovich, because he had been mailed a gift, which
he had not solicited, from an English admiral for whom he was the
officially designated liaison officer during World War II. Instead of
complaining, the officer should have considered himself lucky not
to be shot.)
The result of what seems abroad to be a national paranoia, in
terms of military discussion, is that for a Soviet officer it is not
safe to speak about any aspects of the Soviet Navy unless he is
absolutely certain that what he is saying is approved not only by
the Navy, but also, and most importantly, by the party and the
government organs. Every article, every speech, every meeting
with foreigners is controlled. There are layers upon layers of
censorship. There are censors for security, for political content,
for military content and for general party content. Although
information may appear that is inadvertently revealed, one cannot
reliably identify it and one certainly cannot assume that anything
written or said by a high official in the Soviet Military Establish-
ment represents a purely private and not officially approved point
While information that is new to us may sometimes appear, we
should assume that it is being released for official reasons. It is
totally naive to pretend that published statements by major, much
less minor, figures in the Soviet Military Establishment represent
individual positions not approved by the party unless they occur
during the period of officially encouraged debate. Such audacity
would, at the very least, jeopardize one's career and at the very
most, be a flirtation with death. Furthermore, in a society that is
almost totally controlled, publicly expressing one's opposition
about matters of national security would be foolishly stupid.
There would be no chance, in the face of the party's opposition,
of having one's opinion ever reach the public, and even if it did,
there would be no possibility of any kind of public support. In the
Soviet Union decisions are made behind closed doors and are
eventually "revealed." Even Solzhenitsyn who wrote very oblique
criticisms of the Soviet Government in fictional form, was accused
of "fouling his own nest," was called a traitor and enemy of the
people, and eventually feared for his own life. It has been said that
the Soviet Union is the only country in the world that has
executed its own poets.
Some mention should be made of the "closed doors." Because
of recent revelations, "bugging" is a very sensitive issue in the
United States. However, in the Soviet Union it is not. The reason
that it is not is that a private individual dares not object to it as
that would only imply that he had something to hide that would
result in redoubling the number of electronic devices focused on
him. Surveillance, not only of diplomats, tourists and visitors, but
also of Soviet citizens, is absolutely ubiquitous, and is not limited
to electronic means. It is also conducted visually. Everywhere, in
one's apartment, office, ship, or club there are people who have as
a secondary responsibility that of reporting suspicious or unusual
behavior or even a lack of enthusiasm for party policies and
politics. Young Pioneers, members of the Young Communist
League, and those of the Communist Party are constantly being
harangued to be vigilant and to be on guard against the "wreckers"
of the Soviet reality. Telephones are widely monitored and
long-distance connections are controlled from central city offices;
the receipt of foreign mail is still dangerous enough to jeopardize a
military or civilian career; repeated contact with foreigners is
certain to cause interrogation by the secret police; it is even
dangerous to show much interest in life abroad and one must hide
any suggestion of a wish to visit or live in a foreign country. (Even
the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin,
that brilliantly successful confidence man, frequently prefaces his
remarks with a complaint about the "sacrifice" he is having to
make by living abroad.)
As the chief party ideologist, Mikhail Suslov, said to Svetlana
Stalin when she requested permission to take the ashes of her
deceased husband to India, "What is it that attracts you so much
abroad? Why, my family and I never go abroad and don't even feel
like going. It is not interesting."
How then is information about life abroad absorbed and
disseminated? Technical and scientific information is rapidly
translated and widely available, but only on the basis of a "need to
know." Soviet scientists, especially those in military institutes and
factories, are served with a vast network of information about
foreign sources. When new developments are discussed, such as
those, for example, in connection with antisubmarine warfare, the
medium used is that of foreign publications. In other words, the
author will tell his readers what the U.S. Navy is doing and what
its technical experts are writing about new methods of using
underwater sound. It is presumed that appropriate Soviet per-
sonnel will know what to make of that information in connection
with Soviet developments.
In the United States, a great quantity of what the Soviets would
handle as top secret information is disseminated in the open press.
What in the Soviet Union would be the very most important
information-our foreign policy, the budget, military strategy and
assessment of the balance of military power-is a matter of public
record. However, much, much more is revealed. The details of
defense contracts, of deficiencies in the fulfillment of military
specifications, of personnel movements, promotions and assign-
ments are widely known.
It is almost impossible to get a telephone directory for the city
of Moscow; it would be unthinkable to get a telephone directory
for the Ministry of Defense such as one can easily acquire for the
Pentagon. So conscious of security are the Soviets that even on
foreign visits only designated naval officers are authorized to
reveal their family names-many of which must be assumed to be
false— and to do so, they are given specific permission by the party
political workers, or the secret police.
Because the Soviets use foreign publications to discuss military
matters of concern to their own navy, one must estimate their
tactical and strategic concerns by inference. Obviously, in making
such assumptions, there is a far greater possibility for error than in
a similar discussion based upon the Proceedings. However, it is so
difficult to know what is safe to discuss in the Soviet Union that
whenever anything is authorized, it naturally becomes everyone^s
favorite subject. By the sheer weight of repetition in the press, one
can know, with reasonable accuracy, what is the authorized, new
line. For example, Admiral Gorshkov's articles were correctly
understood to be a signal for propagandizing the international role
of the Soviet Navy. There were a great number of articles in
Morskoy sbornik and elsewhere related to this theme. Read in
isolation, these articles suggested that extraordinary emphasis was
being put upon naval developments in the Soviet Union; however
articles with similar themes about the changed balance of power
appeared widely in the military press as well as in many other
organs. 2 What was appearing was an advertising campaign for a
new "line." The new line stressed the decline of the West, the
brotherhood of socialist parties and workers, and the obligation of
the Soviet Union to support radical movements throughout the
world. It tested international opinion and followed the tactic of
gradually accustoming imperialist powers to bolder Soviet actions.
(The lessons of the famous Russian psychologist, Pavlov, have
been well understood. Man can be taught to become indifferent, as
well as to salivate, when the bell is rung.)
While the internationalist theme was developed everywhere, it
was forcefully restated by Brezhnev, most recently at the 25th
Party Congress. Having asserted in his report on the success of the
Soviet Union's foreign policy, for those who thought they could
escape the march of revolution, that "there is probably no spot on
the earth where the state of affairs has not been taken into
account in one way or another in the formulation of our foreign
policy," Brezhnev gave one reason why:
In the developing countries, as everywhere, we are on the
side of the forces of progress, democracy and national
independence and we treat them as our friends and comrades-
in-arms. Our Party is rendering and will render support to
peoples who are fighting for their freedom. The Soviet Union
is not looking for any benefits for itself, it is not hunting for
concessions, is not trying to gain political supremacy and is
not seeking any military bases. We are acting as our
revolutionary conscience and our communist convictions
permit us. 3
Besides giving a slightly more vague but no less distinct
argument for protecting state interests throughout the world— we
shall see later what the nature of "state interests" is from a Soviet
communist point of view— Brezhnev was making it clear that there
would be many more "Angolas", and that perhaps the next time
the trend would not be reversed in Chile. Clearly, the navy is well
designed to play an important part in the new phase of promoting
the internationalist momentum of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union, as Gorshkov confirmed in Sea Power of the State
and obviously that was not news to Brezhnev.
To sum up, then, when a new line is adopted it is normally
signaled by a major speech or declaration that gives key
formulations of the main points. These key formulations will then
be repeated— endlessly and often verbatim— in a variety of ap-
proved contexts. This usually signals that a process of education
and information is going on aboard ships and in shore units. There
will be a series of party meetings to disseminate and discuss the
new "line" and to prepare the naval personnel for the implications
of the policy. The point of these meetings is to insure compliance,
to mobilize support, and, incidentally, to give any "wreckers" of
socialist unanimity an opportunity to identify (and therefore to
destroy) themselves. Certainly that idea was important in the
Gorshkov papers. It was stated in the preface:
In the opinion of the editorial board and the editorial staff
the publication of these articles will foster the development
in our officers of a unity of views on the role of navies under
various historical conditions. 4
To state unequivocally that the Soviet Navy will continue to
grow in sophisticated equipment is not, now, a controversial
prediction in view of the massive outpouring of information about
the current Soviet assessment of the prospects for a socialist
revolution throughout the world vis-a-vis the decline of imperial-
ism and the crisis of capitalism. A great number of articles discuss
how the navy supports that movement, how the Soviet Navy is to
be used politically, and how it is likely to develop. Obviously
surface ships are the ticket for protecting state interests in Angola.
If one were to analyze the navy only in terms of weapons and
capabilities, ignoring its international role, one would overlook
one of its primary missions. And finally, if one were to try to
analyze the Soviet Navy without reference to what is happening in
the other services and/or to the Communist Party line, one could
not make very accurate predictions about its future.
It is, however, this process for achieving a unanimity of views
that gives us an opportunity to know the outline of Soviet
intentions. On the whole, the main lines of development have been
surprisingly consistent since the Revolution, much more consistent
and more predictable than those of the United States or many
other countries, for that matter. Paradoxically, foreign analyses of
Soviet intentions have been surprisingly erroneous. The Soviets by
official position encourage the erroneous interpretations. (We will
discuss this further in naval tactics as deception is not only the
prime artifice of war but also of politics.) As Lenin said, "Our
morality is deduced from the class struggle of the proletariat ....
Communist morality is the morality which serves this strug-
gle .. . ." 5
Concerning their concept of war, however, the Soviets have
seldom been misleading. Much of the misinterpretation of Soviet
intentions originates from ignorance of the language of Marx and
Lenin and from incorrect assumptions about the nature of
Russian culture and society. For example, confusion about the
word "detente" has been rampant and dangerous. Whatever was
meant in English by detente, the Soviets had a totally
different concept. First of all, the Soviets never used the French
word at all. They used a Russian word that is not an equivalent
(razryadka which means "relaxation"). The Russian word shares
only one implication with the French word detente and that is in
its literal sense. It does not imply "friendship," "cooperation,"
"change of policy" or "agreement" of any kind. In the Soviet
usage, it means only "relaxation of tensions" and only in the
context of the policy of "peaceful coexistence" that has been, for
the most part, Soviet policy since the time of Lenin. In other
words, detente in Russian meant essentially nothing new at all.
Nevertheless, as long as the U.S. Government and press chose to
misuse the nature of the "new" relationship to Soviet advantage, it
was not in the interest of the Soviet Government to make any
important corrections. (The party and government officials did
remind their citizens, however, that the danger of war remained
and that the class struggle continued. They simply omitted
suggesting that those circumstances caused any "tension.") But
when President Ford announced that he would no longer use the
word detente but rather would refer to "a policy of peace through
strength," there was a considerable Soviet retroactive correction.
Spokesmen went so far as to explain that Americans all along had
been using the word to mask their aggressive intentions. Neverthe-
less, an underlying theme of Soviet propaganda during the entire
phase of detente, and one for which the tactical implications will
be examined shortly, was that the United States was forced into
the position of adopting a policy of detente because of the change
in the "correlation of forces" brought about by Soviet superiority
after the military buildup and the successful, far-reaching policies
of the Communist Party, formulated by its leader, Brezhnev. In
short, the Soviets have been saying that the world balance of
power has changed in the Soviet's favor. Whether or not that is
true, it has obviously become part of the operational code of the
Politburo (with rather alarming implications) and therefore of the
Soviet Navy as well. 6
The code for the use of words is obviously critical in East- West
relations. There is evidence that U.S. negotiators at SALT I did
not understand the Soviet concept of war and, as so often has
happened, analyzed what was assumed to be the Soviet position,
based upon what would be the American position given the Soviet
circumstances, and then reacted to that. Ethnocentrism could go
no further. It was as if our side was negotiating with itself.
One of the basic positions at the SALT talks was that the
Soviets not only did not share our concepts about nuclear warfare
and deterrence- "assured destruction," "damage limitation,"
"limited war," "destabilization," etc.— but specifically, and re-
peatedly, rejected them as a masquerade. (The reasons for this
rejection will be discussed in the chapter on the Soviet concepts of
war.) Nevertheless, the American side did not take the Soviet
ideology seriously, perhaps not understanding the language of
Marxism as we shall see.
An interesting and sound observer of Soviet affairs, Roman
Kolkowicz, wrote an estimate of Soviet intentions in 1971 based
very much on a projection of "rational" rather than Soviet
arguments. It is very interesting to see now what an intelligent and
informed observer, using that kind of methodology, concluded.
His overall assessment was that the Soviet Union was going to seek
an accommodation with the United States that would enable it, on
the basis of strategic parity, to wind down the arms race and
pursue political goals elsewhere, a not very dangerous prediction
since that is what was going on at the time. However, his reasons
for coming to that conclusion are instructive. This Soviet policy he
had postulated was based on the following considerations:
a. The strategic arms race is expensive and does not add
objectivity to the security of the Soviet Union once parity is
b. The political utility of strategic arms increments is
insignificant because, as the Soviets themselves point out, it
cannot easily be applied to non-nuclear contexts, i.e., its
extra deterrence value is questionable.
c. A stabilization of U.S.-Soviet strategic capabilities at
parity levels would still give the Soviet Union a wide range of
options for the pursuit of policy objectives by means of
conventional forces . . . . 7
All of that makes admirable sense; however, it makes American,
not Soviet, sense. It was not what the Soviets thought about it or
subsequently did. They began pursuing the buildup of conven-
tional forces, but dual-equipping them with nuclear weapons,
preparing the population for nuclear war, and pursuing the
qualitative and quantitative improvements of their strategic forces
wherever possible. In short, they were pursuing a policy of
maximizing the change in "the correlation of forces" on every
level while externally trying to pacify the United States with
discussions of "peaceful coexistence" and "detente." Their point
was that the struggle was to continue and was, in every sense of
the word, strategic. The fight was for the overthrow of the
capitalist system and its sources of power. While Professor
Kolkowicz was not arguing unreasonably, his terms of reference
were not from the Soviet system of thought. His overall
conclusion, that the utility of a preponderance of strategic
weapons was "insignificant," did not square either with the Soviet
past or the Soviet present.
A significant statement about the degree to which Soviet
concepts were not taken into account was made by the chief U.S.
delegate to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks, the Director of
the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and a negotiator
of two strategic arms accords signed in Moscow in May 1972,
Ambassador Gerard Smith. Ambassador Smith, in a Senate
I think the Soviets, as a result of the SALT negotiations,
have moved toward accepting the concept of assured destruc-
tion. I would say that I don't know. I have no way of judging
whether their doctrine, their national doctrine, says that this
is their national strategic concept. I just don't know. 8
The most basic, widely defended and discussed Soviet military
concept is that once the imperialists begin the war (and there is a
corollary that seems to justify preemption on the basis of a Soviet
assessment of U.S. intentions) rapid obliteration of the enemy's
strategic forces and defenses, economic capability and the reserves
of the rear will be required inasmuch as the war will be fought to
the finish and will result in the triumph of socialism and the total
destruction of capitalism. It is extraordinary that our chief
negotiator did not know that and that Soviet doctrine repeatedly
rejects "assured destruction" as simply not relative to class war.
A major problem, then, is that there is a widespread tendency
to pay little attention to what the Soviets are saying and to
attribute American preconceptions to their side. Of course, the
Soviets do the same for us which creates something of an Alice in
To dismiss what the Soviets write about war is very strange
(perhaps schizophrenic) when one considers how many billions are
spent on defense, intelligence, news coverage and diplomacy. The
Soviets make no secret of their concepts, attitudes and intentions
about the West. Perhaps more ominous, their mirror can be just as
one-way as ours. The difference is that they are locked into their
vision. In matters of security, deviations are not permitted.
Everyone must support the same line and we must assume that
almost everyone does.
Perhaps the West tends to ignore the Soviet's dogma because
two realities are so far apart; however, the party line is massively
expounded and repeated in all forums, whether by Brezhnev,
Admiral Gorshkov or a military correspondent. One example can
serve for many. Here is a passage from The Officer's Handbook,
published by the Ministry of Defense.
Contemporary capitalism is not only an obsolete reaction-
ary system slowing down historical progress, but also a
dangerous aggressive force which threatens world civilization.
The struggle of the working class and all workers against
imperialism is a historical necessity. Only by considering this
objective regularly is it possible to approach correctly an
understanding of all types of contemporary wars, the culprits
of which are the imperialists. They unleash both world wars
and local wars directed toward the strangling of liberation
movements, the seizure of foreign soil and the enslavement of
the peoples of other countries.
Bourgeois armies always and in all circumstances bear the
stamp of the ruling class and protect its interests .... Life
itself shows that a bourgeois army is the tool of the
imperialist state and defends the rotten foundation of
In order to force the people to wage war, the imperialists
process the troops in an intensified manner in a spirit of
an ti- communism and they bring them up on misanthropic
ideas of racism. Developed especially persistently among the
servicemen is a feeling of cruelty with respect to the peaceful
population and an aspiration for personal profit. The results
of such "upbringing" were graphically manifested in the
behavior of the American militarists in Vietnam. They even
exceeded the Hitlerites with their atrocities. 9
It is a fool's paradise to pretend that these are not operative
concepts. What and who is to contradict them? For instance, when
one reads the following:
The employment of two atomic bombs also did not play a
decisive role in the capitulation of imperialist Japan, since
total victory over Japan was achieved as a result of the
destruction of its Kwantung Army by the Armed Forces of
the Soviet Union. 1 °
one may react with indignation but one may also be assured that
such a statement does not find contradiction within the Soviet
Union. It is necessary to take into consideration the fact that such
concepts are shaping Soviet thinking and it is beside the point to
argue that they are not true. Marxism and the Soviet censorship
have insured the relativity of truth.
Under these circumstances, our estimate of the Soviet Navy
cannot be simply derived. Because the object of a massive system
of security, censorship and disinformation is to keep us from
knowing or to mislead us about the nature of what we know,
without sources of intelligence information we would be almost
helpless in the hands of the Soviet propaganda machine.
That being the case, America's reaction to intelligence is odd.
As the Soviets want the outside world to know very little of what
happens in their country (they want their own citizens to know
very little, too) nearly everyone who shows an interest in the
Soviet Union is, willy-nilly, an intelligence operative. At least the
Soviets respond that way. To keep them under surveillance,
diplomats, correspondents, tourists, students and exchange pro-
fessors are all controlled through elaborate organizations and
systems. There are coordinated efforts to keep them from
knowing more than that which is authorized.
As one acute observer said:
If better diplomats are found among the Russians than
among highly civilized peoples, it is because our papers warn
them of everything that happens and everything that is contem-
plated in our countries. Instead of disguising our weaknesses
with prudence, we reveal them with vehemence every morning;
whereas, the Russians' Byzantine policy, working in the
shadow, carefully conceals from us all that is thought, done
and feared in their country. We proceed in broad daylight,
they advance under cover; the game is one-sided. The
ignorance in which they leave us blinds us; our sincerity
enlightens them; we have the weakness of loquacity; they
have the strength of secrecy. There, above all, is the cause of
their cleverness. 1 1
That was written in 1839 by a French traveler, the Marquis de
Custine, who, after his journey to Imperial Russia warned that
although the future was obscure, one thing was certain, that the
world would witness strange things done by "this predestined
nation." What seems to be insufficiently appreciated now, as it
was in Custine 's time, is the degree to which Russia's different
concepts cause distortion both here and there. The ubiquitousness
of the misconceptions about the Soviet Union, the degree to
which commentators simply project their own cultural assump-
tions, is undoubtedly, in part, the result of the very incomprehen-
sibility of what they see, and a desire to impose some familiar
order on a significantly different world.
It is obviously of paramount importance that both sides read
the signals correctly and that each side know how certain acts will
be interpreted. We cannot afford to misunderstand crises, such as
the Czech uprising in 1968, in which the Soviet Union regarded its
vital interest as dangerously threatened by a "savage attempt to
inflict damage on socialism ... by international reactionary forces
and internal anti-socialist, counterrevolutionary elements in
Czechoslovakia in their 1968 intrigue." 1 2
On our own side, perceptions of even quite concrete facts, no
matter how significant, can be ignored. The problem is always one
of focus, of recognition, of having a context or system into which
information can be meaningfully placed. For example, the Soviets
have been writing for more than 15 years about the fundamental
changes in the nature of war, the revolution in military art, the
radical requirements placed upon strategic planning by the new
technology. Yet many in the West most concerned with defense
and security are sometimes only vaguely aware of the implications
of such doctrines.
Most war plans appear to start with the rather absurd
assumption that the Soviets will give 30 days warning of their
intention to launch an attack. (How such notions can persist after
the occupation of Prague in 1968 is a mystery.) Soviet practice is,
of course, to minimize signals, disguise preparations, misinform
and mislead. According to their own doctrine, if they could not
attack almost without warning they would not attack.
A very brief sketch of the difference in the two mentalities-
Soviet and American— may be helpful in explaining how critical
questions can be often misunderstood or overlooked.
CONCEPTS OF WAR, EAST AND WEST
The eminent authority on Soviet Russia, Harvard's Professor
Richard Pipes, 1 observed that because both Russia and America,
although offshoots of different aspects of European civilization,
reject that civilization (although for different reasons) they have a
superficial resemblance that seems to give rise to the theory of
convergence-that the two societies are bound to come together.
There were some grounds for arguing that that was happening
before 1917, but the Bolshevik Revolution reversed that trend so
that a theory of divergence would now make more sense. What
happened was that the country's Western-oriented element, the
intellectuals, the administrators, the educators, were eliminated
and those who came into power were the small tradesmen and
provincial workers— Brezhnev, Kosygin, Podgorny, et al.-who
represented the forces of xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, and
who rejected the West with all of its political baggage of
enlightenment, democracy, and individualism. The new power
center, although atheistic and antireligious, perpetuated the
cultural responses of old Moscow in a new form. Its orientation is
theological in the sense that it accepts beyond proof, beyond
question, and on faith, a complete set of Marxist- Leninist
principles about the nature of reality, the meaning of the universe,
man's mission, and the nature of paradise. The role of the
theoretician, like the role of the priest, is to show how these truths
are manifested in society. He is to find evidence of proof but he is
not to be objective about it. To question this state of affairs is to
identify oneself as a heretic, and the fate of heretics, in recent
memory, was no less severe, cruel and merciless than the fate of
the victims of the Spanish Inquisition.
What is important in understanding the Soviet Navy in the
context of the Russian mentality is to grasp that this state of
mind, consistent with its own terms, does not necessarily lead to
acts that the West would judge, in its ignorance, as wise, rational
and in Russia's self-interest. In any militantly self-righteous
movement, such as even America's in Vietnam, the conviction that
one is serving a higher cause inevitably has tended to affect
restraint and rational perspective.
In Soviet terminology, there is no concept of a "balance," of a
"stable community of nations," or "convergence." The Soviet
Government can only look at the idea of any "equilibrium" as a
tactical maneuver employed on the way to achieving the "workers'
paradise," a concept so strong that it is used to justify the
sacrifices demanded of the Soviet people.
One of the major and most obvious differences between the
Soviet and American mind is that of the understanding of time.
There is no date by which the workers' paradise has to be
achieved. There can be great patience in the attainment of goals
and there can be failures without the loss of face. Lenin accepted
the reality of one step forward and two back. Since the goal of
mankind is to serve this great cause, individual lives tend to be
unimportant. Egos do not have to be assuaged by rapid
promotion. Gorshkov and Brezhnev and most of the rest of the
political and military leaders will probably serve until they die.
Like monks, their commitment is forever. Under the czars, too,
the state's interests were protected by a service class (which the
Soviets have reconstituted in the form of the military hierarchy
and Communist Party members) that in return for its loyalty and
complete lifetime dedication was given special privileges and
The fact that the Western press and analysts are constantly
predicting the retirement or death of Communist leaders is
indicative of the temptation to make ethnocentric projections
based upon our own experience. Unlike Russians, Americans
expect rapid changes. Because our Presidents are elected every 4
years, officers face new billets every 3 years, and executives
change jobs periodically we are all attuned to the need for our
elite groups to make their mark, achieve some distinction,
reorganize some department, or "solve" some problem so that
they can make their next promotion or election. This, of course,
affects our military estimates, our politics, our defense posture,
and our negotiating techniques. According to Pipes, the Soviets are
fully aware of the fact that we are in a hurry and will make
concessions; that every few years the team will change; that
possibly the head of the American negotiating team will not have
had time to do his homework.
As opposed to the integrated, all-embracing social concepts of
the Soviets, Americans are educated to think more in mechanistic
terms— that there are all-inclusive laws that govern, quick solutions
to behavioral problems, and stable contracts in human affairs.
Quite often reality is viewed in terms of either/or. You have peace
or war; defense or offense; democracy or dictatorship; a balance
between "for" or "against"; tactics or strategy; and so on. The
customary question is, "Who is ahead; who is winning?" The
communist menace is either an aggressive threat or it isn't. We
seem to have to decide between being in a hot or cold war. We
strive for categories of definition-a clean sort of the cards.
Our tendency is always to compromise, not only because that is
the language of commerce but also because our "supersalesmen"
need to come hornj with a deal. We begin our negotiations by
"sweetening the kitty" and then settle down to making conces-
Russia has not been a commercial nation but an agrarian and
feudal one until very recent times. At the time of the Revolution,
90 percent of the population lived in rural communities and even
now 40 percent do. Russians have a mentality not based upon
theories of enlightened self-interest. Instead, officially at least,
they have adopted the powerful weapons of Marx's economic
analysis to enforce unified values on mankind.
If the Soviets make a practice of trying to deceive us and if we
seem to cooperate by wanting to deceive ourselves, how then can
we know the truth? That is an either/or question and the answer is
that we probably cannot know the truth. What we can know,
however, is what they say and, to a certain extent, what they do.
If there is a correlation, then that suggests a degree of confirma-
tion that we should take seriously. To that end a study of the
Soviet Navy is very useful as its comparatively recent rebuilding
must reflect current Soviet strategic goals and concepts. Without
question, the Soviet Navy must conform to the current concepts
of war. It should first be examined from that point of view.
The formula about the danger of war hardly ever changes. It
. . . the forces of imperialist reaction and aggression, which
have not given up their attempts to undermine the process of
strengthening peace and normalizing the international situa-
tion, still exist and are actively operating on our planet.
These forces have not been neutralized, and the danger of
war has still not been eliminated. The Party teaches that as
long as imperialism, whose aggressive nature has not been
altered, remains, the real danger of an outbreak of a new
world war continues to exist. In the capitalist states,
preparation of the material base for warfare has not eased,
military budgets are growing, and new armament systems,
above all the latest nuclear- missile submarine system, are
actively being developed. 2
This is a quite straightforward statement that differs little from
the party line for the last 15 or so years. Certainly it reaffirms
Marshal Grechko's statement in 1972 that:
While firmly and consistently defending the principles of
peaceful coexistence, the party at the same time teaches us
not to forget that the nature of imperialism and its aggressive
essence remains unchanged. 3
Like all official Soviet language, however, these statements are
Aesopian— they have to be interpreted— for they rely on a fairly
large body of doctrinal pronouncements. In essence the Soviet
view of the East-West struggle clearly is modified but not
abandoned. There are circumstances in which the Soviets would
engage in war, circumstances that might not be obvious to Western
Arguing that a Soviet concept of war exists is neither
warmongering nor raising the specter of the cold war. Soviet
publications are extensively devoted to war, its horrors, its
imminence and its demands. War and revolution for years have
been the staple subject for the majority of TV programs that are
not about sports or music. War is the subject of a comprehensive
civil defense program that even reaches into the kindergartens. War
and the danger of war are part of nearly every major speech by
government and party leaders. Anyone who reads Russian knows,
then, that war is a major preoccupation of the Soviet communica-
tions media, the government and the party. That is not surprising
as a theory of war is one of the basic concepts of Marxism-
Western analysts routinely point out that Lenin was greatly
influenced by Clausewitz and that the Soviets have adopted the
maxim that war is a continuation of politics by other means.
Unfortunately, that is an enormous simplification of the Soviet
position which, if left uncorrected, leads to mistaken notions.
According to the Soviets, war in the 20th century is funda-
mentally different from wars in the past because of technological
changes and the intensification of the class struggle. This leads to
radical changes in strategy and operations.
The war in Vietnam has been interpreted by Soviet theoreticians
as an ideal example of the new class war and the inevitable victory of
the proletariat over the imperialist aggressors. The Vietnamese won,
they argue, for conceptual, as well as for military reasons. The
United States did not understand that it was fighting a class war. It
assumed, so the explanation goes, that when overwhelming power
was applied against inferior power, the inferior power would be
defeated and subside. But the center of power was not in the arms.
Instead it was in the class consciousness of the fighting men, their
knowledge that destiny was on their side, that the forces they were
fighting were doomed and that they were backed by the solidarity of
working men everywhere, even those in the enemy camp whose
consciousness merely had to be awakened. That is not Clause witz.
Clausewitz' ideas, interpreted by such writers as Mahan, tended to
see the world in mechanistic terms: lines of communication, specific
nations and groupings of nations, concentrations of power and
colonial dependencies. Of course such terms carry over into the
writings of Lenin and modern Soviet commentators, but in that
context those words function differently, as we shall see.
The concept is both Marxist and deeply Russian, that life— people,
nature, the elements, ideas— is in a constant state of struggle, an idea
opposite to the usual Western preconception that matter can be
brought into balance and that political harmonies can be achieved
and maintained. For the Russian peasant, as well as for the Marxist,
such harmonies come about only in paradise, whether it is God's
paradise or the workers' paradise. For the rest of life, which is
tenuous and not individually significant, there is constant struggle.
The idea that there can be peace short of that paradise occurs
nowhere in Soviet Marxist literature. What does appear is the idea of
a continuation of the struggle on various levels. The essential point,
so often overlooked, is that there is no possibility in Marxist doctrine
for an accommodation of or convergence with the social orders of
Western capitalistic democracies. To put it in Western, mechanistic
terms, the ideas in each "camp" are destined to repel. This being the
case (and it will shortly be shown why it must be so), any idea of
detente can only be considered with the mental reservation that it is
a temporary tactic in what is seen as a cosmic battle between forces
that are either good or evil.
The interpretation here of the religious nature of the Soviet
theory of war may come as a surprise; nevertheless, if one reads
what the Soviets write then one quickly sees that the basic
conceptions revolve around a core of ideas that are derived
deductively (a central "truth" is accepted on faith and the
world is shown to support that "truth") instead of inductively (in
the manner of science). Let us examine a few cases.
The foreword to a book on Lenin's treatment of the problems
of contemporary war, which is recommended reading for soldiers
and sailors and probably required reading for all officers of the
Soviet Armed Forces, begins:
The entire revolutionary era in human history is associated
with the name and activity of Vladimire Il'ich Lenin— the
brilliant successor to the revolutionary teachings of K. Marx
and F. Engels, and the founder of our Party and the Soviet
state. . . . Having absorbed all of the wisdom of the history of
mankind, V.I. Lenin was able with all dialectical comprehen-
siveness to embrace the objective logic of the development of
social events; and by the force of his brilliant intellect to
expound on a new field of social processes to the most
profound depths. 4
The theme of Lenin's godlike omniscience continues throughout
the foreword making it clear that he understood not only "all of
the wisdom of history" but also foresaw all aspects of modern
strategy and tactics. This obeisance to Lenin's genius is a standard
element of all discussions, including Gorshkov's.
In The Officer's Handbook, the role of Marxism- Leninism in
determining the loves and hates of the Soviet people is stated
The communist ideology, which has become the ideology
of the entire Soviet people, the communist morals which
come forward as the stimulating motive for the behavior of
our people, high political consciousness and selfless devotion
to the ideas of communism comprise the foundation of the
spiritual world of the Soviet man and engender a feeling of
ardent love for the socialist Motherland and a burning hatred
for its enemies and an indestructive steadfastness in defend-
ing the socialist homeland. 5
This is the rhetoric of religion. It is an invocation to a higher
What is presented is not a unique selection from a small sample.
Nearly everywhere and on any level one meets this kind of
language whether from the former Minister of Defense, the
Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, or the General Secretary
of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union. For example, one opens the December issue of the
Morskoy sbornik for 1975 and reads:
The Soviet people, having successfully completed the 9th
Five Year Plan, is worthy of greeting the 25th Congress of
the Communist Party.
"One can say with confidence" remarked the General
Secretary of the CC CPSU Comrade Brezhnev at the
preelection meeting of the workers of the Bauman sector of
the city of Moscow on 13 June 1975, "that the forthcoming
Congress will mark new, important guideposts on the road to
the great goals for which our party fights, achievements for
which we give our entire strength." 6
Patriotism, too, is a kind of religion and generates an emotional
fervor that gains strength from faith. A patriotic appeal to the
motherland is used in Russia but takes second place to the appeal
to the party which obviously, in a multinational land, has priority.
It is the party that is the unifying force, not only internally but
also externally, with the proletariat of all nations.
Obviously, such statements, issued on such an enormous scale,
say something about the Soviet attitude toward war, how and
when it might be waged, and on what basis. They clearly reflect
very basic information about crisis decisions not only in the
Military Establishment but also in the Central Committee. We
would be remiss in not trying to understand what they are telling
The most basic notion about war held by the Soviet Commu-
nists is that it is a struggle on class lines. As previously stated, this
suggests a fundamentally new way of thinking about war that
dictates new concepts of strategy. An idea of the "class nature" of
war suggests that the Soviets do not expect to fight nations but
groups or coalitions determined by economic functions. The
explanation for the fact that the Soviet Union must make treaties
and agreements with nations (rather than with the classes) that are
her natural enemies is simply that the ruling groups, although
condemned by history, are in control and are able to deceive the
masses about the nature of their true interests.
This all leads to a theory of war that is not based upon some
grand strategy for lebensraum, or colonial dependencies, or foreign
markets. The strategy is to defeat the ruling classes who are
preserving "outmoded" economic systems. The first priority for
protecting the interests of the worldwide revolution is to insure
the inviolability of the center (Moscow), the sacred bastion of
orthodoxy, and the armory of the international proletariat.
The second priority is to promote and protect socialist move-
ments elsewhere. With such precepts for strategy, it is obvious
that the causes of war for the Soviet Union would not be the
same as those that would incite the United States to take up
In the communist idiom war is not, of itself, bad. There are
times when it is justified. One lesson of history, according to
Lenin, is that war accelerates change from outmoded social
systems to the new order of mankind. In fact, until the capitalist
system is eradicated, a violent struggle, if not a war, is considered
to be almost inevitable because, according to the Marxist doctrine,
. . . the aggressive policy of the imperialist states which is
directed toward the preparation and unleashing of predatory,
marauding wars, is caused by the basic economic law of
contemporary capitalism according to which the goal of
capitalist production under imperialism is obtaining the
maximum profits by the monopolists. 7
Once the United States, the leader of the capitalist system, is
eliminated, it is likely that mankind will be freed from the scourge
of war inasmuch as "imperialism was and remains the only source
of military danger." 8
Violence, then, is a handmaiden of history. It can be used,
according to Lenin, incorrectly-Marxists argue that that was the
case in Vietnam-"but then it is doomed to death by history. But
it is possible to use violence relying on the leading class and on the
higher principles of a socialist system, order and organization.
Even then it may temporarily experience failure, but it is
Although Soviet leaders ritually condemn nuclear war and war
in general as a danger to mankind, they do not condemn either
violence or struggle. For example, such statements as the following
Conscious of its internationalist duty, the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union will continue to pursue a line in
international affairs which helps further to invigorate the
world-wide, anti-imperialist struggle, and to strengthen the
fighting unity of all its participants. 1 °
For those who look forward to a period of peace and friendship,
the Premier made himself very clear about the conditions in which
it would have to thrive: "The full triumph of the socialist cause all
over the world is inevitable. And we shall not spare ourselves in
the fight for this triumph, for the happiness of the working
people!" 1 l Although expressed in somewhat less vitriolic terms,
the same intentions were affirmed in the 25th Party Congress.
What was being argued was that in the international sphere the
Soviet Union was continuing to try to consolidate its alliance with
the forces of socialism, the international working-class movement
and "people's liberation movements."
The temptations for communists in this struggle are very great
indeed because imperialism, the stage the Western World is now in,
is considered to be the highest and the last stage of capitalism. It
will be followed by socialism. According to Lenin, and therefore
to current Soviet doctrine, there are five characteristics of
imperialism that have finally developed:
1. The concentration of the means of production and
capital to create monopolies.
2. The union of finance capital with industry to create a
3. The export of capital rather than the export of goods.
4. The formation of international capitalistic monopolies
and combinations that divide up the world.
5. A legalistic division of the world by capitalistic govern-
The idea of the stages of imperialism may seem very far from a
discussion of the Soviet Navy, but it is of direct, immediate
importance. It affects how part of the navy is to be used and
therefore built as well as the Soviet Government's military
priorities. For example, the Soviet Government's reading of the
degree of maturity of the imperialist order affects its estimates of
the imminence of war and therefore of the order of priorities in
If Mahan was the strategist of imperialism then Lenin was
clearly the strategist of its demise, for many of his writings are not
theoretical and abstract but explore concrete tactics for the
breakup of the power of Western governments. A summary of his
1. The new epoch is the epoch of imperialistic wars and
proletarian revolutions. Wars are inevitable as are revolutions.
2. In this stage of development, there is not a "national"
capitalism but a worldwide imperialistic chain.
3. Before the chain can be broken, revolution and
socialism will have to conquer in one or a few countries.
4. The country in which socialism is victorious will serve
as the worldwide base for revolutions.
5. It is necessary to break the imperialist chain at its
weakest link, the source of its raw materials. That must begin
in the East and in the colonies and will lead to the
destruction of the whole chain.
Therefore: the area for prime concentration is in the emerging
nations with critical raw materials. The methods for cutting the
link must not be limited but will be political, commercial,
economic, cultural and military.
Throughout Soviet literature one finds these ideas affirmed and
elaborated upon in all disciplines. They are clearly used as a guide
for current action and for the interpretation of current events. For
example, the Soviets claim that all wars since World War II have
been started by the imperialistic powers with the United States in
the vanguard. According to Major General Milovidov, the United
States is responsible for "thirty aggressive wars and military
conflicts of various scales." 1 2
Given such views, combat readiness takes on a more realistic
meaning and although high Party officials may talk about the
danger of nuclear war receding (they are always very careful in
their terminology about the kind of war they mean) they, as well
as others, balance such statements with concern about the
heightening of tension that ensues as imperialism moves toward its
demise. Almost always the authority of Lenin in invoked:
History has confirmed the correctness of the methodologi-
cal position taken by Lenin, based on analysis of the class
struggle with imperialism: " . . . The force of the revolution,
the force of the impact, the energy, decisiveness and triumph
of its victory at the same time heighten the force of
resistance by the bourgeoisie. The greater our victory, the
greater the extent to which the capitalist exploiters learn to
unite and shift to move resolute attacks." 1 3
The Marxists- Leninists see two factors limiting the power of
imperialism and both are militant: the growing political power of
socialism and the development of its military strength.
In the West, fashions in ideas change rather rapidly. We tend to
equate the passage of time with the notion not only of political
and economic progress but also progress in comprehension. Thus
we tend to assume that ideas held 10 or 15 years ago, much less 20
or 50, are interesting but no longer operational. The strategic ideas
of the Soviets are, at least in their major thrust, timeless in the
sense that there is no evolution of concepts; there is only the
fulfillment of a predetermined plan. The supreme leader's genius is
displayed by the correctness of his estimate of the economic stage
of civilization on its predetermined march and the brilliance of his
tactics in dealing with international imperialism and internal
economic growth. But the basic elements of the doctrine remain
unchanged. Lenin is considered to have said it all. His modern
interpreters are allowed only limited scope for maneuver. This was
clearly displayed by Brezhnev when he said:
Following Lenin's behests, we shall continue to strengthen
our country's defense, to furnish our army with the most
sophisticated weapons. Our army has been, is now and will
continue to be an army of peace, a dependable bulwark of
security for all peoples. 1 4
Much of the Western analysis of the Soviet Union is questionably
based upon the preconception that the Soviet leaders really want
to live like us, maintain the status quo and would prefer not to go
through all of this ideological fuss. Leaders are commonly thought
to be political pragma tists, like ours tend to be, who are forced
sometimes to make ideological pronouncements for tradition's
sake. Such notions are quite irrational in themselves. Among the
many systems of political thought, there is nothing inevitable
about pragmatism. Even the idea that man should be happy, which
most of us assume as the preconception of political action, is not a
Why is the dialectic so often ignored when Soviet intentions are
discussed? It is an official doctrine that is considered scientific. It
has such force that, until recently, Einstein's theory of relativity
could not be studied because it contradicted Marxism. Even now,
theories of anthropology, Freud's theories in psychoanalysis, and
nearly all Western schools of history or literature are forbidden.
Great poets, musicians and artists are hounded even to their deaths
for not creating in approved modes. As the dialectic dominates the
universities and intellectual life, it also dominates foreign policy
and strategic planning. It is the thread that provides sense and
continuity to thought and provides the source for bureaucratic
rationalization. How then can it be avoided?
The entire Marxist concept of the universe is based upon
struggle. As Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto, the history
of human society is the history of class warfare. This basic law is
related to three of Marx's dialectical laws, fundamental to the
Soviet view of war. They are summarized as follows:
a. The law of the unity and struggle of opposites.
b. The law of the transformation from quantity to
c. The law of the negation of the negation.
The first law is the major basis for the communist idea of class
warfare and has formed the foundation for the idea of constant
struggle. The law is that all things are organically tied together but
that all things are in conflict; all have their negative and positive
sides; their past and future; their contradictions between the old
and the new, the dying and being born. This is the most important
law for it leads to the understanding that development is not
harmonious, progressive and sequential. Change occurs through
violence as a resolution of opposites. The expulsion from Egypt or
the retreat from Cuba may not be agreeable but they can be
explained by this theory. In this theory the United States is, of
course, the contradiction, the opposite, one of the causes of
This law, emphasizing struggle rather than harmony, makes a
mockery of the Western notion of "destabilization." Officially,
the Soviets cannot assume that a harmonious relationship is
possible with the United States.
The second law, that of the transformation from quantity to
quality, is also imponant and has military applications. The idea is
that things accumulate or change gradually, by addition or
subtraction, in a quantitative way, but once this change exceeds
that which the nature of the thing dictates, then there is a sudden
qualitative transformation. The thing becomes something else on a
This law has been very influential in shaping Soviet policy and
in determining the theory of war, for it says that if the law of
development dictates a sudden transformation then the change of
social classes from oppressed races into independent socialist
entities does not come about through small accommodations and
reforms such as labor unions and social security, for example, but
explosively, by revolution.
This law, too, justifies violence and insures that the arms race
does not abate, for the quantitative accumulation of arms can lead
to a qualitative change in war. That was one of the lessons of the
Battle of Stalingard— which has become a model of Soviet military
thought— where the massing of armament turned the tide. Now the
advent of nuclear weapons has made warfare totally new and
qualitatively different. This law also reinforces the historic Russian
experience of the importance of mass in battle. The rapid
recognition and acceptance of the revolution in military affairs,
which led to a very dynamic change in Soviet military thinking,
almost certainly was influenced by a knowledge of this law of the
transition from quantitative to qualitative change.
The law of the negation of the negation forces military analysts
to keep rethinking military art as the old is constantly giving way
to the new. This law gives Soviet military theorists the authority
to criticize American military concepts for being outmoded and
inflexible. Without this guide to an understanding of the universe,
thought is unscientific and backward. It is, in short, historically
Admiral Gorshkov was referring to this law when he said: "The
qualitative transformations which have taken place in naval forces
have also changed the approach to evaluating the relative might of
navies and their combat groupings . . . M1 5 The negation of the
negation is the basic law of the dialectical reasoning. The thesis,
capitalism, gives rise to its antithesis, communism, and through the
battle of the two there is a temporary synthesis, some form of
socialism. (There are a great number of possible variations on this
theme.) What happens, however, in any dialectical argument is
that "synthesis "-is eventually negated and the process begins again
in a never-ending chain of development. (The logical flaw that
Marxists cannot resolve is the question of what comes beyond
communism in the endless change.)
This law, too, has been applied to warfare, as we shall see, and
reinforces the historic Russian patience. It can be used to justify
even political failure as every manifestation of a historic process is
an indication of forward movement even when it appears that the
opposite is true. With such a philosophy it is difficult to become
This, like the other "laws," is also a cruel law. Manifestations in
history that can be labeled as "an antithesis" can be negated
without moral qualms. That can be applied to whole societies and
classes. It has been used to justify the liquidation of people and
even nations. The elimination of ruling classes— men, women and
children— would be and has been considered a morally justified
The dialectic then justifies war and revolution. What it cannot
tolerate is any peaceful relationship with capitalism. Its laws
cannot be rejected because if they were, any possible basis for
legitimacy of the Soviet Government and the power of the
Communist Party would disappear. While it is possible to argue
that the severity of change can be somewhat diminished, Marxist
dialectic insists that the imperialist order will never submit
peacefully to its own liquidation. Although the change in the
correlation of forces causes the imperialists to be cautious and
intimidated, violence is likely, probably unavoidable.
Western observers have long been puzzled that Soviet leaders
talk about the necessity of avoiding nuclear war and yet all of
their war games and their new war materiel show that they are
preparing for nuclear war. The laws of the dialectic give an
explanation. Violence is assured and stability is not. Mere human
reason and leadership cannot abrogate that condition. The
imperialist governments, in spite of all of their assurances, once
they realize the imminence of their defeat, may resort to nuclear
war. From the Soviet point of view, one must respond to the
scientific laws of history. The arguments of Western diplomats,
ignorant of those laws, can be of little more than transitory
There are many other aspects of Marxism that are important for
understanding the Soviet view of war and revolution; however, we
shall discuss only two more: the doctrine on revolution and the
theories of the crisis of the old order.
According to Marx and Lenin, and to the undisguised glee of
the Soviet commentators in the modern media, capitalist systems
are doomed to undergo ever increasingly severe economic crises.
These crises are "good" as they mark phases toward the ultimate
collapse of imperialism altogether. The crises are economic and
social in nature. Increasing unemployment, lessening demand,
inflation and recession and depression are all among the indicators.
Marxists, and of course Soviets, argue that one should not do
anything to help to reduce these problems or to ease the suffering
of the masses in foreign countries as that would reduce the
momentum of change. It is through the exacerbation of these
conditions that progress occurs in the form of the awakened
consciousness of the proletariat and therefore they are to be
encouraged. But economic problems must be carefully monitored
not only in order to measure the speed of the decline of the West
but also to ensure the proper degree of military preparedness.
Because the Soviets expect the crisis of capitalism to lead to an
increase in the number of conflicts and an increase in the
danger of war, such periods heighten their own sense of
danger and alarm.
The doctrine on revolution is also important because it adds
another dimension to our understanding of the Soviet theories of
war. It also relates to the primary source of the breach between
the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China which
indicates the extraordinary importance of ideological arguments in
the preparations for war.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels held that
revolution would come about through the organization and leader-
ship of the working class. Later, that doctrine was modified in The
Critique of Political Economy and more clearly in Das Kapital In
the latter, Marx held that socialism would arise dialectically ; that is,
through the conflict of the contradictions within the capitalist
system. It was argued that there were stages of development and that
until the contradictions had "ripened" sufficiently, there would not
be the qualitative change to the new system.
But such a theory was too passive for Lenin. He could not wait
for the "ripening" and called for taking up arms. His final position
on revolution has replaced Marx's as the classical doctrine for the
world communist movement. Lenin held that the revolution had
to be organized. A great body of his writing deals with the tactics
of bringing about the violent overthrow of the old regime. Above
all else, Lenin, though Machiavellian certainly, was a brilliant
tactician. In any case, as a result of the success of the Bolshevik
Revolution achieved against overwhelming odds, Lenin became the
foremost authority on the subject.
The Leninist theory, however, was modified during the 20th
Party Congress in 1956 and it was this modification that led to the
charges by the Chinese of "revisionism" and ultimately con-
tributed to the major ideological basis of the Sino-Soviet split.
The new Khrushchevian doctrine, which Brezhnev has not
repudiated, was formulated because of the advent of nuclear
weapons. This was the stimulus for the new tactic of "coexist-
ence" and a new formula for seizing power. It was proclaimed that
the proletariat could take power by achieving a parliamentary
majority as well as through revolution. The Chinese fulminated
against the new doctrines as anti-Leninist and revisionist. That led
them to deny the supremacy of the Moscow priesthood and to the
split. But the basic doctrines about the destruction of capitalism
do not change with changes in supreme leaders. Any sensible
Western observer realizes that the Chinese/U.S. accommodation is
at best a very temporary one doomed by history.
Because the Leninist tactics for the seizure of power have
become the doctrine for most of the world's communist parties, it
is well to review them briefly. They can be summarized as follows:
a. Remain steadfast to the principles of Marx but flexible
b. To achieve the final goal (the seizure of power) all
political gambits are permitted.
c. In the interests of ultimate success, it is necessary to
know how to change course radically.
d. It is necessary to know how, at the proper time, to
retreat, to take different paths, use different methods and to
take advantage of a breathing space for the preparation of a
e. It is necessary to know how to penetrate the organiza-
tion of the enemy in order to destroy it from inside and to
win its members over to the socialist side.
f. One must penetrate bourgeois parliaments and institu-
tions not for constructive work but in order to destroy them
g. It is necessary to conclude political compromises with
the enemy in order to lead him into a trap and to prepare the
conditions for his liquidation. 1 6
As no major move is made without reference to the teachings of
Lenin, it can be assumed with confidence that these general tenets,
gleaned from his work and thought, are the basis of current policy.
And current policy is very much influenced by the doctrine on
Marxism- Leninism focuses its primary attention on the eco-
nomics of defeating the capitalistic nations. It is not surprising
that many of the major clashes have occurred in the Third World
and it is easy to predict that after Africa is in full turbulence,
America will become an increasingly important arena. The
Leninist objective is to attack the United States at its "weakest
link," the source of its raw materials and trade. In a very
significant way, Lenin has stood Mahan on his head: instead of
concentrating on attacking the lines of communication (although
that, too, would be done) he has advocated cutting off the supply
at its source. In the Leninist strategy, there would be no
commerce for the time it takes to bring the imperialists to their
knees. With that kind of focus it is obvious why the Soviets did
not, at first, place a higher priority on large surface ships and why
that is now the apparent policy.
Within the Soviet Union, economics takes the primary place in
policy as well inasmuch as economic development is to cause a
transformation and revolution in military affairs. The dominant
idea is of a quantitative accumulation that will enable a qualitative
leap. Perhaps no other viewpoint more dramatically underscores
the differences between our two systems. The United States, both
internally and in its foreign aid, is more or less dedicated to
finding ways to improve the quality of life. Therefore, it tends to
focus its attention on the consumer at home and abroad. The
Soviet Union, however, concentrating on the future and the
proletarian paradise to come, tends to ignore the consumer in
favor of heavy industry that provides the kind of accumulation
that may support qualitative leaps.
Because of its doctrinal and oracular nature, the language of the
texts on contemporary war, like the language of the Party
Congresses, has a religious quality that is greeted in the West with
some embarrassment and tends to be dismissed. Nevertheless,
taking the total body of Soviet writings on war into account, there
can be no doubt that the Leninist doctrine is still fully functional.
According to Milovidov,
The military-philosophical heritage of V.I. Lenin comprises
the richest theoretical basis for development of military
theory and practice under contemporary conditions .... The
military -philosophical ideas of V.I. Lenin have withstood the
test of time. They are convincingly confirmed by our brilliant
victories in the Civil War, the Great Patriot War [World War
II] , and by the steadily increasing might of the army and
navy in the post-war period. 1 7
The Soviet doctrine on war, then, is internationalist in scope.
Even the idea of defense is translated into international terms, for
the purpose of defense is to maintain the Soviet Union as the
bastion of the world proletarian movement. For:
If the armies of the capitalist states serve as an instrument
of aggression and attack on other peoples, the armed forces
of the U.S.S.R. and the other countries of socialist systems
threaten no one; they exist in order to ensure the security of
their states, and the peaceful building of socialism and
communism. They are the most important factor for the
preservation of peace in the entire world. 1 8
The object is obviously to achieve solidarity with the armies of
fraternal socialist countries "for the joint defense of the world
socialist system against imperialist aggression." 1 9
The principle of internationalism is also manifested in the
fact that our army is built and brought up as an army of
liberation . . . this principle also envisages aid to young
national states in assuring their security from the intrigues of
the colonizers and aid in military construction (the training
of national military cadres, provision of weapons for defense
against the attack of the imperialists, etc.). 2 °
American political leaders and military strategists talk about the
impossibility of nuclear war if civilization is to continue. In
practice, military preparedness in the United States assumes that
nuclear war and therefore war with the Soviet Union, is an
unacceptable solution. The Soviets assume that war is likely,
although they try to avoid it, and in the case of war that nuclear
war is almost inevitable. Therefore, they plan and train for the
worst case. That is the lesson of dialectics.
Because they believe that history is the new god, the Soviets are
able to attach moral definitions, in addition to class descriptions,
to war. This determines the nature of the Soviet response to war.
There is the additional factor, taught by the dialectic, that one
kind of war can be transformed into another; a war of national
liberation into an imperialistic war; an imperialistic war into a civil
With this kind of definition, it is obvious that the Soviets
cannot possibly fight an unjust war. By virtue of their economic
stage of development, any war they fight is necessarily dictated by
history and any conflict the United States enters is necessarily in
opposition to the course of history. Or, as officially defined:
Condemning predatory, imperialistic wars, Marxist-
Leninists consider as just and support wars in defense of the
achievements of peoples against imperialist aggression, for
national liberation, and wars of the revolutionary classes
which reflect the attempts of the reactionary forces to retain
or to restore their supremacy with the use of weapons. A war
of the workers for their social liberation and for the
strengthening and development of socialism and communism
is the most just war. For this very reason, by the concept of
"just war," we imply primarily revolutionary, liberation wars
since these wars are truly progressive and further historical
development. 2 !
On the other hand, unjust wars include:
1. Counterrevolutionary wars— the bourgeoisie against any
revolutionary movement of the proletariat.
2. Any aggression by the imperialist states against a
3. Wars of the imperialists to restore the colonial system.
4. Predatory wars of the imperialists against nonaggressive
5. Wars between imperialist powers for spheres of influ-
The basis for war is philosophically, politically, and historically
Contemporary capitalism is not only an obsolete reaction-
ary system slowing down historical progress, but also a
dangerous aggressive force which threatens world civilization.
The struggle of the working class and all workers against
imperialism is a historical necessity . . . They [the im-
perialists] unleash both world wars and local wars directed
toward the strangling of liberation movements, the seizure of
foreign soil, and the enslavement of the peoples of other
countries. 2 3
That the Soviet Union would consider initiating a war (it would
certainly be defined in different terms) is made almost explicit in
the definition of the goals of a socialist war:
1. To defend "the most just social system in history."
2. To defend the freedom and independence of socialist
nations including their territory, culture and existence.
3. To give aid to other socialist states and allies.
4. To give aid to the working class of capitalist countries
and their colonies.
Considering the ease with which this formula is adapted— the
argument already cited explaining the need for invading Czecho-
slovakia is a case in point— it is really not correct to assert that the
Soviet Union pursues a policy of avoiding war, or some dimension
of war. It is the policy of the Soviet Union to avoid certain kinds
of wars, or wars under certain circumstances. Theoretically, a
socialist or proletarian army is, by definition, an implement of
justified violence. In fact, if it were not for the danger from the
imperialistic system, then there would be no army and no
violence. It is the unrighteous bourgeoisie that forces the army and
navy not only into existence but also into action.
Although Marxists argue that war does not change policy, and
argue that nuclear war must be avoided, they do find a positive
value in war. It was the October Revolution, according to Soviet
Marxists, that marked the beginning of the final phase of the
transition from capitalism at its highest stage, imperialism, to
socialism. Through wars by surrogates in Korea, Vietnam and
Egypt, the Soviets have already dealt the West serious blows in the
Third World. The Soviets believe that through their leadership and
support, the momentum of change has been developing irre-
pressibly and the contradictions within the capitalist system have
been festering increasingly. These signs lead in one direction with
two important aspects: increasing power for the socialist side and
increasing conflict and danger of war as the bourgeois class begins
to comprehend its danger. It is for this reason that a reduction in
tension makes good politics. The West, with its rational and
pragmatic interpretations, understands detente as a means of
stabilization, and, since it thinks primarily of the present, detente
is a goal that it finds satisfactory; for the Soviets, whose primary
reality is in the future after the defeat of imperialism, detente
makes excellent sense in order to deflect the attention of the
bourgeoisie from its imminent danger. It provides a tactical pause.
The specific application of the principles of war will be
examined in the next chapter; however, to summarize, war on any
level, nuclear, local or limited, is to be judged on its class nature,
not on its destructiveness, and its outcome is predetermined.
As Colonel Kondratkov wrote,
The fact that the use of means of mass annihilation makes
for world war fraught with disastrous consequences certainly
does not mean that its class content and social character
disappear, that it ceases to be a continuation of a certain
policy. New weapons do not disrupt and cannot disrupt the
connection of war with politics, they do not and cannot
abrogate the social and class character of war. 2 4
THE SOVIET NAVY IN MARXIST STRATEGY
For most observers, the Soviet Navy is an enigma. The purposes
for which the navy is designed are unclear. If the Soviets plan
worldwide domination, where are the amphibious ships? If the
Soviets intend to control the seas, where are the airplanes? What is
the need for so much firepower on such small ships and why are
there so many submarines? The questions are endless, and the
answers are seldom satisfying.
Gorshkov's many pronouncements are, to a degree, clarifica-
tions but we must suspect them as including what such statements
have always included in the past: some truth, much propaganda,
some disinformation, much boasting, some bullying and a con-
fusion of future and present. What they do confirm is what most
observers had always known: that the Soviet Navy's primary
interest is on the land. They also show the degree to which official
pronouncements are tied to economic and political capabilities. At
each stage of its development, the Soviet Navy has been praised as
the last word in the analysis of naval warfare and all more complex
navies, with aircraft carriers for instance, have been denigrated as
useless and retrograde.
Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov 's memoirs furnish evidence that in
1937 the Soviet Union decided, certainly at Stalin's direction, to
build a big navy consisting of "battleships, heavy cruisers, and
other surface war ships . . . not excluding aircraft carriers." 1
The memoirs show that the Soviet high command was fully
aware of the need for air cover, even in the 1930s, and for a fleet
operating in the open ocean. Commenting on the building program
of large numbers of battleships, without a single aircraft carrier,
Stalin asked, "Then how far out at sea could they have gone?" 2
Stalin would have maintained the same position with respect to
a large oceangoing fleet composed of capital ships but without air
protection before and after the war. As Kuznetsov said, "Stalin
has a special and curious passion for heavy cruisers." 3 And
apparently Stalin's views did not change, according to Kuznetsov,
even after the war. As far as we know, the same attitudes lasted
until approximately 1970 or whenever it was decided to construct
the first aircraft carrier.
As we do not know about how decisions are made, we must
look for a continuity in the decisionmaking process. Throughout
the Soviet and even imperial period of Russian history there has
been an attachment to the idea of an open-ocean fleet without any
clear strategy for its use, although apparently with a clear
perception of its limitations because of the geographical choke-
points surrounding Russia.
Admiral Gorshkov's comment in an article of 1967 is extremely
revealing. Speaking of the period when it was decided to construct
a high-seas fleet without air cover far at sea he said, "Even then,
when the country was creating a big oceanic navy, the strategic
principles on which its use was based were not revised and, as a
result, they were left just the same as those which guided our
armed forces in the period of the rehabilitation of the navy." 4
We need to know what were "the strategic principles" on which
the navy's use was based for that period and for the postwar period
so that we may make some kind of estimate about the strategic
principles that have changed the Soviet Navy in our own era.
Herrick is almost certainly correct when he says that the reasons
for this kind of postwar fleet were deterrence and prestige. 5 Until
approximately 1970 the Soviets could not afford the luxury of an
aircraft carrier for the purpose of prestige and deterrence when other
more flexible and less costly military means could fill that gap and
when priority of state interest required that the main pressure be
kept in contiguous geographical zones. The fleet was not to be on the
high seas far from Soviet shores, showing off to the United States,
but in contiguous waters, for the benefit of Europe. The recent
growth of the Soviet Navy into an open-ocean fleet has been a
natural accompaniment of the proliferation of Soviet interests from
the Eurasian zone into all the world's oceans.
Most analysts of the Soviet Navy (e.g., even the very capable
editor of Janes, Capt. John Moore) sooner or later argue that events
have taught the Soviet leaders the value of a navy and that they are
now bound to become aggressively oriented toward the sea. For
instance, Captain Moore refers to the lessons of the Second World
War that "must have been apparent to the few competent senior
officers who had survived the purges-the importance of aircraft and
submarines, the demise of the battleship, the vital place of A/S
warfare" and so on. 6 In other words, he argues that the Soviets
learned they needed a fleet exactly like the Royal Navy; that is, a
It should be recalled that the Soviets had the largest submarine
fleet in the world prior to the Second World War and resumed
building it immediately after the war. Furthermore, they were not
engaged in building battleships and they immediately established
one of the largest naval air arms in the world. The evidence simply
does not support the usually ethnocentric explanations of who
taught whom. The Soviets, while influenced by what was
happening abroad, were usually responding to the beat of their
own drum. In fact, the Soviets might with some justification argue
that they taught Western navies about the application of modern
technology to naval warfare.
The Soviets were the first to begin building submarines
modularly (that is in sections that were then welded together) ; in
the early fifties the Soviets perfected the air-to-surface missile
carried by the Badger bomber and introduced by 1956 a
reconnaissance and strike aircraft with a range of 3,500 miles
without refueling; in 1956 the Soviet Zulu-class submarine put to
sea with a 250-mile ballistic missile to be followed by the first of a
series of nuclear-propelled ballistic missile submarines, the Hotel
class; in November 1957 the first Sputnik flew, and it was
obviously designed for military, including naval reconnaissance
uses. It was not until 1959 that George Washington, the United
States first nuclear submarine FBM, was launched with sixteen
1,100-mile Polaris Al missiles. The world's first surface-to-surface
missile on a surface ship appeared on the Kildin which became
operational in 1959. The first submarine with surface-to-surface
missiles was the Whiskey class that appeared in 1958 and went
through some modifications before the more sophisticated version,
the Juliet, appeared in 1962.
Furthermore, it should be recalled that the Soviets had begun
writing about the revolution in military science at least as early as
1960. Theyv were quite obviously oriented to the technical and
operational changes that the possibility of missiles had introduced
into naval warfare long before some Western navies, including our
own, fully accommodated them.
One erroneous argument holds that the land-oriented Soviet
leadership learned about the importance of navies through the
Spanish Civil War that began in 1936. The Soviet Union played an
important role in that war as a supplier for the Republican forces.
The Soviets faced a problem in getting supplies to the Republicans
through seas dominated by Germany and Italy. The contention is
that the Kremlin leaders learned the need for seapower in doing
so. As we saw, Stalin was already fully aware of the problems;
however, the industrial capabilities of the country would not
sustain the luxury of a bigger navy.
The Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956 was thought
to be another lesson. The Soviet Union found itself unable to
intervene because of the lack of seapower. This happened again in
the Lebanese crisis of 14 July 1958, when American troops played
a pacifying role. Of course the Cuban missile crisis of October
1962 was assumed to be the crowning blow to those in the Soviet
hierarchy resisting an expansion of seapower.
While it would be foolish to argue that the Soviet leaders were
not learning to use the navy in these experiences, one could, with
similar logic, argue that the United States was forgetting how to
use its navy in such crises as the Angolan Civil War, the Pueblo
incident, or permitting establishment of a Soviet air base at
Conakry. Both statements are the kind of oversimplification that
results from a tunnel vision when one tries to judge the world
from one perspective such as naval science. We must seek far more
There has seldom been a time in Soviet history when the Soviet
Government was not building armaments as rapidly as it could,
and since the twenties the Soviet Navy has been building
submarines on a massive scale. In addition, it was always building
inshore defenses and constantly perfecting mine warfare. The
naval air arm, like all Soviet air forces, was rapidly expanded after
the war. Even before the war there was recognition of the need for
an enlarged air force.
Stalin probably was not taught a lesson by the problems of aiding
the Spanish Republicans. All Soviet leaders had been keenly aware
of military problems since the inception of Soviet power. In fact, the
test of their leadership was in being able to mobilize and militarize
the whole state. The problem was not demand but supply.
As a comparatively young Marxist in the 1930s, Stalin assumed
that the European and American imperialist powers would not
permit a successful republican government to be established in
Spain. Only a few years before, the Soviet Government had been
threatened by foreign intervention. Some years later Stalin proved
his awareness of the limits of naval power in confrontations with
capitalist nations. He said to Milovan Djilas, commenting on
Yugoslav support for the revolution in Greece soon after the
Second World War,
What do you think, that Great Britain and the United
States-the United States the most powerful state in the
world— will permit you to break their line of communication
in the Mediterranean Sea? Nonsense! And we have no navy.
The uprisings in Greece must be stopped and as quickly as
Furthermore, in the 1945 Navy Day address Stalin announced
that the postwar Soviet Navy was to be used to aid revolutions
throughout the world. The idea of the navy as a support for
revolutions was to be picked by Admiral Gorshkov later but, as an
obvious political move, it must have been frequently considered in
the new circumstances following World War II. In 1967 Admiral
Gorshkov, in an article entitled "The Development of the Soviet
Navy," criticized Stalin for having made an idol out of the Second
World War. He wrote that the acceptance of such preconceptions
as the basis for the postwar planning
without taking into account the changes in the correlation of
forces in the international arena, consolidated the domi-
nating position of the defensive tendencies among views on
the strategic employment of the navy. These were propa-
gated in the postwar years so that the navy was tied down
even more than it had been before to the coastal zone
which is controlled by the ground forces. In this manner
the role of the navy as merely an assistant to the army was
Yet, while Gorshkov 's statement no doubt has considerable
validity, leading officers of other branches of the services made
similar statements. All had to operate under the dominance of
Stalin's strategic ideas that were said to be based upon a repetition
of the victories of the Second World War. But there is the apparent
contradiction that in those years when Stalin was thought to be
holding back modernization, the Soviet Navy was rapidly moving
operationally and scientifically in novel and imaginative directions.
One only need recall that 1 year after Gorshkov 's article appeared
the first nuclear-powered Chariie-class submarine became opera-
tional. It was armed with a subsurface launched surface-to-surface
missile, the unique and most advanced naval weapon of its time. In
the year of the publication of that article, sea trials were carried
out in the Baltic by the first Kresta, a surface ship with many
innovations in weaponry and electronics. In addition, the totally
new design for helicopter carriers, the Moskva, appeared and
nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarines were launched.
While the Soviet leaders were certainly learning about the use of
the navy they were apparently also learning about the use of an air
force, an army, rocket troops, intelligence services and security
organs. While production was lagging on the collective farms,
inadequate quantities of fertilizer were being unevenly distributed
throughout the countryside and wasteful methods of harvesting,
storing and distributing grain were being permitted, the armed
forces were taking giant strides on all fronts.
The Okean exercises of 1970 and 1975 were a stunning show of
naval force on a very sophisticated level, explicitly demonstrating
a threat to several European governments. These scientific,
political and cultural demonstrations certainly proved that the
Soviet Government did understand and promote seapower.
The conceptual framework notwithstanding, the origins of these
imaginative and physical accomplishments deserve close examina-
tion. They seem to defy all of our "old saws" that under a
totalitarian regime there is an inevitable lack of leadership,
initiative, and innovation. For an explanation we can designate
two groups of factors: one ideological and the other cultural and
historical. Among the ideological factors, clearly the doctrine of
the inevitability of war has played an enormous role. It has been
used as a justification for the sacrifices of the present in order to
gain the paradise of the future. The extensive exposure of the
Soviet people to the constant recapitulation of the details of the
Second World War reinforces the demand for that sacrifice.
The second major ideological stimulus probably comes from the
Leninist tactical doctrines for the defeat of the imperialist nations,
the most important of which is the doctrine of the weakest
link-that sophisticated industrial nations will be most easily
conquered by cutting off their raw materials in the emerging
nations. This doctrine has quite obviously been a major plank in
Soviet foreign policy since the Revolution and, broadly speaking,
it is an obvious factor in many foreign policy moves: the military
support for Somalia and Conakry; penetration of the Mideast; and
intensified activity in the emerging African nations. The demands
of such a policy obviously lead to requirements for a large
merchant navy and a high-seas fleet. The strategy is not for a
19th-century style colonial war but for supporting what is
ultimately to be the expropriation of the means of production.
A final factor of considerable importance in influencing
allocations is the materialistic and scientific base of Marxism. Its
goal, the liberation of man, is to be achieved through production.
Turning resources into productive channels is almost a moral
obligation. Finally, there is the synthesis that binds all of these
tendencies together, the theory of the dialectic through which the
world is known, understood, manipulated and controlled. Because
the Soviet naval analysts study military science in terms of the
dialectic, they see each principle of operational art giving way to a
new situation that then creates its new position of instability.
Unlike their Western counterparts, they are not likely to be
maneuvering for balances and then trying to maintain the status
Among the cultural factors that undoubtedly have influenced
innovation in the navy, the most important is certainly the
universally observed paranoia of the Russian people. ("Paranoia"
is not meant here in a derogatory term. Any people who have
suffered as much as the Russian people would be fully justified in
thinking of the world around them as a threatening and dangerous
place. For them, it has been.) The paranoia, however, is
heightened by their ignorance of the outside world. Even for the
leaders it must be like Plato's cave. They must create an
interpretation of the world from the shadows seen through their
prison window. Fears are easily exaggerated and rumors can
become nightmares. Such an intellectual climate certainly creates a
very distinctive basis for crisis decisions. The rational model of
calm and logical leaders guarding their "vital interests" will not
help us to explain much of Soviet behavior.
A second cultural influence of considerable importance is the
Soviet Union's technological inferiority. This has generated an
atmosphere in which Western ideas have been easily, in fact
automatically, exploited and absorbed and in which Russian pride
expresses itself by requiring a degree of innovation and improve-
ment in the foreign model. The Russian intelligentsia has always
been aware of the technical backwardness of the masses; therefore,
it has had to develop systems that can withstand the punishment
and abuse of the ignorant. These cultural and ideological tenden-
cies have reinforced each other and have inspired the propaganda
about the extraordinary achievements of Russians-the backward
Slavic people, led by the party, marching toward its brilliantly
productive workers' paradise. That is what Gorshkov meant when
We may assert that a state bounded by the sea, which
does not have a navy corresponding to its importance in the
world, thereby shows its relative economic weakness. Thus,
each ship of a navy is a relative indication of the level of
development of science, technology, and industry in a given
country and an indicator of its real military might. 9
This indicates the primary significance of the high-seas navy
that the Soviets have built. It is a visible sign, an embodiment of a
national and Marxist triumph, a promise of the glorious future and
of the possibility of solidarity in the present through the
protection of the military machine. The Soviet Navy is a challenge
to the West because it asks, "Who indeed rules the seas?" In this
extraordinarily important competition it is saying, "Anything you
can do I can do better."
The Soviet Navy's challenge to the U.S. 6th Fleet and the
French and Italian Navies did not begin with a shot across the
bows. According to Admiral Kasatonov, the Soviet Navy was in
the Mediterranean to "consolidate international peace and
security." Admiral Gorshkov wasted no time in plugging his
favorite theme that the Soviet warships were "fulfilling the
responsible state interests of the Soviet Union in this region." 10
The Mediterranean also furnished an opportunity to test combat
readiness, to be in the vicinity of the enemy and therefore to
introduce a degree of realism that the Black Sea did not afford.
The many indignant reports by the U.S. 6th Fleet of Soviet missile
batteries being trained on its ships were an indication that the
Soviet Navy was not practicing detente.
Perhaps even more interesting, certainly more ominous at that
time, military leaders began to speak about another of the major
themes, that the balance of power and the correlation of forces
had shifted from the West and was permanently altered in the
Mediterranean. In 1968 Vice Admiral Smirnov referred to the
change in the balance of power and the fact that the NATO fleet
no longer had "unrestricted freedom to threaten countries in the
Mediterranean." 1 l
There was one element of these naval moves that has been
consistent with a Soviet cultural pattern generally and about
which it is useful to be aware. Because of the scientific nature of
Marxism, the certainty of the model for the future, and the
inexorable turning of the planning cycle, Soviets often confuse
present reality with future plans. That which is planned, once it is
promulgated, takes on a degree of reality that gives it an
immediate existence. Or putting it another way, something that is
planned is a sign of the future, and therefore it takes on such a
reality that Soviet leaders begin to give premature signals about its
Such, of course, was the reason for the Soviet boasts about the
change of power in the Mediterranean. It was still very clearly a
NATO sea; the balance of power had not shifted; the correlation
of forces was hardly changed. Nevertheless, contrary statements
were signals of Soviet intentions and plans as were the signals
about the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, and Angola.
Another element was operating, too. Khrushchev in Cuba and
Stalin in the Berlin blockade adopted a policy for testing the wind.
If they succeeded, they would have repeated the action in order to
habituate their opposition to a new order of international relations
as they later did by their presence in Egypt.
The Soviet practice has been to try to find a solution for the
kind of naval threat that the United States posed and then to
make it clear to us that it had the solution. This was not just a
deterrent; this was also psychological warfare. Through the late
1960s and into the early 1970s, the Soviets made a point of
reconnoitering nearly every aircraft carrier crossing of the Pacific
or the Atlantic. True, a percentage was missed, but the point was
being made that the probability of detection was extremely high.
The semiannual relief of the submarine squadrons in the
Mediterranean was a demonstration of a similar sort. Replace-
ments transited on the surface to the Straits of Gibraltar in an
obvious display of naval presence, and then submerged to begin
the game of ASW in earnest.
Okean 1970, the most powerful naval exercise the world had
ever seen, with its massive display of naval power at the southern
edge of the Norwegian Sea, challenged the concept of resupplying
NATO by sea. In case Western naval forces did not get the point, 5
years later in Okean 1975, although fewer naval forces were
involved, the operation was repeated. Various "convoys" were
simulated and attacked in the Azores, the Sea of Japan and the
Eastern Atlantic. With aerial reconnaissance by IL-38s over the
Indian Ocean and Northern Pacific and TU-95s flying from
Somalia and southern Russia, it became apparent that the Soviet
Navy was in an exercise to show that it could sink Western
shipping, break lines of communication, and attack at the weakest
link over a vastly expanded range.
The important question is: are the Russians coming or not? The
answer is really rather easy: not if the world socialist revolution
(the Soviet dominated part of it, of course) seems to the Soviet
leaders to be spreading satisfactorily. If it is, they can point to
themselves as Marx's true interpreters. If it is not, then we are
probably in trouble.
Such a formula may seem too facile and perhaps it is, but its
implications are not. Marxists everywhere believe that they cannot
survive in a world, dominated by imperialists, that is not moving
toward socialism. They are probably right. The temptation, if the
correlation of forces is interpreted as swinging more heavily in
Soviet favor, will be to facilitate the momentum of the transition
to socialism by eliminating, where possible, reactionary forces. On
the other hand, in our either/or mentality, the idea of "eliminating
reactionary forces" suggests fears of the big bomb. Marxists, with
their greater patience and scientific theories, are likely to see many
The problem of discussing the willingness of the Soviets to go to
war is that one is confronted with the need to know a great deal
about the emotional makeup of the leaders, and that information
is denied us. Regarding the kinds of war they would fight if they
felt threatened, however, we have enough information to speak
with considerable certainty, and Soviet naval tactics to confirm it.
Moscow, as a kind of "New Jerusalem," must be inviolable. It is
the center for support of the worldwide socialist movement and
the bastion protecting the gains of the Soviet people at home. It is
the place where ideological, cultural and emotional reactions
reinforce each other. It is the mecca of the socialist movement and
of Russian nationalism. Should the Soviet leaders feel Moscow and
any part of the Soviet land threatened they would almost certainly
retaliate. In 1972, this concept of Moscow as the arsenal for the
Warsaw bloc was expanded to suggest a great variety of alterna-
In case anyone was missing the point, Brezhnev, in his foreign
policy speech at the 24th Party Congress, and later in his visit to
Hungary in 1972, emphasized the internationalist nature of the
Soviet Armed Forces. The armed forces, he said, would defend the
achievements of peaceful labor in fraternal countries. The whole
new internationalist policy of the Soviet Armed Forces was
summed up in a speech repeated, in part, widely by other military
figures, by General of the Army V. Kulikov, Chief of Staff of the
A basic principle underlying the military policies of the
Soviet state and our Soviet military doctrine and one that
serves to guide the armed forces in carrying out their assigned
tasks is the fact that our country is neither prepared for nor
thinks about conducting a war for the purpose of gaining
political rule throughout the world or for changing the
existing social systems in other states .... But it will defend
very decisively everything that has been accomplished or
created by our Soviet people. In like measure, we will defend
the accomplishment of other friendly socialist countries with
whom we have signed appropriate agreements. 1 2
This is a kind of echo of the period after the war when America
was the defender of democracy. In that role, we went to Lebanon,
Korea, and Vietnam. As the defenders of socialism, where might
the Soviets not go?
This new internationalist role for the armed forces must
certainly bring about an expansion in the traditional Soviet
concept of perimeter defense, a concept that gets quickly
translated into offense, as Finland discovered in the winter of
1939 when she did not recognize her obligation to contribute to
the defense of Leningrad by giving up her territory. From the
Soviet point of view, the threat to Soviet defenses brought on by
the liberalizing movements in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslo-
vakia in 1968 justified the fury of Soviet repression.
The navy's basic tactics, discussed in Section III, are geared to
this concept too. Perimeter lines are drawn at intervals from
Moscow. The crossing of each line by a threatening force
automatically triggers a predetermined response. From what
Gorshkov and others have said, we may assume that this response
is authorized in advance.
With the increased range of missiles, the defensive perimeters
must be extended so that appropriate action can be taken at safer
distances. The evidence indicates that the Soviets do, indeed, see
the Mediterranean as an extension of the Black Sea, a point they
have been making for years. 1 3 Now the Indian Ocean has clearly
become a new threat sector.
This whole concept is an excellent example of the dialectic for
it dictates a series N of quantitative changes in the Soviet Navy that
have led to a qualitative leap and a transformation of relationships.
The qualitative shifts have led to an enormous transformation in
the potential for influencing political, economic, cultural and
Whether or not the Soviet actions appear to be defensive to
great powers outside of their perimeter, they are highly offensive
and extremely threatening to those within the circumference of
the defensive ring. Inevitably, relationships are altered by these
new forces and the new perceptions which follow them.
Some of the changes this concept provokes are even geographic.
In solving their problem, the Soviets achieved a greater coordina-
tion between the armed forces and even the foreign service.
Diplomacy enabled the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to present
Conakry to the Defense Department as a kind of aircraft carrier.
The outward reach demanding new operational scenarios, in-
creased forces and logistics seems to have had the effect of
reducing the importance of the geographic separation of the fleets
or the influence of the geographical bottlenecks. As it is, the
Soviets can bring more naval power to bear in the Indian Ocean
faster than can any other nation. By now, the Black Sea, the Sea
of Okhotsk and some of the Arctic are de facto Soviet.
What about other scenarios?
The one about an accidental naval battle somewhere in the
world's oceans would seem to be the least likely, given the
scientific nature of Marxism and the Russian cultural values about
human life and human egos. The loss of Soviet lives, while not
viewed with equanimity, would probably not excite the same kind
of response that it would in the United States. And certainly, a
random event, having nothing to do with the march of socialism,
would not justify endangering the Soviet Union. Its sense of honor
would not, in all likelihood, demand its suicide.
The strategy for naval war is, of course, to marshal such over-
whelming force that the opposition, upon observing the correlation
of forces, will simply crumble. This is undoubtedly the kind of
calculation that has led to the buildup of forces in the Mediterranean
where Western powers will apparently no longer intervene.
The Soviets are not obviously changing the correlation of forces in
the Indian Ocean, for the price is to be able to strike at industrial
Europe and Japan through the weakest link, oil. As these goals can
be achieved more easily through the air and by land, however, it is
likely that the Soviet Navy will not have a major role here.
Although Marxism does dictate that the world will become
socialist, it does not establish a timetable; nevertheless, the Soviets
plan to increase the momentum of that transformation through,
among other weapons, their military might. Why else do they need
so many submarines, tanks and bombers? And having such forces
will certainly lead to bullying. The Soviets have never been
reluctant to follow that line when they had the power as Finland,
Poland and the rest of the bloc can testify. These are the kinds of
strategic problems that our war games do not like to have to
anticipate. It is like a very slow, complex game of chess going
forward on many levels. If a disaster comes, it will be because the
United States continues to think that it is playing checkers.
THE RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE
THE HISTORICAL SETTING
Contemporary Soviet concepts of strategy and ship design did
not spring only from the critical review and strategic realignment
of the post-Stalin period. Those decisions formed a new synthesis
based on past experiences of future strategic demands on the
Soviet Navy. 1 Its great emphasis on preparedness, for example,
was intensified by history: the Soviet and Russian Navies from the
Crimean War to the Second World War have not been ready for the
engagements in which they first fought.
Even geographically, the dialectical process has worked. The
extremes of climate, the shallow seas, the lack of natural
barriers and the vastness and basic self-sufficiency of the land have
worked as an antithesis to any inclination to build a navy in
imitation of foreign models. When that did happen- Stalin's plans
in the thirties were for a blue- water navy -disaster or inaction
The geography of the land dominates Soviet maritime concepts
as it must do, for the space to be defended is where the narrow
seas give way to the land. The range and speed of modern weapons
only emphasize that relationship, reducing the importance of the
medium in which battles are fought and increasing the importance
of the logistical base. 2
The concept of the battle against the shore as the primary
mission of the Navy was also inevitable. Historically, amphibious
operations have been those in which the Russian and Soviet Navies
have excelled but those for which, in recent times, the Soviet Navy
has never been ready.
The multiplicity of cultures in the U.S.S.R. also plays a part. It
promotes the recognition of the need to invest the land in order to
secure a victory. Russian domination, whether in military art or in
political control in Estonia, Egypt or Czechoslovakia, has not been
welcome. Command and control cannot end, it is realized, with
the destruction of the enemy navy but only when the rear is
secure, when nationalities are merged and men are reshaped
according to the Soviet interpretation of the Marxist mold.
Any understanding of the dynamics of the Soviet Navy must
include a knowledge of its past, for there has been a continuity
with the present. Some of the historic battles have, still, an
influence on naval operations of the present. For example, the
destruction of the Russian Fleet at Tsushima is often cited as good
evidence for the need to exercise in all seas, in all kinds of weather
in order to be prepared for all possible conditions. The mutinies of
the early 20th century and at Kronshtadt must influence the
heavy role of political indoctrination and personnel control. These
and other characteristics came out of Russia's past. Concepts of
naval power were shaped by forces very different from those that
formed the preconceptions for Mahan.
The absence of any mention of Russian naval engagements in
Alfred Thayer Mahan's classic, The Influence of Sea Power Upon
History, 3 is not surprising, although his writings have been widely
studied in the Russian and Soviet Navies. (The book was first
translated into Russian by HIH the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandro-
vich, the son of Emperor Alexander II.) Although the Imperial
Russian Government was building a fleet second in size only to
that of the United Kingdom during the period Mahan was writing,
the Russian Navy had made few excursions out of home waters in
the 19th century and had won only one battle -against the
Turkish Black Sea Fleet off the port of Sinop in 1853.
(Apparently Mahan was not interested.) Its most famous activity
in the 19th century was a disgrace. In answer to the imminent
attack of a Franco-English force, in a sad effort to be useful, it was
ordered to sink its ships across the harbor entrance at Sevastopol,
the beginning of the Crimean War, in 1854.
After such an undistinguished record for that century, there was
a crowning disgrace. The Baltic and Pacific Fleets were defeated in
1904-05 by the Japanese, not only newcomers to industrial power
and technology, but also a nation whose fleet was inferior in size
to either of the Russian fleets it defeated.
What was particularly instructive about these naval engagements
was that the problems they involved, while not ignored in Mahan's
works, were the kind that were peripheral. Although Mahan did
not draw attention to them, these episodes had some important
and original features.
At the Battle of Sinop, the guns of the Russian ships fired
explosive projectiles for the first time in history. Most con-
temporary naval experts thought that naval warfare would no
longer be possible. In this battle, which was very brief (but hardly
just the five minutes Frederick Jane claimed), 4 nine Turkish ships
and one steamer were sunk, although under the protection of the
shore battery at Sinop, by six Russian ships with 540 guns. The
battle was comparable in importance to the sinking of the Israeli
destroyer Eilat in 1967 by a surface-to-surface missile. Both
engagements ushered in a new era in naval warfare. In the Crimean
War, after the Black Sea Fleet was sunk across the harbor, the
naval officers and men joined the army in manning the ramparts.
This versatility has usually marked the Russian use of men and
weapons. One exception was the disaster of the Russo-Japanese
war. That taught the Russian Navy a lesson that it has not
forgotten. Because of the logistics problems on the long voyage
and the rapid and excessive growth of marine encrustations on the
hulls that greatly slowed the ships (to the Japanese advantage), the
Russian and Soviet Navies have taken it for doctrine that ships
must sail in all seas and operate in all waters in order to know the
conditions under which they might have to fight. And finally there
was another episode in the Battle of the Tsushima Straits in 1905
that was probably not lost on modern Soviet historians. The
Japanese admiral, Togo, used destroyers and torpedo boats that
had been positioned in advance to attack the Russian Fleet in the
night while it was repositioning the ships of the line for a renewal
of the battle the next day. However, the Russian Fleet surrendered
in the morning.
There were some features of these events that were charac-
teristic of the sporadic pattern of the Russian Navy. Largely
antiquated at the time, it could still score a stunning victory at
Sinop and 2 years later be at the bottom of the harbor entrance at
Sevastopol. Then it grew from the ruins of the Crimean War again
into a formidable force. Its naval budget was exceeded only by
Great Britain, the United States, and France. But that did not
prevent it from suffering a defeat with political and psychological
repercussions that still influence the Soviets today.
The missions of the Russian Navy, then, were different from
those of the United States and England. The geographical
considerations (using the term in its broadest, non-Haushofer,
sense) that formed the preconceptions for Mahan's thought-
industrialized nations expanding their commerce and foreign
trade -simply did not fit Imperial Russia. His basic premise, that
seapower was essential to national growth, that national growth
was based upon expanding commerce that in turn required
imperial power and control, did fit Russia, but in a different
Imperial Russia's colonies were all contiguous. The northern
Black Sea coast had been taken from the Ottoman Turks in the
reign of Catherine the Great; the Caucasian kingdom of Georgia
had willed itself as an inheritance to the Russian czar; and
Armenia and Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea had been absorbed
and subdued in the 19th century. The conquest of the frontier
regions— for Russia for four centuries the motto has been to go
east-that had begun in the 16th century reign of Ivan the Terrible
has only ended in this century militarily (although Red China and
Japan would dispute that).
Without overseas territories, the forces that Mahan saw im-
pelling nations to the sea were simply turning Russia inward for
the exploitation of its enormous landmass and its extraordinarily
varied population. In addition, Russia's foreign trade was largely
by land. It was a great importer of European technology and an
exporter of grain and raw materials, goods that had been carried
by water but by the end of the 19th century were being shipped
Mahan was aware of the inroads that rail transport was making
into the need for navies and wrote about it in Problems of Asia
and Its Effect Upon International Policies which was published in
1900, too early for a treatment of the fascinating problems of the
Russo-Japanese war. Nevertheless, he understood that railroads
and other means of transportation and communications were
eroding the importance of sea lines of communication. His
arguments were not unlike those of today in defense of navies:
that shipping by sea in large quantities and for great distances was
cheaper and more efficient; that sealanes constituted a line of
communication that gave the decisive military advantage; and
therefore, that control of the seas was indispensable.
Interestingly enough, these ideas came to have an enormous
European influence and eventually even changed, apparently,
American concepts of seapower, although at the time Mahan was
writing American strategic ideas shared much in common with
traditional Russian ones. First and most obvious, neither nation
had strategically essential overseas commerce; second, both fleets
were geographically divided and there were questions of the
control of a contiguous sea, for us the Caribbean; third, as
relatively poor powers with long coastlines, there was a serious
problem of dividing scarce resources for multiple objectives; and
finally, both countries thought of their navies as defensive. (There
was an additional Mahanian analogy: both the United States and
Russia had such a wealth of internal resources that they were
constantly tempted to turn inward, away from the sea.)
However long our navy may have been satisfied to continue in
the 19th century its mission of preventing the sacking and shelling
of harbors and coasts (a mission that Admiral Gorshkov considers
primary even today), the new strategic concepts and imperialistic
mania interfered. By that time, the last decade of the 19th
century, we had no overseas colonies and were not exporting
philosophical concepts. But the acquisition of command of the
Caribbean, the opening of the Panama Canal and new strategic
responsibilities in the Pacific for the defense of the Philippines in
1898 and Hawaii in 1899 changed all of that. "Control of the
Seas" became an accepted doctrine and, coupled with Mahan's
warning that a small navy on the defensive would always
eventually be defeated by a large navy, became the foundation of
American naval thought. In the course of this shift the United
States lost sight of a quite important Mahanian distinction
between defense in the political sense (a navy prepared to go to
war if the nation is attacked) and in the military sense (a navy that
awaits attack and is only prepared to defend its own, according to
its priorities). 5 Defense, without control of the seas, was not
seriously considered as a concept. For the United States, sea
control became a strategic concept; for Russia, it is a tactical one,
or as Gorshkov would call it, a question of operational art.
In reviewing some of the main points of Mahan's doctrine one
sees that there are differences in ways of thinking about navies,
and about seapower. Western navies, which have generally fol-
lowed Mahan's strategic concepts, have developed along different
lines and for different purposes from the Russian Navy or even the
German Navy. For those two powers Mahan's strategic concepts
have had a kind of reverse validity. Their problem was to protect
and develop land lines of communication and to control certain
routes in order to gain the decisive advantage. Furthermore,
whereas Western naval strategists have been able to think of navies
as somewhat separate entities with separate missions, Russian
strategic thinkers have not. Until quite recently, until they
acquired overseas socialist responsibilities comparable in their
military demands to those of the old colonial empires, the Soviets
studied Mahan for insights into Western naval thought and
preconceptions. However, since 1970 the Soviet Navy, having
demonstrated its preparedness for worldwide operations, has been
formulating a new theoretical base finally summarized in Admiral
Gorshkov 's writings. This has helped to promote the idea that the
Soviet Navy is really modeled on our own and has similar missions.
However, even a brief review of the Imperial Russian and Soviet
development of seapower makes it clear that Russia, while only
intermittently emphasizing seapower, has nearly always been
innovative and unique in its naval application and has consistently
pursued knowledge of the sea through science. We should have
been amply prepared for the fact that the Soviet Navy is not an
imitation of Western navies. The Russians, even in periods of great
technical dependency on the West, have usually adapted foreign
ideas to their own needs but they have also been very inventive.
While much of his naval history simply served the party line
Gorshkov was quite accurate when he wrote:
In the quest for ways of developing our Navy, we avoided
simply copying the fleet of the most powerful sea power of
the world. The composition of the navy, its weapons, ship
designs and organization of forces were determined primarily
by the missions which the political leadership of the country
assigned to the armed forces and consequently also to the
navy, by the country's economic resources, and also by the
conditions under which the navy had to accomplish these
This tended to be true of czarist Russia as well.
The two most common preconceptions about Russia's maritime
strategy are: that the czars engaged in a relentless drive for a
warm-water port and that the navy was used in the grand strategy
of the Russian bear, the unremitting conquest of new lands. As we
shall see, neither of these notions is completely correct. Nor is the
idea, promoted by the Soviet Government, that the Soviet Navy,
organized as the Red fleet, marked a new beginning from the
czarist fleet. The continuity with its past has been maintained and
even proudly emphasized by Admiral Gorshkov and the innova-
tions of the present continue an Imperial Russian tradition of
inventiveness. A review of some aspects of Russia's naval history
proves very useful in interpreting the present and predicting the
That the Soviet Navy wears much the same uniform and is
largely structured in the same way as the Imperial Russian Navy
should be taken as a minor, perhaps, but nevertheless important
sign that the Soviet Navy recognizes and insists upon the
continuity with its imperial past. Immediately after the revolution,
when the Red army and the Red navy were being created, Russia's
military traditions, including the normal signs of rank and the
ranks themselves, were rejected. The readoption of these
symbols of ranks and tradition must have marked the end of
revolutionary idealism in the military and a return to a society of
classes. There was also a return to study of the historic doctrine in
the use of the fleet.
Everyone knows that Peter the Great is the father of the
Russian Navy but not everyone knows how he got that name.
Whether or not the records were destroyed inadvertently or on
purpose in order to flatter the ego of the autocrat, the absence of
documents prior to Peter the Great serves to enhance the
impression, which is also an official position, that the Russian
Navy was his personal creation. Certainly there can be no doubt
that Peter's reforms, innovations, and decrees had a fundamental
and long-lasting effect on the Russian Navy as they did upon all of
those aspects of the Russian life that could be controlled by the
Romanov prince. However, there was a long Russian maritime
tradition before him.
According to the legends, the earliest settlers in what is now
Central Russia were thought to have been seafaring folk, Vikings,
who established the line of Rurick which lasted until the advent of
the Romanovs. Water was the primary means of transportation in
some regions and even today during certain seasons it still provides
the only means of access. The great inland waterways formed a
network that literally determined the course of Russian history
itself. It was on these waterways that the cities developed. Kiev in
the south on the Dnieper River and Novgorod in the north were
both essentially maritime cities as their communications with
Europe and Asia were largely by water. Kiev maintained close and
constant communications— commercial, cultural and religious
—with Constantinople by means of the Dnieper River and the
Black Sea. Novgorod in the north was a Hanseatic city whose
lifelines reached across the Baltic to Western Europe.
Russia's inland waterways formed one of the major lines of
communication between Europe, Asia and the Near East and
Russia was the primary transit zone for supplying goods and trade
between Northern Europe, the Far East and the Eastern Mediter-
ranean. Most Russian towns and villages at that time were located
along these waterways and we can presume that nearly the whole
Russian population was acquainted with transportation by water,
whether on rivers, lakes or seas.
The geographical conditions -inland seas and a network of rivers
and marshes frequently requiring portages-must have determined
the preference of the Slavs for light boats that were rowed and not
sailed. That further resulted in the fact that they skirted coastlines
and avoided the open ocean. However, Slavs were familiar with
other kinds of ships and seamanship for they were highly valued
by the Byzantine emperors and served in both the army and the
navy. The Roman Emperor Mauricius wrote in his memoirs at the
beginning of the 7th century A.D. that the Slavs were brave,
particularly on their own soil, hardy, and easily bore heat, cold
rain, and lack of food and clothing. These were similar to
comments made by all observers, German, English, and American,
during the Second World War. They certainly echo a statement
made by the German General, Ruge, that is quoted by the Soviet
Commander in Chief of the Northern Fleet during World War II,
that against overwhelming odds, the Soviet fighting man could
initiate an attack and that when his ammunition was gone, he
would use his weapon as a club and when the clubs were gone he
would fight with his bare hands and his teeth. 7
In succeeding years there were additional elements of Slavic
warfare that became legend. The Slavs were long known to be
masters of camouflage, of forcing passage through seemingly
impossible terrain and across rivers, and of preferring death to
retreat. Apparently the Slavs did not try to adopt Byzantine
techniques or equipment, but used their own or those adapted to
their conditions. It is sometimes argued that their skill in
deception and ambush came from the Byzantines, but that was a
universal characteristic of war and it is impossible to make any
After the Mongols captured Kiev in 1253 the trade routes
between north and south were cut and apparently commerce came
to an abrupt end. Merchants at that time were not willing to
endanger their lives by going into the territory held by the
Mongols. The next three centuries marked not only a "dark ages"
for Russian culture and development but also to some extent its
decomposition. Its economic and cultural axis from the Byzantine
Empire on the south and the Hanseatic cities on the north -which
connected it quite firmly with the major cultures of that
period-was switched to an east-west axis as the population,
reduced by the cruel conditions of the Mongolian occupation,
gradually shifted to the protection of forests and cities and
towns of the north. But the rivers and lakes continued to serve
as essential links between towns and villages and it was along
these rivers that the princely towns such as Moscow began to
Obviously, if the towns and villages were located along rivers
then military engagements had to involve the use of boats. We do
know that two of the great battles in Russian history, connected
with the defeat of the Mongols, were fought from the rivers as well
as the land. One was the battle fought by Alexander Nevskiy in
the north and the other was fought by the Moscow Grand Prince,
Ivan IV, at Kazan on the Volga. Once Kazan, where the Volga
turns south, was cleared, the Russian forces had the relative
advantage of the speed and momentum that the southward
flowing current gave their boats in helping to clear the country of
the remaining Mongol hordes.
Obviously, the Russian Navy, far from having been born just at
the time of Peter the Great, had a long history. The evidence
suggests that this naval tradition was not totally confined to rivers
and lakes but also involved the sea. Archangel, for example, was
always a trading post and a major seaport for whatever Russian
power was in existence. That was where English shipwrights in the
17th century reign of Alexey Romanov constructed an imperial
yacht. Some of them were probably shipwrights who had been
hired by Boris Godunov in about 1598. Czar Boris carried on a
tradition that had already been initiated by the grand princes of
Moscow of hiring foreign experts and bringing them in large
numbers to Russia. For example, he hired two to three thousand
foreigners from maritime countries, primarily England, Scotland
and Holland, to come and work in the Russian shipbuilding and
Excessive emphasis on these early beginnings in discussing the
Soviet Navy might be misleading but there are some interesting
parallels. For example, in 865 A.D. a fleet of small Slavic ships
attacked Constantinople. The ships were described as about 60
feet long and with a freeboard of 12 feet above the water level.
This was a curiously high freeboard and particularly interesting in
view of the fact that Russian and even now Soviet-built ships have
always had an unusually high freeboard. In addition to the
military protection it gives, a high freeboard is very useful against
wind and spray, two elements of considerable importance in
Russia's very bad climate. The high freeboard also indicated the
intent of the Slavs to navigate the Black Sea and, perhaps, beyond.
A second element of continuity was probably determined by
geography. The Russians have always claimed an interest not only
in the Black Sea and free passage through the Dardanelles but also
into the Mediterranean. Any consideration of their geography
makes the reason quite clear: the whole commercial and cultural
life of the Russian people was determined by the flow of rivers
from north to south, into the Black Sea, and to Constantinople.
In the same way that the shape of the Austrian Empire was to
some extent formed by the flow of the Danube River, so the
Russian Empire was greatly influenced by the flow of its rivers.
When the Urals were crossed and Lake Baikal was settled, Russian
civilization was almost impelled by the current of the Amur River
to flow eastward to the Pacific resulting in the conflicts with
China and Japan.
The transition from the pre-Petrine Navy to that of Peter the
Great was somewhat similar to the transition that we see going on
in the Soviet Navy today. Although there was a qualitative and
quantitative change, the new navy was built very firmly on the
experiences of the old.
The navy that Peter commanded was really born of necessity
created by a new strategic situation. The Swedish invasions from the
north, considering the coastline to be defended, meant that Peter's
only maritime choice was to cut their lines of communication and
supply and to intercept them as far offshore as he could. This has
always been Russia's problem. With its enormous coastline, its long
common border with many European and Asian nations, and its lack
of natural barriers it has always had to agonize over how to protect
itself from a possible thrust by land or by sea over distances that
could only be partially defended. The extraordinary fortifications,
constant sea patrols, and barbed wire entanglements that now
surround the whole of the Soviet Union were made possible by the
economic might of the nation and are a triumphant, and perhaps
barbaric, response to that centuries-old problem.
But Peter's turn to the sea was not, after all, so radical. The
navy that he built was constructed under the supervision of many
shipwrights who were already working in Russia and the ships
themselves were hardly more than a continuation of the kind that
had been built in Archangel and Voronezh, the two shipbuilding
centers of the Russian state at that time. Indeed, one of the
inspirations for the Russian Fleet of Peter the Great was provided
by Elizabeth of England. She had sent to Ivan IV-known in the
West as Ivan the Terrible-perhaps in consolation for not accepting
his proposal of marriage, a small sailboat that Peter saw in 1688.
Peter sent for a shipwright from Archangel, who might have been
English, to put the boat to rights and to build several more. It was
in this boat that Peter first experimented with sailing.
The heir to the grand princely throne in those days was given a
first-class education not in reading or writing but in the military
arts. Peter, like his forebears and his descendants, was not given
toy soldiers to play with but real human beings.
Peter's palace, like nearly all princely palaces, was on one of the
rivers that was a tributary to the Volga. Along the banks of the
river Peter had fortifications constructed and then held exercises
with his personal soldiers in which he experimented with various
tactics. As with most things that he did, Peter went about it very
seriously and with excess. For example, in one of his exercises
30,000 soldiers took part. Tactics were apparently realistic.
Twenty -four men were killed and at least 50 were wounded. 8
Involved in his maneuvers were amphibious landings along the
banks of the river.
The whole operation was a sort of preliminary exercise for Peter's
first campaign in 1695, the siege of the fortress of Azov on the Black
Sea, that was the first Russian naval operation of the modern era.
The fleet was constructed with the speed that only the absolute
Russian control over allocations could make possible. Hundreds of
ships were built in one winter in the shipyards at Voronezh.
The Russian Navy grew out of the need to protect the flanks of
the army and to provide for landings on distant shores. It was
natural to extend the kinds of boats designed for the inland
waterways because the seas in which the navy operated— such as
the Sea of Azov, and the Gulf of Finland— were not only shallow
but also narrow and did not require either ships or the art of
navigation to be significantly different from that ordinarily
experienced within Russia itself.
Another precedent, established by Peter through his own
example, was that the leader should first master the military arts
that he expected his subordinates to know and then teach them
how to accomplish their tasks. Peter built boats with his own
hands and he learned the mathematics necessary for military and
maritime science. 9
Converted riverboats, used in the siege of Azov were not
sufficiently adaptable to the conditions of the Baltic Sea and
certainly not any match for the Swedish Fleet. However, in
Archangel, Peter, with the large cadre of English and Dutch
shipwrights, was able to build a fleet more than adequate for the
Bay of Finland and the Baltic. In fact, one of Peter's last acts on
his European trip when he was summoned home from Holland in
order to put down a rebellion, was to hire over 900 sailors and
shipbuilders from vice admirals to ships' cooks. 1 °
It was probably not a desire for territorial aggrandizement that
caused Peter the Great to found the city of St. Petersburg, at least
not aggrandizement in the 19th-century colonial sense, but the
need to solve the strategic problem of securing the northern
boundaries. It was this same kind of strategic sense that made the
Soviets demand Finnish territory in 1939 and that was behind
many territorial acquisitions to be discussed later.
The "window on Europe" that Peter founded, St. Petersburg,
was a natural terminus for both east/west and north/south trade.
(Novgorod, 120 miles to the south of St. Petersburg, had grown
rich on its trade with Baltic nations, trade which had been
conducted with apparently little difficulty through portages across
the swamps and lakes to the north with exits into Lake Ladoga
that feeds the Neva, the river on which St. Petersburg was
founded.) The strategic threat that made this imperative came
from Sweden and its king, Charles XII. Peter's strategy for
defeating Charles XII was not unlike that of his descendant
Alexander I in defeating Napoleon or of Stalin in defeating Hitler's
armies. It was to cut off the source of supply from the rear while
destroying the foreign forces in the interior.
A significant difference between the Swedes and the German
and French invading armies was that they came by sea. Peter,
therefore, was faced with the problem of cutting them off from
the sea. In doing so, his fleet discovered that it could undertake
greater and more daring activities than it had performed before,
such as venturing further into the Baltic and raiding the Swedish
mainland. As a result, by 1723 Peter was the lord of the Baltic
having engaged, after the defeat of Charles XII, in unclassical naval
warfare by having his fleet conduct amphibious raids in which
cities and towns were sacked and devastated, in the style of the
Vikings and the old Slavs.
In one of the early demonstrations of naval presence, in July
1723, Peter sailed the Baltic at the head of a squadron of 24
ships-of-the-line and ten frigates in addition to a large coastal
flotilla. For this occasion Peter appointed himself a vice admiral.
When Peter died in 1725 Russia was a great Baltic seapower;
Sweden never again attempted an invasion. In fact, large-scale
landings never again have been made on Russia's Baltic coast.
Peter's legacy for the Soviet Navy was an important one. While
there have been many discussions of Peter's strategy in securing
the "window on Europe," it is important to note that Peter was a
great military tactician. He planned every detail with a view of
achieving concrete tactical and strategic advantages in an age when
military operations were often grand gestures without any
apparent strategic significance. Furthermore, Peter showed the
importance of the leader knowing the basic operation of his
equipment and leading his men, with heavy emphasis on training, a
planning phase, and extensive exercises for the operations that
were to take place. 1 1
In making his estimate of the situation, Peter was fully aware of
the capabilities of his men and the need to adapt foreign
technology and equipment to their use. This understanding led
Peter to establish a rule for tactical engagements that has carried
considerable weight in Russian strategy. The rule is that the enemy
must not be engaged unless Russian forces possess substantial
superiority. 1 2 Specifically, Peter did not engage the Swedish Fleet
unless he had at least one third more ships than they. This rule of
Peter's acquired the force of law in Russian warfare. For example,
in May 1743 when the Swedish Fleet was again attacking the
Russian Fleet at the Battle of Hango Point, the Russian Admiral
Golovin refused to engage the Swedes on the grounds that he did
not have the majority that Peter the Great would have required.
Peter's concern for education and training was so great that he
established a naval school for the study of mathematics and
navigation in 1701, 6 years before the official foundation of the
Russian Navy. Peter's interest in the naval school was not casual.
He was personally involved in preparing lessons and in supervising
students to insure that they were taught according to his ideas.
The first teacher at this school was an Englishman. 13 In fact
one could argue that much of the Russian Navy at that period was
foreign. Many of the admirals and officers were foreign; ship-
wrights were foreign; and there were many foreign sailors in the
crew. Great Britain, as the foremost maritime nation, was the
prime source for recruitment. The custom of hiring foreign
military, even very high-ranking military, was not unusual as
Europe was filled with soldiers of fortune seeking employment.
Our own Revolution owed not a little to these soldiers of fortune
such as John Paul Jones, a Scotsman, who ended his naval career
as a vice admiral under Catherine the Great of Russia.
However, it would be a mistake to assume that whatever
successes the Russian Navy achieved were owed to foreign
leadership and technology and whatever defeats it suffered were
because of the backwardness of the Russian people and industry.
At its best, the absorption and melding of foreign technology and
knowledge with the Russian inventiveness and persistence had led
to works of genius such as the first use of exploding projectiles or,
in our own time, the practical development of submarine launched
surface-to-surface missiles. (Germany had begun this in World War
Reference is often made to the great swings in the interests in
the Russian Navy depending upon the autocrat in power. The
"swings," of course, were dependent upon the political situation
of the time and problems of the budget. Until late in the 19th
century ships were built from pine taken from the Russian forests.
Pine did not have a very long life, especially in salt water, so that
periodically the Russian fleets simply disintegrated. This was the
case with the flotilla that was given to John Paul Jones to
command when he served Catherine the Great in 1787. A fellow
officer described it as a "motley collection of detestable boats of
all sizes and shapes armed by men who were neither sailors,
soldiers, nor officers but Russians and no cowards." 1 4 In fact, the
flotilla was made up of leftover boats that had been used for
Catherine's royal progress down the Dnieper to survey her new
lands. It is probably fortunate for his reputation that John Paul
Jones only had to fight engagements with the Turkish Navy whose
ships were even worse than his boats. 1 5
Until the reign of Catherine the Great, Russia had no fleet in
the Black Sea. In 1736, when Russian forces tried to take the
Crimea in a series of operations that were largely amphibious, a
naval force that consisted of flat-bottomed boats, gunboats, and
armed rafts as well as casks and rafts used to cross shallow inlets
and bays was assembled. The whole operation showed the Russian
talent for making use of what was at hand.
Whether or not it was because she was German and not Russian,
Catherine's naval policies added a new dimension to those of her
predecessors and her successors. In her reign, the Russian Fleet
engaged in operations for specific maritime ends— not always
directly in support of the army. 1 6
Catherine also used her navy for rather grand gestures that
seemed to have a clear strategic purpose although the execution
was a bit random. For example, in 1769 she ordered one of her
lovers, Orlov, whom she raised to a count and promoted to
admiral, to take the Baltic Fleet into the Mediterranean in the first
operation of the Russian Navy outside of its contiguous waters. Its
mission was to distract the Turkish Navy during a Russian Army
The Turks, who had not learned to have a high regard for the
Russian Navy from what they had seen in the Black Sea,
considered the whole expedition impossible. They were, therefore,
astonished when they discovered that the Russian Fleet had passed
the Straits of Gibraltar. Count Orlov's first operation was to make
some attacks in the Greek Islands and abet some revolts. But he
did create a diversion and drew off the Turkish Fleet.
Catherine sent Count Orlov reinforcements under the command
of English admirals in the Russian service in July 1770. They
engaged the Turkish Fleet and scored an enormous victory. The
Turkish Fleet had taken refuge in the Bay of Tchesme and
Admiral Elphinstone attacked with four fire ships, a tactic used by
the English against the Spanish Armada but apparently new to
both the Russian and Turkish crews themselves.
The very conditions of the growth of the Russian Navy, and the
Russian military as a whole, insured its genius for absorbing and
adapting foreign techniques. Being led by soldiers and sailors of
fortune from all over the world, it had a quality of mind that
assumed that there would always be something more advanced
that ought to be adapted and assimilated as quickly as possible. In
any case, in the battle of Tchesme the Russian admirals, far from
preventing their British colleagues from undertaking this very new
tactic, apparently encouraged it, and, in addition, absorbed it into
standard Russian tactics as evidenced by their becoming the
masters of the use of fire ships and their modern equivalent, the
The result of Count Orlov's first Russian naval expedition to the
Mediterranean was that the Turkish Fleet was diverted and unable
to assist the Turkish Army from the shores of the Black Sea during
Catherine's drive to take the Crimea. The battles on the land were
as victorious as those on the sea and in the end, in 1774, Russia
won the right to send merchant ships through the Bosporus and
also, significantly, the right to have a permanent Black Sea Fleet.
With that success, Count Orlov's expedition to the Mediterranean
came to an end, although its historical ramifications continue until
the present. Count Orlov's expedition, as well as those of Admiral
Ushakov later, provided Admiral Gorshkov with the basis for
arguing that the Soviet Navy had a historic right to be in the
With the need to build a Black Sea Fleet in the south and
renewed threats from Sweden in the north, Catherine undertook a
very large shipbuilding program and in this she relied heavily on
English officers. The reputation of John Paul Jones had reached
her ears and she urged her ministers to do everything possible to
secure his service. According to a Russian historian, when
Catherine heard that Jones had accepted service, she was delighted
and is reported to have said, "He will get to Constan-
tinople." 1 7
After the Empress had secured John Paul Jones' service she
never let him out of her sight and kept him under watch by her
agents. However, by the time Jones arrived, a large faction against
him had developed. There were fortunes to be made in Russia by
pleasing the Empress, as the wealth of her lovers showed, and they
did not look with favor upon new rivals. Furthermore a
predominant influence in the Russian Navy was exerted by English
and Scottish officers in the Empress' service and they looked upon
Jones as a pirate. Apparently, John Paul Jones, who had been
hired to be the Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, was regarded
as a threat for he was given command of sailing ships in their last
stages of obsolescence for operations in very narrow and shallow
waters, while his senior, a French nobleman with no nautical
experience, was given the more manageable galleys. To make
matters worse, all of these forces were under the command of
Catherine's former lover and chief minister, Prince Peter Potem-
kin, who also had no naval experience. There followed a contest
between the serious and rational (one assumes) Admiral Jones
trying to restore morale and equipment and coordinate tactical
plans on the one hand and the Empress' jealous lovers on the
Jones, employing a recognizable bureaucratic technique, set
about writing memoranda to his superiors, but his many plans of
action appear to have been largely ignored. Certainly they were
frustrated. One engagement, for which Jones' senior took credit,
involved capturing several large Turkish ships-of-the-line. The plan
had been formulated by Jones to deceive the Turks into running
aground in the Liman Narrows. The ships that Jones' senior
"captured" were already either aground or sunk. 1 8
The leadership of Prince Potemkin was not exceedingly straight-
forward. Either he gave no orders and failed to respond to Admiral
Jones' requests and proposals or he issued directives such as the
following warning that the Turkish commander might try some-
thing. He wrote, "I request your Excellence, the Captain Pasha
[ the Turkish CO | having actually a greater number of vessels, to
hold yourself in readiness to receive him courageously and drive
him back. I require that this be done without loss of time; if not
you will be made answerable for every neglect." 1 9
Admiral Jones' reply to this order was his last act in the Black
Sea Fleet for he so enraged Prince Potemkin that he was relieved
and sent to St. Petersburg to await further orders. Jones replied,
"A warrior is always ready and I had not come here an
apprentice." Obviously, Prince Potemkin did not want any lessons
The account of Jones' stay in czarist Russia indicates that he
was subjected to false accusations, a not infrequent experience for
visitors to Russia. Not only was he kept under the observation of
agents but also the letters that he wrote in Russia were intercepted
and confiscated without his knowledge. Finally, in order to make
him leave, either the secret police or Catherine's or Jones' enemies
probably fabricated an accusation that he had violated a 14-year
old girl. The accusation was made by a prostitute. He was denied
the right to a lawyer and advised that his situation was very serious
and that he should depart. His professional and personal
reputation blemished, he spent much of the rest of his life trying
to understand or vindicate what had happened to him during those
few months serving Catherine. He concluded that in a free
society with a free press no one could play the "hypocrite"
for long. 2 °
The second Russian naval squadron in the Mediterranean
entered in the year 1798 during the brief Turkish/Russian alliance
in opposition to Napoleon, but the Russian Admiral Ushakov and
the British Admiral Lord Nelson did not develop a harmonious
relationship. Lord Nelson accused Admiral Ushakov of spending
more time trying to capture miscellaneous harbors than in trying
to fight the French. On the other hand, he, Lord Nelson, seemed
to have spent an inordinate amount of time concerning himself
with Lady Hamilton and the Neapolitan royal family. Although
Ushakov's undertakings were perhaps mysterious to Lord Nelson,
they were probably explained by a Russian desire to have two or
three islands in the Aegean for the purpose of logistics supply. At
least that is how Catherine explained Admiral Ushakov's erratic
maneuvers to the Hapsburg Crown Prince, Joseph, in 1792 while
assuring him that Russia had no further imperial designs and
adding, with pious Russian orthodoxy, that her primary concern
was for the fate of the Christians under Moslem rule. Catherine
had had a grand design that was greatly encouraged by Prince
Potemkin. The plan called for reorganizing Greece, the Aegean
Islands, and Constantinople into a new empire with her grandson
as emperor. The only practical outcome of this intention was that
her grandson was christened Constantine. 2 1
Lord Nelson also suspected that the Emperor Paul wanted to
take Malta. (A similar alarm developed when Mintof was elected
the Premier of Malta and brought into power a leftist government
in 1970. At that time, incidentally, the Soviet Mediterranean
squadron was standing off Valletta; however, in Nelson's time, the
Russian squadron under Admiral Ushakov failed to materialize
when needed.) The only imperial Russian interest in Malta,
however, was the half-mad Emperor Paul's masquerade in playing
Grand Master of the Knights of Malta. 2 2
On the basis of his Mediterranean observations Lord Nelson
certainly did not have a high opinion of the Russian Navy. When
he expected to engage it in battle he believed that he could sink all
of the ships-of-the-line at Reval, now Tallin. That would have been
an extraordinary accomplishment as Reval was a highly protected
harbor with large shore batteries. Nelson was going to accomplish
this with only ten of his own ships, one or two fire ships, and a
bomb ship. 2 3 His tactic was to use the Russian winter to his
advantage: to get to Tallin before the ice melted in order to keep
the force from joining that of the larger one at Kronshtadt.
However, the ice melted and on 2 May the fleets were joined,
making a force of 43 ships-of-the-line. Nelson still boasted that he
could defeat them with only 25 of his own ships.
Oddly enough, although Admiral Ushakov had been celebrated
as a naval hero, the Russians called Lord Nelson "a young
Suvorov," referring to the famous Russian field marshal who
defeated the Turks and engaged the Napoleonic forces in
Switzerland. Evidently the Russians even then did not think of
military genius as separated into categories according to land or
The Russian squadron in the Mediterranean did little more than
threaten several islands and then devoted itself to the support of
Marshal Suvorov. The navy did not see much more action even
during the Napoleonic wars. Significantly, during Napoleon's
invasion of Russia the Russian ships remained in the island fortress
of Kronshtadt, but in the Slav tradition the officers and crews
joined the army to fight on land in the defense of the motherland.
The succeeding years, until the Crimean war, were marked by
fairly continuous battles with the Turkish Navy which seemed to
have been one of low capability and efficiency. The climax was,
however, the Battle of Sinop in which all of the surviving Turkish
ships were destroyed by the Russian Navy's use of explosive
projectiles. This was an event of far-reaching importance not lost
upon other Europen navies. It was also then predicted that naval
warfare was no longer possible.
The introduction of this projectile did mean that navies as they
had been built were outmoded. Certainly sailing ships made of
pine could no longer withstand the heat of battle. The Russian
Navy had begun converting to steam when that was introduced
Perhaps the knowledge that their ships were outmoded may
have played a significant part in the decision to sink the Black Sea
Fleet across the harbor entrance at Sevastopol at the beginning of
the Crimean war but the legacy of the military disaster at
Sevastopol had many more far-reaching effects than the im-
portance of that war warranted. The Russian Fleet probably could
have defeated the British Fleet, which was standing guard during
the landing at Balaklava below Sevastopol, and was preparing to
do so. However, the commander in chief countermanded the order
to attack as he intended to fight, in the traditional Russian
manner, primarily on land and use the fleet in its usual supporting
role. As a result the fleet was bottled up and useless.
The disgrace of the defeat reverberated throughout the
empire and was a major shock to the imperial throne. Not
only that, the English participation in the war— the reasons for
which were very obscure at best— proved to the Russians an
enormous duplicity that led to the still prevalent emotion that if
the English talk about peace, that meant they are planning for
war. 2 5 In any case, there was a surge of an ti- British propaganda
including rather violent denunciations of the parliamentary sys-
tem. In the midst of this unfortunate atmosphere, the revolu-
tionary parties and factions were becoming solidified and most of
them took it on faith, right up to the eve of the October
Revolution, that the English system was antithetical to the
Russian spirit. Such can be the unforeseeable result of a naval
In rebuilding her fleet Russia, of course, turned to steam
and iron. But interestingly, while the rest of the world's navies
adopted heavier and heavier guns, the Russian Navy for many
years employed a much lighter one as more easily handled. Here
again, Russia was showing an ability to absorb foreign technology
without being overawed by it. This happened again in 1864 when,
impressed by the "monitors" that took part in our Civil War, the
Russian Navy built six of its own although they were seldom used.
Russian naval invention during these years was certainly on a
par with that of any country. For example, Russians were the first
to design what was called an "armored cruiser." The idea of the
armored cruiser, quickly adopted by other countries, was to
protect it at the waterline with armor but not elsewhere. In that
way, it would have greater speed. Another invention was ingenious
but a failure. In 1873 two ironclads of 2,500 tons that were
perfectly circular were launched. The idea was that the circular
construction would deflect any shell. The guns were retractable,
an idea that returned with the retractable antiaircraft missile
system used today. These circular ships might have caught on but
on a trial run up the Dnieper, able to make only 8% knots, they
were caught by the current and whirled like merry-go-rounds
down to the sea. The crews were put out of action by dizziness.
In listing Russian "firsts," it must be mentioned that in the
Russo-Turkish War of 1877 a Turkish ship was sunk by a Russian
torpedo-the first successful torpedo attack in history. In a later
development the Russian Navy armed a merchant ship and
equipped her with six torpedo boats of small enough size to be
carried. The maneuver was to sail the merchant ship into position,
lower the torpedo boats and attack. At the same time, the Russian
Navy was advancing the use of mine warfare and showing great
innovation in mine design.
Mines were used at the mouth of the Danube to bottle up the
Turkish Fleet. The Russians were quite inventive in the use of
torpedos and when they acquired a kind for which they had no
suitable ship, they lashed them onto barges or suspended them
from the hull and somehow made them effective. In these
engagements the Russians were literally inventing the tactics for
torpedo warfare. Torpedos were almost totally new in naval
The result of this Turkish War was that the Russian Navy had
found the torpedo boat an extremely effective instrument and
devoted, thereafter, a great deal of attention to building large
numbers and kinds of torpedo boats. In 1902 the Russians also
had planned, according to the naval editor and Russian visitor
Frederick Jane, to build at least 50 submarines that would
apparently have carried at least torpedos but would have been
only semisubmersible. They were to submerge only at the moment
of attack. The possibility of a submarine battleship was not
regarded as a remote dream even then.
By 1904 at least four submarines were operational and four
more were on the way. There was some evidence that they were
being built in sections (an innovation the Soviets have perfected)
so that they could be transported on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
Brilliant technical innovation, however, could not elevate the
Russian Navy beyond the limits of geography and the capabilities
of its personnel. By the end of the 19th century, European navies
were playing an aristocratic game. Perhaps because there had been
no major engagement since the Crimean war, Russian officers paid
more attention to their increasingly elegant regalia than to the
requirements of warfare. The fleets were in commission only 3
months of the year and had only 25 percent of their full
complement the rest of the year.
While the rise of Japan in the Far East was not ignored by the
army or foreign office, it is apparent that few, certainly not the
naval leadership, appreciated the change in the correlation of
forces. That a nation, until recently feudal and technologically
ignorant, could mount an offensive against the largest country in
the world, with the largest standing army and the third largest
navy, seemed absurd. Nevertheless, the blow was struck and the
Russian Navy, without a Pacific Fleet, was faced with its first war
at sea in the Mahan mold. Logistics and morale brought defeat
even before the Japanese delivered the coup de grace.
Because of the Treaty of Paris (1856), the Black Sea Fleet had
become inactive. No Russian or Turkish warships could sail there
until 1871 when Russia revoked that limitation in the treaty.
However, nothing was done to build up the fleet. The Baltic Fleet,
therefore, had to make the long journey. The heat and the
privations— Baltic sailors had never before experienced tempera-
tures of 115° in the shade— would alone have guaranteed a very
inefficient fighting force. Political unreliability and lack of
experience guaranteed a degree of failure, but logistics absolutely
As the defeat of the Russian Navy at Tsushima was a trauma
that affected even the Soviet Navy, it is necessary to get some
understanding of this naval battle from the Russian point of
view. Although Western historians credit the Russian Second Pacific
Squadron with little distinction, Russian writers look upon the
defeat at Tsushima on 26 and 27 May 1905 as the first major battle
lost by the Russian Navy in its 200-year history. Among naval
disasters there are few to compare with it. Of 37 Russian ships
only 13 survived: one cruiser and two destroyers reached
Vladivostok; five ships were captured by the Japanese; and five,
which reached foreign ports, were interned for the duration of the
war. From having been the world's third naval power, Imperial
Russia plummeted in the course of 2 days to sixth.
Even though the Soviet Navy is still embarrassed by this
defeat— there is reason to believe that it is studied minutely for the
purpose of lessons learned— it should be instructive for all navies,
for it showed the importance of understanding logistics, an often
neglected aspect of naval warfare.
Originally, the fleet was sent in order to make it impossible for
the Japanese to land troops, reinforcements, and supplies for the
siege of Port Arthur. But Port Arthur had fallen. The Russian
squadrons there and at Vladivostok had proved ineffective in
preventing Japanese resupply and amphibious landings. The czar,
however, did not change the squadron's mission, apparently
planning to use it in the role of support for the Army.
But by the time the Russian Navy had sailed 18,000 miles from
the Baltic, having left on 15 October, it was in no condition of
readiness to do anything but to make a dash for port. The only
port left or open was Vladivostok. No other power would give aid
to the Russian ships.
Slowed by marine growth on their hulls, the Russian ships were
no match for the newer and faster Japanese Navy. In making a
dash through the Straits of Tsushima the Russian ships presented a
broadside target for the Japanese guns. Although Admiral
Rozhdestvenskiy, the commander in chief, has been severely
criticized for his tactics, no one has suggested what other decision
he could have made. What is often forgotten is that the Japanese
Navy was a new force in the world, untested and untried against
European navies. It is likely that every Western navy would have
underestimated Japanese capabilities and met the same fate in the
Straits of Tsushima.
In spite of the disgrace of the Russo-Japanese War, the great
Russian naval leaders of the 20th century were all present during
the battle. Admiral Makarov was a commander in chief of a naval
squadron; Commander Essen was given command of a battleship;
and later promoted to the Commander in Chief of the Baltic Fleet;
and Lieutenant Kolchak, Captain of the destroyer Serditiy
("furious" in English), became the Commander in Chief of the
Black Sea Fleet and was the last hope for a non-Marxist
government after the Russian Revolution.
The Romanov throne, already tottering, was dealt a severe blow
by this disgrace. This was the second defeat in 60 years suffered
by a government that justified its repressive measures on the
grounds that it needed to be the most powerful nation in the
world. Furthermore, it was now protected by only one fleet,
confined to the Black Sea and beset with mutiny.
Even so, the Russian Navy began to rebuild and to rebuild with
imagination. It began construction of a destroyer, the Novik class,
that was years ahead of the rest of the world in speed (it could
make 37.3 knots in 1913!) gunpower and the size of the
torpedo battery. (It carried fifteen when British destroyers carried
two.) The navy had developed the world's best mine and the
world's first submarine minelayer called the Krab, although
industrial problems prevented its completion. Thus, on the eve of
the First World War, the Russian Navy reflected the contradictions
of the Russian nation itself: advanced design and backward
The naval architects for a building program that started in 1912
were ahead of their time on paper, or at least ahead of other
planners in their designs for battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.
They planned to build 32,000-ton ships with the speed of cruisers
and the armament of battleships. They were to have twelve
16-inch guns, more than any other ship in the world. Quite clearly
there was a recognition at that time that speed was an essential
element in modern navies, a prediction that was to prove fateful in
the Black Sea engagements of the First World War. They also
developed a concept of a light cruiser that was both heavily armed
and fast like the Novik class.
In the Turkish wars the Russian Navy had discovered the
importance of torpedos and in the Russo-Japanese War the tactics
of mine warfare. The need for underwater protection had made
such an indelible imprint on Russian naval architecture that this
feature of Russian warships has been emphasized in Soviet design
down to the present.
Russian design genius was not quite as brilliant as the Soviets
normally claim but it was, nevertheless, one of the most inventive
and imaginative of its time. For example, Russia had the first
electrified city, Tsarskoe Selo (now Pushkin), and one of the first
commuter railroads. (Of course everyone knows that the Soviets
also produced the first Sputnik.) It is significant that these
achievements were not the product of the whole economy but of
the ability of the supreme leader, whether emperor or dictator, to
demand sacrifices in one sector in order to have great achieve-
ments in another. (For all of their faults, the last Romanovs were
possibly unable, but certainly unwilling, to force the cruel and
inhuman kinds of economic dislocations and industrial slavery that
Stalin and his successors have inflicted upon the Soviet people.)
It has been a great burden for Russia that throughout its history
forward leaps in industrial production have usually been decreed
from above rather than produced from below, even when it meant
having commerce with the enemy. Thus, with the Imperial Russian
Navy, even on the eve of World War I orders were still being placed
for ships with foreign firms that would undoubtedly be in German
When Czar Nicholas II took the supreme command at Mogilev
in 1916 the Naval Directorate, similar to a naval ministry, was
disestablished. Instead a naval staff was formed that was attached
to the Supreme Command. The Baltic Fleet at that time was
subordinate to the Commander of the Northwestern Front. The
mission of the Baltic Fleet was
to tightly defend the approaches to the capitol from the sea
and in order to effect that to prevent any breakthrough of
the enemy into the Gulf of Finland and also to defend the
right flank of our front from an attack from the sea and in
order to effect that to prevent a breakthrough of the enemy
into the Bay of Finland on which that flank depended. 2 6
In 1916, four new battleships were received by the Baltic Fleet,
greatly strengthening it and permitting an increase in its activity
until the revolutionary events overwhelmed it.
The Baltic Fleet provided considerable support to the right
flank of the front by shelling shore objectives. The minefields
established at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland were com-
pletely successful in preventing a breakthrough by the German
Fleet, although one was tried in the fall of 1916. A major
operation was to curtail German trade with Sweden. Minefields
were laid and in this the Russian submarines cooperated with
It is frequently charged that the Imperial Russian Command
was ignorant of the importance of communications security. One
naval incident in the war makes it clear that that was not the case.
In fact, Admiral Bubnov claims that Russian awareness of the
importance of communications security lead to a great discovery
that made it possible for the English to win the Battle of
Jutland. 2 7 Early in the war, the German cruiser Magdeburg went
aground on an island at the mouth of the Bay of Finland. A
detachment was sent under the command of Lieutenant Hamilton,
a descendant of an English sailor hired by Peter the Great, to take
command of the cruiser. When Lieutenant Hamilton reported to
the Commander in Chief that the cruiser was essentially intact, he
was ordered to send divers overboard to search for codes and
signal books. The books were found and throughout 1915 and
1916 German communications could be deciphered. According to
Admiral Bubnov, the codes were also given to the British who
were then able to anticipate and attack the German Fleet off
Jutland forcing it to withdraw for the duration of the war.
Immediately after the Battle of Jutland the German Command
realized that its code was known and apparently changed it;
however, according to the Russian admiral the British were able to
decode the new system as well.
If one considers the history of the Russian Navy up to the First
World War, one is struck by the paradox of the frequently brilliant
tactical and technical leadership but faulty strategy and bad
planning which so often left the navy helpless. The Russian Navy
was seldom disposed to advantage for the action it had to take.
This failure has, so far, characterized the Soviet Navy as well. In
view of the massive Soviet and Imperial Russian espionage
networks, that situation would seem absurd. Of course the Soviets
have learned from the past and tried to correct these faults. Many
patterns, however, persist about which our naval strategists should
not afford to remain ignorant.
WAR AND REVOLUTION
The Russian Navy reached its lowest ebb on the eve of the First
World War. The Pacific Fleet, as a result of the disasters of the
Russo-Japanese war, no longer existed. There was no Northern
Fleet and not even a developed port at Murmansk. The Baltic
Fleet consisted of four rather old battleships, five cruisers, and
several other capital ships in various stages of completion. The
building program that had been initiated in 1909 had hardly-
gotten off the ground. The Black Sea Fleet however was in good
physical condition. It had been unable to participate in the
Russo-Japanese war and the new ships were being delivered.
However, its crews were mutinous. At the outbreak of the war it
had 5 old battleships, 2 cruisers, 9 destroyers, and 17 torpedo
boats. In addition, there were four submarines, gunboats and
minelayers. Personnel numbered only 47,000 men. 1
So much has been made of the incompetence of the Russian
war ministry and system of industrial production that it comes as
a surprise to learn that in the 3 years from the start of the war
until the revolution 4 dreadnoughts, 26 destroyers and 28
submarines were completed. On the ways, there were 75 subma-
rines and a good many capital ships. Even then, when navies were
assessed according to their capital ships, the Russians were giving a
very high priority to submarines.
Although the Russian Navy by no means distinguished itself
during the First World War, there are several facets of its operation
that are interesting either because they illuminate modern Soviet
naval concepts and strategic thinking or characterize Russian
There was a paradox. The Imperial Naval Staff had no other
plans for the strategic employment of the Russian Navy, ap-
parently, than that the Baltic Fleet should guard the approaches to
St. Petersburg and the Gulf of Finland, and the Black Sea Fleet
should protect Russia's Black Sea shores. There was no plan to
force the Bosporus prior to the First World War. The plans for
naval construction in the Baltic alone called for the production by
1930 of 24 battleships, 12 battle cruiser, 24 cruisers, 108
destroyers and 36 submarines. 2 This would not have been, by
normal standards, a purely defensive force. The size of this force,
like the size of the "defensive force" the Soviet Navy constructed
in the fifties and sixties gives us some notion of the Russian
conception of their requirements.
The German High Command expected that the Russian Navy
would be employed as it had been in past wars and battles in
amphibious operations and raids. In the south, it was assumed that
there would be some threat to Turkey, most likely in the region of
the Bosporus, as the Germans shared the preconceptions of other
naval analysts— that the Russians were always driving toward the
sea. It was expected that the sea lines of communication between
Sweden and Germany, so important for German ore imports,
would be seriously threatened.
But no such actions took place. In the Baltic the naval war
disintegrated into one of mining operations. Both the Russians and
the Germans mined and countermined the Gulfs of Riga and
Finland and tried to interfere with each other's shipping by means
of mine barriers.
There was no attempt to remove the Baltic Fleet to a more
advantageous position. Instead it was left in the Gulf of Finland,
bottled up behind its own minefields. Second, in spite of the many
assertions in the West about the Russian centuries-old drive for
warm-water ports with free access to the sea, there had been no
effort to develop Murmansk until well into the First World War.
And, indeed, in spite of the centuries-old fears in Europe about
the territorial lusts of the "Russian Bear" such as voiced by the
British Prime Ministers Pitt and Palmerston, there was not in the
Imperial Staff any clear concept that a blockade by sea or land
would do harm to Russia economically. One is inclined to suspect
that territorial aggrandizement was not an objective of Nicholas II.
In fact, the need to protect sea lines of communication became
apparent only in World War I. 3 In the period before the First
World War 80 percent of Russia's exports went by sea, and 60
percent of those from the Black Sea-a figure that reflected the
huge grain exports from the Ukraine. Thirty-five percent went
through the Baltic and only five percent on the remaining seas.
With the main transportation routes cut, the alternative ones
were badly overloaded. Supplies could not be gotten to the
front nor even distributed within the country. This situation was
to repeat itself in the Second World War under the Soviet
In view of the widespread assumption that Russia had as its
primary foreign policy objective the acquisition of the Bosporus, it
must seem strange that no move was made to keep open that vital
waterway. In fact, in 1912 Nicholas II had had a clear warning.
Turkey was in a war with Italy and illegally closed the Strait to
Russian shipping. The economic effects of the closure were
immediate and violent. After a short time, through international
pressure, the Strait was opened again to Russian shipping but the
czar either did not learn his lesson or felt helpless to do anything
about it. Alternative routes for imports were not developed.
The results of the neglect of logistics and supply plans were to
be staggering. Ninety-seven percent of Russia's imports came
either by land or through Baltic and Black Sea ports. But after the
outbreak of World War I, only 3 percent of Russia's normal
imports were being received as the other lines of communication
were cut. The two remaining shipping lines were via the
comparatively remote ports of Archangel on the White Sea and
Vladivostok on the Pacific.
The problems were horrendous. Previously only about one
tenth of 1 percent of foreign imports had come by way of
Archangel. The facilities were so poor that only one or two
steamships could be unloaded per week; there was no dock; there
were no icebreakers; and at the beginning of the war, there was a
loading capacity for only two or three trains per day between
Archangel and St. Petersburg.
Transshipment through Vladivostok, while an alternative, was
not a very good one. For 3 months of the year that port was
frozen and could be kept open only with great difficulty. There
was no question of the Trans-Siberian Railroad's inability to
handle the huge volume of foreign imports, especially as the
section across Lake Baikal had not been completed.
Vis-a-vis its presumed opponent, the Turkish Fleet, the Black
Sea Fleet was in an incomparably better condition than the Baltic
Fleet. Its mission was to "provide defense of the shore and
security of the lines of communication." 4 The Turks, however,
did not venture to engage the fleet and it saw little action.
However, in August 1914 the German High Command sent two
cruisers to join the Turkish Fleet and a number of officers to
occupy command positions and to undertake the training of
personnel and exercising them in various tactics.
The Germans apparently assumed that much more than two
cruisers were needed in order to engage elements of the Russian
Black Sea Fleet and therefore a task group was formed to try to
harass shipping and supply in Black Sea ports. The German
Command, however, need not have been disturbed as the Russian
Navy did not try to engage their cruisers, which were regarded as
too fast. Instead, the Black Sea Fleet confined its operations to a
few not very effective raids on the Turkish coast. The Imperial
Navy apparently lacked any strategic plans whatever and, accord-
ing to Admiral Bubnov on the czar's staff at Mogilev, even
considered impractical any attempt to mine the entrance to the
Bosporus. The Navy's inaction eventually so disturbed even the
mild-mannered Nicholas II that he removed his passive commander
in chief and replaced him with Admiral Kolchak from the Baltic.
That the Imperial Russian High Command did not have plans
for seizing the Bosporus is surprising and in view of the traditional
reading of Russian history is difficult to credit. Apparently,
however, at that time naval intelligence was the only agency of the
Imperial Government that had serious thoughts about the Bos-
porus. According to Admiral Bubnov, intelligence had made fairly
exact reports on the deteriorated state of Turkish fortifications
and suggested that a breakthrough to the Dardanelles should be
made before repairs and supplies could be brought in and before
the two German cruisers, after a prolonged cruise in the
Mediterranean, could achieve a high state of readiness. 5 But there
were no amphibious forces, and there was no equipment for
amphibious forces located in the region of the Black Sea at that
The czar's government was so passive about expansion to the
south that it heard about the plans for the Gallipoli campaign not
directly from the English but through the Russian Ambassador's
agents in Paris! An amphibious force was quickly formed in
Odessa from three divisions of the Caucasian Army. There was no
naval infantry. Then it was discovered that there was hardly any of
the equipment needed for amphibious operations and there was
not even transport in the whole Crimea sufficient to effect the
operation. Furthermore, priorities were such that troops were
gradually transferred from the "naval infantry" to the south-
western front and thus the amphibious task force came to a
The Russian Fleet performed effective action, however, in the
mining of the Bosporus as well as of Bulgarian and Rumanian
ports in the Black Sea. Another traditional role was that of
escorting the Russian troops to the southern front.
The Imperial Russian Black Sea Fleet came to an end in June
1917 when the Sailors' Soviet ("soviet" means council) on board
ship forced Admiral Kolchak not to lay down his sword but to
throw it overboard. It is generally reported that Admiral Kolchak
was forced from his command by the revolutionary threats. 6 That
is not correct. The Sailors' Soviet, which at that time were
supporting the Provisional Government, had demanded that all
officers give up their pistols and weapons. They included in their
demands that Admiral Kolchak should give up a golden sword that
the Emperor had awarded him for his outstanding performance in
the Russo-Japanese war. Admiral Kolchak refused but the demand
was pressed for several weeks. In the end, to avoid a confronta-
tion, Kerensky recalled Admiral Kolchak to St. Petersburg to
avoid a more serious incident and rather than submit to the Soviet,
he threw the sword overboard.
The advancement of Gorshkov, the Soviet Navy's youngest
admiral, to Commander in Chief of the Fleet, has been interpreted
as proof of his exceptional ability. Although his way was
smoothed by the purges (there will be more discussion of that
later) his rapid advancement was not unique in Russian history.
Promotions in Russia had not always taken place according to
strict seniority. Perhaps this was because Russia was a country
always subjected to the whim of the supreme ruler. In any case
where favorites can come to the fore, age is no barrier.
Admiral Kolchak, as an example, was promoted from com-
mander of destroyer and torpedo divisions in the Baltic to the
Commander in Chief of the Black Sea Fleet at the age of 42. He
was the youngest admiral ever to be promoted to a commander in
In the czarist government it was not even essential to be
well-born. The brilliant naval strategist, acquaintance of Admiral
Luce and visitor to the Naval War College in Newport, Adm.
Stefan Makarov had risen from the ranks of the peasantry.
Admiral Makarov had already shown great imagination in tactics,
when as a lieutenant he introduced the startling innovation of
torpedo warfare in the Turkish war of 1877.
It is very likely that Makarov is Admiral Gorshkov 's model as
there is much similarity between them. For example, Admiral
Makarov had a slogan "you must feel at home at sea" which
Admiral Gorshkov frequently recalls in his articles on navies, and
which he introduced in practice by long sea voyages and an
increased tempo of operations and exercises. In addition, Admiral
Makarov was extremely interested in oceanography and in the
North Sea route as was Admiral Gorshkov. (He was in command
of a ship called the Vitiaz. A ship of that name exists today.)
Finally, Admiral Makarov did pioneering work in the design and
use of icebreakers.
The spirit of innovation has long characterized the Russian and
Soviet Navies. The trauma of the Russo-Japanese war caused the
Russian Navy to build the world's first minelayers and mine-
sweepers, started in 1910. They also experimented with balloons
in the Baltic as early as 1903. In 1909, a design was developed for
a ship with a speed of 30 knots to carry aircraft that would be
launched from a catapult. The project, although never realized,
was apparently quite serious because naval aviation schools were
established for the Baltic and Black Sea Fleets. Operating on the
Black Sea were two Russian seaplane carriers, the Nicholas I and
Alexander I, whose airplanes actually attacked the Turkish port of
Zonguldak and dropped 40 bombs. 7 Having used seaborne
airpower for reconnaissance, bombing and convoy escort, the
Russian Navy was in advance of all other navies with the exception
of the British. The paradox remained, however, that although the
ideas were brilliant, the execution almost never was.
The Marxist idea that a navy is not just a military force but also
an economic, cultural, and political force was never more
thoroughly demonstrated than at the time of the Russian
Revolution. To say that the Revolution would not have been won
without the participation of the navy might be an exaggeration.
The course of the Revolution, however, undoubtedly would have
been very different, for the Baltic sailors played a crucial role in
the fall of the czarist government and in the Bolshevik seizure of
Being close to the capital on the island of Kronshtadt, the Baltic
sailors were subjected to far more political agitation than were
other forces. They also were largely idle. In fulfilling their mission
of defending the Gulf of Finland they saw far less action than the
Black Sea Fleet or the Army on the German front. In addition, as
Admiral Bubnov suggested— an idea that appears to be a constant
in Russian and Soviet psychology— the Baltic sailors having seen
advanced foreign countries on official visits were far more critical
of Imperial Russia's backwardness and far less satisfied with their
lot than the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet. Although the most
famous mutiny occurred in the battleship Potemkin in June 1905
in the Black Sea, even more serious revolutionary movements were
gaining momentum in the Baltic Fleet in which conspiracies had
been discovered in 1911 and 1912.
The signal for the fall of the Provisional Government was the
blank charge fired at the winter palace from the cruiser Aurora, a
survivor of the battle of Tsushima. The Kronshtadt sailors had
been the most active in the formation of the Soldiers and Sailors
Committees (Soviets). Later they served as elite guards protecting
the Bolsheviks from counterrevolution and it was they who carried
out Lenin's order to prevent the seating of the Constituent
Assembly, the only democratically elected body in the whole of
It was also, quite uncharacteristically in Russia's military
history, the navy that took over from the Imperial Staff. The
supreme commander in chief designated by the Bolshevik govern-
ment was an ensign named Krylenko who arrived with a naval
battalion to occupy the headquarters at Mogilev and presumably
run the war. As a matter of fact, during this period the Baltic Fleet
was mostly operating ashore, for the sailors were acting as
commissars, members of the secret police, agitators, and militia.
But the real end of the Baltic Fleet had come earlier with the receipt
of "Order Number 1" of the Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Soviet of
Soldiers and Workers Deputies that declared that troops were no
longer subordinate to their officers. Having been transmitted openly
over the wireless, the information went uncontrolled to the whole
front and the fleet. Military discipline collapsed immediately. That
led to the collapse of the front, the collapse of Russia's war effort,
and eventually the collapse of the Provisional Government. Quite
clearly this must have influenced Stalin to say that the first
principle of war is the morale of the rear.
Ironically, the Bolsheviks who had come to power on a
platform of ending the war and securing an immediate peace, were
the ones who had to reverse that policy almost immediately
because the garrison at Riga assumed that it was not necessary to
resist the German advance and the previously unbreachable
fortifications quickly fell, exposing the road to Petrograd.
The Bolsheviks did everything possible to undermine the
Imperial Army in 1917. Lenin seized power with only 25,000
(largely reserve) troops in the capital and sailors from Kronshtadt,
l/560th of the Russians under arms!
Marxist theory rejected the idea of a standing army. At first, the
Bolsheviks remained orthodox. The concept they devised to
replace the army was that of a "people's militia." Having
destroyed the Imperial Army and Navy and demanded a peace
platform, Lenin could not immediately form new armed forces.
However, like so many other Marxist or Bolshevik promises of
those days, that one was almost immediately repudiated. In 1918
a war commissar, Trotsky, was appointed and compulsory military
service was introduced. In order to reform the army and navy-
Trotsky had to take 80 percent of the commanders from the
former czarist ranks. As a concomitant of that, party cells were
established in the army to oversee morale and to enforce devotion
to duty but they also served as a base for spies and informers
insuring the continuation of civilian control. As a final move
Communist commissars were placed in every regiment next to the
commanders to maintain complete military control.
Lenin officially disbanded the Imperial Navy on 29 January
1918 8 and created the Red Navy of Workers and Peasants based
on elected commanders and a volunteer service. Although leaders
were to be elected, the Communist Party members remained in
control. It was recognized that naval art required some knowledge
of the sea. The first chief of the Soviet Navy was a czarist rear
Aside from its policing and subversive action, the navy's
participation in the civil war was not unlike its participation in
previous wars. It was employed to defend the Gulf of Finland, and
to protect the army's maritime flanks. It carried out this mission
using traditional Russian operations. Fields of 7,605 mines were
laid from 1918 to 1920. 9 Showing its traditional amphibious
versatility in the civil war, the navy formed a number of river
flotillas in which the sailors fought very much like their cossack
forebears conducting raids from their boats, expropriating sup-
plies, and cutting off normal communications.
The period of the civil war and the allied intervention has
provided the Soviet Government with an endless amount of
material for propaganda. The events of that period are used as
examples of the rapaciousness of capitalist governments against
the lonely heroism of the young Bolshevik state. As far as the navy
was concerned this was the state of affairs. After the civil war in
1921, 3 battleships, 10 cruisers, 64 destroyers and 30 submarines
plus many auxiliary ships and transports were taken away by the
retreating White forces and foreign governments. The only fleet
that survived was the Baltic Fleet. The Pacific, Northern, and
Black Sea Fleets simply ceased to exist. The ships that remained
were in a bad state of repair. There were no spare parts; there was
no fuel; and most of the ship-repair facilities had been destroyed
or seriously damaged. Even those that remained were no longer
staffed adequately as specialists had also gone into exile and those
who remained were suspected of ideological unreliability.
The Baltic sailors had been so important to the Bolshevik
seizure of power that Lenin called them "the glory and the pride
of the Revolution." However, their "glory" became a problem.
Having helped to make a revolution, they mistakenly thought of
themselves as having a right to participate in its direction. That
was never agreeable to Lenin. The sailors had formed their own
organizations such as their Revolutionary Military Council and
their Revolutionary Center. They assumed the right of inspectors
and critics of military and revolutionary developments. This was
not the Bolshevik way. Lenin, like Stalin after him, tolerated no
other centers of power.
Control of the Baltic sailors' organizations was becoming
increasingly difficult as the Bolsheviks among them had been
appointed to other important posts such as that of the commander
in chief of Russian forces. Thus a natural control mechanism was
weakened and the sailors resisted efforts to increase party
supervision. By 1920 unrest in Petrograd was becoming serious. Not
only were there protests against the hardships of life, but more
ominously against the betrayal of the aims of the Revolution.
The explosive forces met. The Kronshtadt sailors supported the
Petrograd workers. Indignant at the increasing efforts to bring
them under control and at the central government's refusal to
consult them, they rebelled in March 1921.
The mutiny was viciously, ferociously and definitively suppressed
by units of the Red Army led by Trotsky and including participants
from the Tenth Party Congress. The Congress had been in session in
Moscow but was hastily adjourned upon receipt of news of the
defection of the "glory and pride of the Revolution. "
The sailors' demands were not exorbitant. They consisted
primarily in requiring that the promises of the Bolsheviks for legal
and political reforms, made at the time of the Revolution, be
fulfilled and that decisions be made on a democratic basis. Lenin's
government, however, was terrified because if the Baltic sailors
rebelled, then it was quite probable that the entire nation would
rebel against the Revolution. The first wide-scale purge was the
Bolshevik answer. The Navy was reduced from 180,000 men to
39,000 by the end of 1921. But Lenin did retreat. The New
Economic Policy (NEP) was instituted restoring a measure of
private enterprise to a suffering country. A degree of prosperity
returned. At the same time, Bolshevik sailors who had been given
other positions in the party and government administrations were
returned to the Baltic Fleet and the power of political workers was
In 1922 a school was organized to train political officers. 1 x
Another act was to organize a massive infiltration of the navy with
loyal party members. As the result of a propaganda campaign,
between 1922 and 1924, over 10,000 Young Communist League
members joined the navy's educational institutions. However, the
navy went into a decline because the government did not trust it.
The shore fortifications were changed to army subordination and
it was not until 1927 that full-scale Baltic and Black Sea naval
exercises— and with the participation of the Red army— were
The design of the Soviet Fleet at this time was a function of
several priorities: 1) the collapsed state of the country's economy
and industry; 2) the sense of isolation and containment and the
constant threat from a hostile world; 3) the hope for an international
Communist movement directed from Moscow; and 4) the Bolshe-
viks' distrust of the navy as a result of the Kronshtadt uprising.
Between 1921, the year of the Kronshtadt Rebellion, and 1928 the
year of Stalin's consolidation of power, according to the official
history, the navy was being restored "within the general condition
and material resources of the country." 1 2
Lenin was concerned in those years with having a navy that
would be capable of filling the requirements for political and
economic objectives; that meant one ready for international tasks
or "state interests" as Gorshkov would put it. 13 In 1922, at an
All-Union meeting of Communist Seamen, the policy was re-
affirmed that the mission of the Soviet Navy was to incorporate all
classes of surface ships, submarines and aviation, in order to work
aggressively "in cooperation with the Red Army."
In spite of the demands of worldwide revolution and the
problem of the country's security, the highest priority in naval
administration and planning was given to educational institutions
and securing the loyalty of the sailors. In effect the navy was, on
party orders, turned over to the Young Communist League which
acted as a political patron and ideological supervisor.
There were, of course, no "officer" training programs as rank
had been abolished, but there were "command personnel" schools
that had been organized in 1918 with an 8-month program. A
political school was opened to provide cadres who would insure
that no more Kronshtadts would take place.
Already in those years the young Communist power, expecting
to lead a worldwide revolution, was concerned with its interna-
tional image. Although the navy was in a low state of readiness,
visits were made in 1923 to Bergen and Trondheim, Norway, and
to Canton, China. The next year, there were visits to Norway,
Sweden, Italy and Turkey.
The main tactical problem at the time, however, was to sweep
the mines left over from World War I. The ports in the Baltic,
Black Sea and Sea of Azov were not declared free for shipping
until 1925. Primary attention was also given to patrolling the
maritime borders. Patrols were established on the Baltic, Black
Sea, the Caspian Sea, in the Far East, on the Amur River and in
One of the legacies of the Kronshtadt rebellion was a system for
political control that was and remains extremely unpopular with
the military. A political commissar was appointed for ships and
units. He had equal authority with the commanding officer. In
addition, the commissar had a chain of subordination that ended
directly in the Politburo and not the Ministry of Defense. The
commander of the navy at that time had a chain of command that
was extremely diffuse. Fleets were subordinated to shore com-
mands or simply reported to the Central Revolutionary Military
Soviet and the People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs.
The problem was not, however, one of a rational organization and
standard subordination but one of party control and loyalty. Only
27 percent of naval "leaders" were Communist Party members and
there was a very high proportion of former czarist naval officers
serving as specialists in the Soviet Fleet, a higher proportion than
in the other armed forces. 1 4
Compulsory military service became law in September 1925
although according to Marx the military should have disappeared.
Conscripted naval service was set at 4 years where it remained
until the new law of 1969.
Beginning with the Conscription Law in 1925, there was a
movement away from the unpopular dual command system except
for the navy in which it was exercised until 1933. 1 5
Finally, a naval building program was begun as determined by
the First Five Year Plan of 1928. First priority was given to
building submarines, then torpedo boats and finally escort
destroyers. The Soviets began solving the problem of interfleet
transfers in a way that was to become more and more sophisti-
cated. M-class submarines were constructed in sections that could
be transported by railroad. Finally, in 1932, the Soviet Pacific
Fleet was reorganized and the next year the Northern Flotilla
became operational. (The Northern Flotilla was changed to the
Northern Fleet in 1937.)
The continuity between the czarist and Soviet Navies, the
navy's helplessness during the period of civil war and foreign
intervention, and the internationalist policies of the Bolsheviks all
trained the leaders of the new state to be aware of the importance
of seapower. The Marxist- Leninist doctrines on war insured that
naval strategists could not have a narrow vision.
The Spanish civil war provided the Soviets with the first major
opportunity to promote state interests abroad and at the same
time focused attention on the navy. In that war the Soviet
Government did its best to support the Republican Armies but
had no means to protect the merchant ships delivering supplies.
Several Soviet merchant ships were sunk or captured by German
and Italian forces operating in support of Franco. Admiral
Kuznetsov referred to that period as a time when it became
"particularly apparent how important the sea is for us and how
much we need a strong Navy." 1 6
Response to the Spanish civil war, however, was not what
caused the Soviet Government to begin a shipbuilding program in
1937. That project provided a formidable assignment for Soviet
industry, calling for increased numbers of submarines and de-
stroyers as well as construction of battleships, heavy and light
cruisers and minesweepers. Soviet leaders, whose Marxist vision
was necessarily international, were limited in their military
construction by the catastrophic state of the country's economy
and industry. The naval construction problem that the Soviet
Union faced in the 30s was far worse than even the naval
construction problem that all czarist governments had faced
before. Requirements, inventiveness, and desires far exceeded the
capacity of industry to fulfill them. There were at that time
extreme shortages in every field. And while the leaders of the
government were aware of the need for a large fleet, and expressed
the desire for large ships, industrial limitations were apparent. 17
Plans were delayed because of many kinds of inadequacies. The
crucial problems were intensified by the purges and the universal
fear in which Soviet citizens lived, but they were primarily owing
to a lack^of productive capacity. 1 8
One solution to these problems was also traditional, the
employment of foreign technology. Since the Treaty of
Rapallo (in 1922), there was close Soviet-German military
cooperation. With some design changes, the Soviets began
building in serial production a submarine designated type "S"
which was based on improved plans for the German "B-3"
submarine. French and Italian designs were also influential, as
they had been in the czarist navy, especially with the
construction of surface ships. And propulsion machinery was
bought in England.
By 1939 the arms race was at a phrenetic tempo. The Soviets
requested blueprints from the Germans for a battleship and from
the United States and Germany for the blueprints of an aircraft
carrier. The requests were rejected. By 1938 the objective
situation was such that the Soviet Government undoubtedly
realized that it had no choice but to accelerate the development of
an oceangoing navy. Not only was there a growing threat on the
European front but also there were clashes with Japan, in August
1938, on the Pacific front, promising a two-ocean war and raising
the specter of another Tsushima.
The answer, clearly perceived at that time, was for a blue- water
navy, and such grandiose plans had existed from the start. The
Foreign Minister, V.M. Molotov, in a statement to the First
Session of the Supreme Soviet, in 1938, publicly confirmed "the
mighty Soviet state should have an open sea and ocean navy
corresponding to its interests and worthy of its great tasks." (The
words "great tasks" mean what Admiral Gorshkov means by the
"protection of state interests.")
With the war clouds gathering and the threats from both the
East and the West, and perhaps with renewed confidence after the
slaughter of the purges, the navy was "rehabilitated" in 1937
when the Commissariat of the Navy, a kind of navy department,
was established. That did not mean, however, that Stalin was
prepared to trust his military leaders. Dual command was restored
through the creation of the Main Political Directorate which
meant that Communist commissars would be making final military
decisions on ships and in all units. (To be denounced by a party
member in those days was tantamount to summary execution.)
Further control was ensured through the creation of an organiza-
tion called the Main Naval Military Council. One of Stalin's closest
henchmen, Zhdanov, was appointed the chairman. Of course,
similar control measures existed in the army as well. Stalin insured
that he would not suffer the indignity of being challenged by an
army or navy Bonaparte.
The information about the Soviet Navy in the thirties available
in the West is largely from Soviet sources which means that it
cannot be taken at face value. (Jane's Fighting Ships for
1938-1939 despaired of giving any accurate information about the
Soviet Navy at all.) According to Soviet sources, the Soviets had
certainly made remarkable progress, considering the situation, in
rebuilding a navy between 1920 and 1941. They claim to have laid
down 533 warships and to have completed 4 cruisers, 37
destroyers of various types, 8 river monitors, 18 patrol ships, a
minelayer and 206 submarines. There were 219 ships on the ways
at the beginning of the war, including 3 battleships, 2 heavy
cruisers, 8 cruisers, 45 destroyers, and 91 submarines. 19 (The
number of submarines is not short of extraordinary and proves a
completely independent mind in the Soviet Union about naval
warfare, for no other nation in the world had so many.)
Cdr. Robert Herrick, in his meticulously researched and
pioneering work on the Soviet Navy 2 ° found evidence that there
had been two schools of naval strategy in those years: a "young
school" that rejected any notion of command of the seas and
argued for a large submarine navy supported by small surface
ships, and the old school that argued for the traditional concepts
of a balanced navy. 2 1 The importance of these debates is not just
historical. It is assumed that if there were such debates, similar
ones could be occurring now.
The problem with this argument is that those who are hoping to
prove that the Soviet Union is moving toward a "balanced
blue- water" navy have as a preconception that if that is true, the
Soviets will build a navy like that of the British or Americans and
give it similar assignments. In other words, it tends to be an
ethnocentric argument projecting one's own images, causing naval
analysts to stop focusing on the differences and to find justifica-
tion in the similarities.
Dr. Nicholas Shadrin, a lifelong observer of the Soviet Navy,
wrote with great commonsense, "The debates neither resulted in an
officially approved theory nor influenced any shipbuilding program.
The theory of 'small war' which was most widespread since the
mid- 1920s up to the beginning of the 1930s, reflected the pragmatic
recognition of the weakness of the Soviet Navy at that time. " 2 2
One should add that the debates also reflected the weakness of
the Soviet economy and heavy industry at that time. What such
decisions did not represent, apparently, was the consensus of the
naval leadership. At least Admiral Kuznetsov, Commander in Chief
of the Pacific Fleet who became the Commissar of the Navy after
the naval leadership was exterminated in the purges, said that he
first learned of the plans for new ships in 1937, not through the
naval chain, but from the head of the shipbuilding industry. 23
Although he was to lead the navy, his opinion was not solicited by
the Main Naval Council. Such procedure shows an important mode
of operation, critical for the understanding of decisionmaking in a
According to Admiral Kuznetsov, an unwritten rule was that
the navy could decide on important matters only after consulta-
tion with Stalin, although Molotov (the Foreign Minister) and
Zhdanov (the Naval Commissar) were sometimes allowed to make
preliminary decisions before being examined by Stalin. Stalin and
Admiral Kuznetsov, incidentally, were fully aware of the im-
portance of a large navy in the political arena and Stalin
(according to Kuznetsov) was the one who demanded a big navy.
He also understood the importance of access to the open sea for
apparently he personally inspected possible ports and building
yards for the Northern Fleet and chose Severomorsk and the river
north of Murmansk for major naval bases. His building program
suggested that Stalin did not expect a war with Germany (these
were the years of the Stalin-Hitler alliance) but rather that he was
concentrating on a navy that could divide the spoils of war.
Stalin's preparations for World War II seem to have been based
upon his military experience as a revolutionary and party official
during the civil war, his mania for population control, and his
belief that Hitler would not attack. 2 4 All of that illustrates the
disasters that can ensue from a doctrinaire leadership sealed off
from objective information. Certainly no sane argument can be
made that the Soviet Union, in the months preceding the war, was
pursuing its vital interests. Driving the population mad with fear
and privation and eliminating all but a fraction of the experienced
and technically trained military leaders is hardly anyone's formula
for success in battle, and that was proved in the winter war
(1939-1940) with Finland.
Whether or not Khrushchev's memoirs are completely authen-
tic, his account of the Soviet Navy in that war is consistent with
the facts and is in his usual colorful prose:
Our navy was engaged against the Finnish fleet. You
wouldn't have thought that the Finns would have the
advantage at sea, but our navy couldn't do anything right. I
remember hearing at Stalin's in Moscow that one of our
submarines had been unable to sink a Swedish merchant
vessel which it had mistaken for a Finnish ship. The Germans
observed this incident, and gave us a teasing pinch by offering
their assistance . . . ? 5
The German conclusions from their observations may have
sealed Russia's fate and ultimately Germany's as well. In the
attack on Finland, Stalin intended to show the Germans the
invincible might of the Soviet forces. It is almost certain that the
ensuing debacle contributed to Hitler's plan to open a second
front and his assumption that he could take Moscow by October,
before his troops needed warm clothing.
Later analysis, according to Khrushchev, showed that intelli-
gence sources had not been consulted and were probably not
allowed to speak. They were, of course, blamed, but Marshal
Timoshenko admitted that faulty intelligence had not been the
cause. Everything was known about the Mannerheim Line. The
first strike was directed to the middle of it at the strongest point.
As Khrushchev said: "If we had only deployed our forces against
the Finns in the way even a child could have figured by looking at
a map, things would have turned out differently for both the
Soviet Union and Finland." 2 6
Whatever the strategic ideas Stalin had for the navy in a war
with Germany, they were ineffective. The answer to what 200
submarines could do in the shallow waters surrounding the Soviet
Union turned out to be almost nothing.
Although one is arguing from hindsight, the experience of the
Soviet Navy at that time had extended over 20 years. It had
underscored the importance of protecting convoys, both in the
Spanish civil war and in the First World War, and of the
vulnerability of shallow seas, like the Black and Baltic, to mine
warfare. But the lessons learned were ignored and the Baltic Fleet
was bottled up by German mines so that it could do little more
than serve as antiaircraft batteries to protect Leningrad, and the
Black Sea Fleet was paralyzed by the rapid German advance.
Stalin's Navy may have been designed to promote state interests
and revolution but it was not designed for war with Germany. No
doubt the navy's rather sad showing in the Second World War was
because of the maritime ignorance of Stalin as much as of any
deficiencies in operational planning and design. Certainly, it
suffered gravely from the purges and the atmosphere of paranoia.
Admiral Golovko wrote that at the beginning of the war,
German reconnaissance airplanes would fly over the Northern
Fleet at Murmansk and no one would shoot them down even
though orders had been issued to do so. The reason was that the
penalty for a much less serious mistake in those years was death,
although Admiral Golovko does not say so. 2 7 The sailors were
paralyzed by fear.
For a war in so many respects similar to the First World War,
the Soviet Navy proved itself very inadequately prepared. While
most of its ships were equipped for minelaying, there was only one
minelayer and there were an inadequate number of minesweepers
and ships for antisubmarine warfare. There were no amphibious
ships, although amphibious operations dominated naval wartime
operations. Naval aviation was grossly inadequate. 28 In addition
to the other deficiencies, no ships had radar and there were few
antiaircraft guns. 2 9
In spite of Admiral Kuznetsov's claim that the Soviet naval
intelligence staff gave enough advance warning of the German war
plans for the Soviet Navy to go into readiness state number two on
19 July 1941, and to readiness state number one (meaning war) at
2335 on 21 June, the preparations taken did not suggest any
knowledge of German courses of action. 30 The commander in
chief of the Northern Fleet inferred the danger of war from the
flow of refugees. He had no direct information.
The German plan of operation was for a defensive war in the
Baltic as the major portion of its fleet would be occupied with the
far greater British Navy in the West. The principal mission for the
German Navy was to protect the sea lines of supply between
Finland and Germany. Apparently naval support for land opera-
tions was not planned. As far as the naval war was concerned, it
was expected that the rapid German advance would deprive the
Russians of their bases and the ships would be sealed into the
harbors by rapid mine warfare. Thus, although the Soviet Navy
was on alert status, it apparently did not put to sea and the
Germans laid their minefields with little opposition. 3 1 While the
Soviets claim that in the initial attack there were no losses of
Soviet ships, the Germans claim that the largest Soviet ships
sustained serious damage. In view of the supremacy in the air of
the Luftwaffe, the latter account is probably correct. The rest of
the war was largely one of Soviet attempts at minesweeping and
counteroffensives in mine tactics and several heroic and a few
successful attempts by submarines to break through the mine
barriers across the Gulf of Finland.
In any case, the history of naval operations in the Baltic during
the first months of the Second World War is a story largely of
retreat, escape, and evacuation. The Baltic Fleet was put in a far
worse position than it had ever been since the time of Peter the
Great, bottled up in the Gulf of Finland between Kronshtadt and
Leningrad. In those shallow waters many of the ships ceased to
function except as fortress gun turrets in the defense of Leningrad,
until they were sunk. Some, resting on the bottom, continued to
operate even afterwards.
Because the Germans controlled both shores of the Gulf of
Finland, they were able to immobilize the Baltic Fleet with
minefields, shore batteries and air defenses. Naval aviation had
been made subordinate to the army so all that was left for
operations was the vast number of submarines. 3 2 Action was then
confined to Soviet submarines which scored some successes against
German shipping. Their main targets were the ships engaged in
transporting Swedish ore to Germany. The submarines were only
effective enough to force Germany to introduce the convoy
system briefly in 1942, but not again until the second half of
Of the navies in the Black Sea, the Soviet was by far the largest
but it was not very useful. In the initial action of the war the
German advance was so rapid that the Soviet Navy's mission was
limited to resupply and evacuation at the fortress bastions that
remained at Odessa and in the Crimea. The Soviets showed the
ingenuity of their predecessors in the time of Peter the Great and
Catherine by using numerous small craft and barges to land troops,
usually at night in order to avoid attacks by the Luftwaffe, and
under the protection of support gunfire from cruisers and
destroyers. On one occasion a whole division was transported in
this manner. However, by September 1942 the few repair facilities
at Novorossiysk were lost and with that the Soviets had little
opportunity to maintain their ships.
The war in the Black Sea at this stage was one of submarine
warfare in which the Soviet submarines proved effective only at
interfering with the shipping along the coast from the Crimea to
Rumania and Bulgaria. The major surface action engaged torpedo
boats; this evolved a tactic not unlike that of John Paul Jones in
the same waters. Minefields were sewn in shallow waters of the
Kerch Strait in the Sea of Azov through which shallow-draft
motor torpedo boats could operate. They could harass the flanks
of the army and decoy larger German ships into the minefields.
For the most part, the Soviet surface ships remained inactive so
that even after the German land-supply routes were cut, Germany
maintained the flow of supplies across the Black Sea to the Crimea
until April 1944. The Germans were able to evacuate 137,000
troops from Sevastopol, long after the evacuation should have
been made, and under attack from the air. The troops were
transported to Constansa, 200 miles away, without significant
interference from the Soviet Navy. In the same way, vast numbers
of troops were evacuated from Odessa without significant Soviet
The British Naval Liaison Officer with the Black Sea Fleet said
that he was constantly urging the Soviet Naval Command to attack
German shipping but without success. The excuse was that it had
no adequate air cover for such operations. 33 In the first 18
months of the war, 24 out of the 63 submarines in the Black Sea
Fleet were lost. The British Liaison Officer attributed this to
inadequately trained crews.
In the Arctic the Soviet Naval Air Force first appeared in 1942
and was employed mainly in reconnaissance. However, the sea war
was confined to submarine attacks against German shipping.
Russian destroyers were never used against German convoys but
were used in the final stages as escorts for allied convoys to
Murmansk. The Soviet destroyers used for escort duty limited
their range to 430 miles from their own base.
A senior British naval officer, who was in the Soviet Union for
liaison at that time, described their seagoing efficiency as poor and
their tactical behavior as erratic, with the result that the British
preferred to station the Soviet ships astern of the convoys in order
not to endanger the allied ships and for the possible benefit of
picking up survivors. 3 4
The nature of the war was such that there were several unusual
developments. First of all Soviet planners, whether Stalin or the
Naval Commissars, who had been weaned away from traditional
Russian concepts of naval warfare, received a sharp rebuff. Except
for convoy escort duty in the north, and the harassment of rather
short and not very distant sea lines of communication in the Baltic
and Black Seas, the Soviet Navy's mission in the war was certainly
that of supporting the army on its flanks. For that task, the navy
was singularly unprepared. Its experience with mine warfare seems
to have been abandoned. The navy was inadequate and untrained
in antisubmarine warfare. The use of naval aviation and its
dominant role in warfare was apparently and properly understood
at the beginning of the war and given considerably more attention
by the end. There were no preparations for amphibious warfare
except by the Pacific Fleet and that was at the end of the war with
amphibious ships provided by the United States. Nevertheless, the
Soviet Navy showed great inventiveness in making several dozen
amphibious landings. There were naval rifle brigades formed from
sailors and naval shore units totaling 405,000 men who were often
incorporated into the ground forces and used as shock troops. As
in the days of Ivan the Terrible, there were numerous naval
flotillas on the rivers conducting semiamphibious operations.
The poor showing of the Soviet Navy in the Second World War
seems to have led many naval critics to the assumption that the
Soviets learned some lessons that transformed their thinking into
some Western configurations. Nothing could be more misleading.
The war did not teach the Soviets that they needed capital ships.
Indeed, how could they have used them in either the Baltic or
Black Seas? In fact it taught them just the reverse. In two world
wars their battleships and cruisers had remained helpless in the
Gulf of Finland. But the requirement to protect the flanks of the
Soviet Army was a supremely important mission which, in a war
to the death, could in no way be denigrated.
While acknowledging the value of aircraft carriers and of big
oceangoing, blue-water navies, the Soviets in writing about their
experience in the war make it clear that they recognized that these
would not have been answers to Soviet tactical or strategic
questions of that time.
The poor showing of the Soviet Navy in the Second World War,
quite obviously, owes a considerable amount to the Stalinist
purges that preceded it. By the time the war began, the Soviet
Navy simply did not have an experienced leadership or a cadre of
trained officers and technicians. Nearly all living senior Soviet
admirals were promoted to that rank as very young men, not just
Gorshkov. The purges had eliminated the ranks above them.
In the fourth quarter of the 20th century one has extreme
difficulty comprehending the effect of Stalin's purges on the
armed forces. That act defies the formula that we generally apply
to history, that assures us that nations act in their own
self-interest. A conservative summary would be that the Soviet
Union entered the war having almost wiped out its party
leadership, its civil and regional administrations, enormously
weakened its technological and intellectual faculties, and nearly
eradicated experienced officers of its armed forces. The defeats of
the winter war in Finland were an early indication of the
consequences of that terror.
Another problem the Soviet Navy faced was similar to the one
it had faced in the First World War. Critical supplies and spare
parts were not available and early in the war main repair bases and
shipyards fell into enemy hands or, as in Leningrad, were
immobilized by enemy actions. The Soviet High Command,
composed of young officers who survived the purges, was not
experienced or trained in the tactical employment of naval forces
and did not have time to learn.
Soviet military literature, with its almost exclusive emphasis on
"heroism" and "military brilliance," does not discuss the effects
of the purges on the military campaigns of the Second World War.
Consequently, too little weight has been given to that period in
assessing Soviet decisionmaking. There can be no escaping the fact
that nothing has changed in the Soviet system to prevent a
repetition of the Stalinist period. And as we have seen, a rational
approach to a nation's vital interests did not dominate Soviet war
A SOVIET/RUSSIAN SYNTHESIS
The Peoples' Commissariat of the Navy, created in 1921, was
abolished on 25 February 1946 and was reinstated as the Naval
Ministry of the U.S.S.R. on 25 February 1950. In the interim, the
navy was subordinated to the ground force-oriented War Ministry.
On 15 March 1953 the Ministry of Defense of the U.S.S.R. was
created and the navy and the army were then united under the
command of the Minister of Defense.
Stalin's attitude toward the navy was not very stable, even after
the war. In 1947 Stalin demoted the then Soviet CNO, Fleet
Admiral Kuznetsov, to rear admiral and sent him to the Pacific
Fleet. The three deputy CNOs were court-martialed and sentenced
to prison where one of them, a former Chief of the Main Naval
Staff, died. As Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral
Kuznetsov was promoted to vice admiral (having achieved that
rank for the second time after having been demoted) and in 1951
was recalled to Moscow to become the Minister of the Navy. 1
Fleet Admiral Kuznetsov made vice admiral for the third time in
1956 when he was removed as the Minister of the Navy and again
demoted to make way for Admiral Gorshkov.
Although a Ministry of the Navy was created in February 1950
(before Stalin's death) "to emphasize the growth of the navy," 2
the major intellectual stimulus for the new navy began in 1956
when Soviet military strategy was basically changed to accommo-
date the age of nuclear missiles.
In 1956 and 1957 more than 500 generals, admirals, and
officers met in a military scientific conference to discuss the steps
that were necessary to prepare for combat under nuclear condi-
tions. 3 The result was that the navy was given an equal footing
with other services and at the same time its usefulness in a broader
more international mission was fully recognized.
From the Stalinist period comes the rather confusing termi-
nology of referring to the branches of service as "army" or
"navy." This is meant to distinguish between those who serve on
land or sea. The administrative and command chain, however,
recognizes the five service arms: air force, strategic rocket forces,
ground forces, naval forces and air defense forces. Each, and now
also the civil defense force, has a chain of command up to a
commander in chief who is also a deputy minister of defense and
who sits in the military council. The staff organization is
shown in Figure 1 while the fleet organization is shown in
Ever since 1933 there have been four fleets, and ironically the
Northern Fleet, which was the last to be established, is now by far
the largest. In addition, during the war, there were five flotillas
that would probably be quickly reformed in the event of
hostilities. The largest and most active was the Danube River
Flotilla. Now there remains only the Caspian Sea Flotilla which, in
addition to watching the Iranian Navy, has the missions of patrol
and support of scientific and technical research. (There are also
some naval schools in Baku whose training programs the flotilla
also undoubtedly supports.)
The widespread geographical separation of the fleets dictates a
command structure that includes control of the shore estab-
lishment, hence the fleet commander in chief also controls the
coastal defense forces, naval aviation and infantry, the bases, and
the logistical, training and support services including hydrography
The Soviet submarine force is considered the first arm of the
navy and aviation is ranked second. Such distinctions are made
annually in the Navy Day speeches (Navy Day is the last Sunday in
July and is celebrated with naval parades and demonstrations in all
of the major naval ports: Leningrad, Sevastopol, Vladivostok,
Murmansk, Baku, Tallin and others) which speeches are a key to
changes in the naval thinking, and therefore strategy.
Such, for instance, was the speech of Fleet Admiral Sergeev
reported in Morskoy sbornik in July 1975. When he said that the
main striking force of the navy was "atomic submarines and
aviation," 4 he was certifying a conceptual framework that receives
a yearly, ritual confirmation. The least change in the order of
forces would be noticed and would signal a major shift. Actually,
in 1972, the year the aircraft carrier Kiev was launched, the
commander of Soviet Naval Air was promoted to the rank of
Marshal of Naval Aviation. This suggested that several more
aircraft carriers would be built; also, that naval air was fulfilling
significant, new naval missions. As Admiral Sergeev put it, ''Jet
rockets and ASW aviation have been expanded to include the most
modern kinds of airplanes capable of resolving problems in distant
regions of the ocean. The crews have mastered extended flights at
great ranges as well as new locating and targetting devices." 5
The officers of the naval air force, the naval infantry and
technical and logistical services have army ranks. Admiral of the
Fleet of the Soviet Union, Admiral Gorshkov's rank, is the
equivalent of a marshal of the Soviet Union. The marshal of naval
aviation is two ranks below that and the equivalent of a marshal of
tank troops. A fleet admiral, the rank of the first deputy
commander in chief, Fleet Admiral Smirnov, is the equivalent of a
general of the army.
Organization of the Armed Forces. Under Article 132 of the
Constitution of the Soviet Union universal military service is
required. All citizens between the ages of 19 and 50 are subject to
compulsory military training. In addition, there is preservice
training in schools and paramilitary organizations outside of the
schools, the primary one being DOSAAF which stands for,
roughly, "Friends of the Fighting Forces." DOSAAF is a kind of
super Boy Scout and Girl Scout organization combined with the
Veterans of Foreign Wars and Lions Clubs. It seems to control all
of the hobbies that require specialized equipment such as the
airplane clubs, scuba diving organizations, radio clubs, and many
others. The result is that the one million men drafted yearly for 2
to 5 years are already somewhat prepared for their military life.
After their period of active service they are in the reserves until
the age of 50 with periodic training. There is a second line reserve
for women in some specialties and for those men who have been
deferred for education or other reasons. The Minister of Defense
who, since Trotsky and until Ustinov, has always been a military
officer, has two positions, one in the government and the other in
the party. He is a member of the Council of Ministers in the
government line and of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party of the U.S.S.R. The admiral of the fleet, currently Admiral
Gorshkov, is a deputy minister of defense as are the chiefs of staff
of the other military components. The minister of defense is, in
fact, the commander in chief of the armed forces. Directly under
him is the first deputy minister for general affairs and next is the
chief of the general staff. The general staff was patterned after the
German general staff. Authority flows through six departments:
(1) operations, (2) intelligence (GRU), (3) communications, (4)
organization and mobilization, (5) topography, (6) history in-
The navy, like the other services, also has a general staff. It is
under the chief of the staff for operations and implements the
directives of the general staff itself. The historical administration
works closely with the military academies and besides publishing
books and studies formulates strategy and doctrine.
The term of first enlistment in the navy, until 1956, was 5
years, 1 year longer than in the other services. It was reduced
finally to 3 years except for aviation personnel who serve 2 years
only. The reduction in the years of service reflects a decline in the
popularity of enlisted careers. There was some expectation that a
reduction in the initial enlistment together with an improvement
in the standard of living would lead to more reenlistments.
After active service all Soviet citizens are enlisted in the reserves
and must have active-duty training periodically, depending on
their category and age, until they are 50. At that time, their
obligation is considered to be paid.
Until they are 35, reservists are subject to four periods of
training which can last as long as 3 months each. Pilots are subject
to five flight training sessions of 40 days each. All enlisted
reservists can be called up at any time for "examination sessions"
which may last up to 10 days. Reserve officers can be called up for
training duty much more frequently and for considerably longer
periods. Reserve officers can be assigned in peacetime to active
duty for 2 to 3 years if they are less than 30 years of age. This is
not an uncommon practice. However, training for all Soviet
citizens begins prior to induction. At the age of 15, whether at
school, in a factory or on a collective farm, youths must begin
their military education. Time, by law, is set aside for it.
The romanticization of the military as well as practical
indoctrination begins at an even earlier age, however. Soviet
literature contains references to training students in the work of
civil defense in the fourth through the seventh grades. During
competitions in military games these young students get badges
such as "young rifleman," "marksman," "radio enthusiasts" or
"young sailor." The training becomes even more formalized in
the summer when the Young Pioneers, of whom there are some 16
million from the ages of 10 to 15, conduct military exercises in
their summer camps. These games are taken quite seriously and are
even given military sponsorship. For example, in the Vladivostok
area the Young Pioneers engaged with the navy in assault landings
and the repulse of an "enemy" naval assault force. At the end of
this exercise some 6,500 Young Pioneers passed in review. 6
Furthermore, children engage in civil defense drills. References
are made to the problems of presenting the reasons for civil
defense to children in grade schools without causing them
nightmares. Teachers have resisted talking about weapons of mass
destruction or explaining why it is necessary to wear gas masks. At
the same time that the civil defense authorities were trying to get
the teachers to give the children selected stories on "military
patriotic themes," the civil defense lessons were obviously meant
to glorify military service also, as the advice is that "one cannot
talk about the methods and means of protection against weapons
of mass destruction in classes with the fifth and ninth grades and
not mention our armed forces, their combat might and the
heroism and courage of the Soviet fighting men." 7
The size of the Soviet Armed Forces including the border
guards and internal security troops is put at approximately 3.7
million. 8 There are an estimated 450,000 in the navy. Of the total
in the armed forces, approximately 700,000 (using the basis that
one fifth of the armed forces) are officers and 400,000 are enlisted
men on extended service. The conscript force is approximately
2,700,000. As only 1,300,000 draftees are required each year, it is
estimated that this is one half of the 18-year olds available.
The various changes in personnel policy as well as the frequency
of articles about making military life more attractive suggest that
service in the Soviet Armed Forces is not popular with Soviet
youth. The period of enlistment was reduced and a
reenlistment incentive was introduced by making it possible to
acquire quasi-officer status as a kind of warrant officer. This move
apparently was not successful and regulations were changed to
make it possible for an enlisted man to become a warrant officer
and then move on to officer status after 3 years of service by
entering a higher military school. Various other inducements such
as longer leaves and better living conditions were introduced in
order to try to improve reenlistment ratios in the enlisted and
warrant officer ranks. According to current practice, new navy
enlistees are trained in special schools after which they advance to
petty officers. Those who reenlist and choose a permanent career
in the navy are then selected for a rank more or less equivalent to
that of warrant officer, known in the navy as michman. This
change in the enlisted rates which took place in 1971 reflected the
new awareness of the advanced technical and scientific nature of a
A conscripted sailor does not receive pay but rather an
allowance of from 3 to 5 rubles a month. His pay is about 50
rubles a year which buys far less than would $50. This is sufficient
for cheap cigarettes or a few chocolate bars. The low pay is a
means of control. It is insufficient for a sailor to buy a bottle of
vodka or to have a night on the town.
The post exchanges carry little beyond the necessities and are a
constant subject of complaint. They suffer from the Soviet
problem of inadequate distribution which results in one store
being criticized (in Red Star) for not having a single box of
matches. 9 One thing that is abundant is reading material.
According to Red Star approximately 40 million books a year are
distributed through the military system. That is at least 10 books
per man. 1 ° They are not the entertaining stories enlisted men read
in the West however. There are no "skin" books, news magazines
or diverting mystery stories. Instead, the men get largely the
classics -Tolstoy, Chekov and Dostoevsky-the works of Lenin and
other socialist leaders and modern "inspirational" socialist fiction.
The problem of inducing youth into the military is one that
does not fit the ideology of the "new Marxist man." Service life is
idealized. Such a degree of lyricism was reached in a description of
military life in Red Star:
The happiness that is found in books does not exist.
Neither the comfort of large cities, nor the comfort of
restaurants, nor endless pastimes make up the romance of a
normal, full-blooded life. Romance is born in far away
garrisons where mad storms wander, where all around you is
the taiga arctic landscape or sunny desert which, in another
era, only a plane could reach. In my opinion, romance lives
unique, light and pure in the hearts of those who subordinate
everything to the formula -myself, my collective, my mother-
land. This formula gives birth to heroes. Subordinate the
personal to the collective; live for the motherland! Remem-
ber always that no matter what you might do, the collective
has formed you and the motherland has given you happi-
ness. 1 '
However stirring these calls to arms may be they have been
notably unsuccessful in maintaining the attractiveness of the
military career. In terms of prestige, a 1969 study placed the
military occupation in popularity below nearly all scientific and
technical occupations and that of aircraft pilot on a 10-point scale.
The most desirable occupation was to be a pilot. Physicians rated
5.3. Below physicians came writers and artists at 5.2, university
teachers at 4.5, and finally the professional military at 4.3
followed by "social scientists in philosophy" at 4.2. ("Social
scientists in philosophy" means, of course, Marxist theoreticians.)
Below them came primary school teachers at 2.5 and so on. 1 2
In the popularity contest among the services, the navy is
probably well ahead. One of the great dreams of most Soviet
citizens is the forbidden one of foreign travel. The navy offers
almost the only opportunity to visit foreign countries. Admiral
Gorshkov and other admirals undoubtedly have this advantage in
mind when they make a point of mentioning in most speeches and
articles the frequency of foreign visits.
Officers are paid according to their rank and according to their
job or billet. For example, a lieutenant would receive 60 rubles a
month and if he were the commanding officer of a minesweeper,
he might receive an additional 75 rubles. On top of that if he had
already served for 5 years, he would receive 10 percent additional,
and the end of 10 years, 15 percent and so on. For long voyages at
sea, there is another percentage added and for service in remote
areas of the Soviet Union there is still another.
Officers' uniforms— including underwear, socks, and even hand-
kerchiefs-are supplied by the navy. Officers must pay for their
apartments and do not receive an allowance for that purpose, but
rent is a small sum, about 15 rubles per month. Soviets also pay
income taxes. All of their medical services and vacations at
sanatoriums and resorts are free. However, medical treatment for
families of officers is not provided by the military but must be
obtained at the civilian facilities. The military does pay 50 percent
of the cost of travel to a military resort for the family of an
To get some idea of the inflated pay of the military, here are
the salary ranges per month for some skilled occupations:
engineers, from 80 to 400 rubles; doctors, from 80 to 150 rubles;
factory managers, from 400 to 500 rubles; secretaries for regional
Communist Party Committees (equivalent to governors of state),
350 to 500 rubles.
While it is difficult to compare wages because of the different
scales according to billet, a typical example might be as follows: a
lieutenant commander, captain of a destroyer in Magadan, would
Base pay 90 rubles
For CO 95 rubles
Seniority 10 rubles
Food 20 rubles
Climate 45 rubles (approximately)
An officer, serving on a ship in Magadan, would receive the
highest bonuses in pay and probably 2 years for each one he
served toward retirement, because of the severity of the climate. A
lieutenant commander makes basically about three times as much
as the average worker. The base pay of a captain is 130 rubles and
of a full admiral is 220 rubles per month. Of course, both would
receive other allowances and the admiral would have the use of
special housing possibly including a dacha (summer home or
cottage in the woods).
There is considerable competition to get to sea because the
rewards for sea duty are quite high and .deployments and
operational periods away from port are not normally as long as in
the U.S. Navy.
Age limits for various ranks were established in 1967. A
lieutenant may serve to the age of 40; commanders until 45;
captains until 50; and admirals until 60. There is no age limit for
marshals of the Soviet Union or admirals of the fleet who
normally serve until they die or become incapacitated.
Evaluations of officers are done as part of a kind of inspection
review by a special commission formed for that purpose once a
year. The commission makes decisions, which are revealed to the
officer after confirmation by higher authority, which can deter-
mine his promotion or demotion, release to the reserve, or even
"spot" promotion outside of the normal rotation.
A fixed rotation of ship to shore assignments does not appear to
exist. Officers may serve in various billets for very prolonged
periods. The most obvious example is Admiral Gorshkov himself
who has been the Admiral of the Fleet since 1955. (Incidentally,
the frequent predictions of Admiral Gorshkov's imminent retire-
ment are another example of the projection of U.S. customs.)
The standard length of tour aboard ship is 3 or 4 years. On ships
the size of destroyer escorts or large minesweepers, an officer
serves as a department head or a commanding officer for about 3
years and on larger ships and submarines for 4 years. On major
ships it can be 5 years or longer.
In the Soviet officer corps there is an unusual feature. Position is
more important than rank. For example, it is not uncommon for the
commanding officer of a ship to be junior in rank to his executive
officer. Many combinations are possible. Perhaps this is a carryover
from the early days of the Revolution when a leader could be
advanced because of his relatively greater political reliability.
Attaining the billet of a commanding officer marks a naval
officer out for particular respect and those who have been selected
and have served as commanding officers are given special training
and education for their future careers.
Military life is not easy. According to the regulations enlisted
men must be given 8 hours of sleep and have 2 hours a day for
relaxation with their comrades; however, energetic political
officers use the rest and relaxation periods for giving the militarily
edifying lectures on Marxism/Leninism or the dangers of imperial-
Drunkenness is a major problem within the Soviet Union and
within the armed forces as well. Attempts are made to associate it
with a carryover from the capitalists and bourgeois past. Neverthe-
less, some of the relaxing discussions organized for the sailors' free
time with his comrades are on the subject of "Drunkenness, a
Cause of Crime and Enemy of Health." Films with such titles as
"Wine Begets Guilt" are also shown. 1 5
For naval personnel, military life introduces some particular
problems. The ports in the Pacific and Northern Fleets are not
only located in remote areas but also where extremely adverse
climate affects the quality of a life already quite dull. In the region
around Murmansk the ground is covered with snow except for
about a month in late July and early August and the Arctic nights
last for half the year. Although conditions are somewhat better on
the Pacific, it is at the end of the line for the distribution of goods
(although efforts are made to give it a priority) and far from most
families and sources of entertainment.
The stern nature of Marxist ideology coupled with the conserva-
tive and narrow outlook of the Russian peasant culture (which now
having power dictates taste) means that there are few sources of
relaxation or entertainment that are not meant to be improving. Life
in Russian towns, outside of the Western capitals of Kiev, Moscow
and Leningrad, is incredibly dull. For most people there is nothing
light and diverting to read (newspapers are devoted largely to party
exhortations) or amusing to do. There are few bars and dancehalls
(and they are difficult to get into and barred to peasants in that
egalitarian society) and no cabarets or nightclubs. There are
supposed to be no prostitutes. Only large towns have restaurants,
and they are always crowded and generally serve food of poor
quality by Western standards. (At one time, the plan called for
restaurants, no matter what their size, to spend only 5 rubles a day
on vegetables.) In any case, without money from home, draftees
cannot afford to pay for one meal out a month.
While the navy does hold out the promise of a chance to see
foreign ports, that is not a promise for everyone. It is used to
extract increased sacrifice from the sailors. If the political officer
has anything against them, they will not get ashore or will be
transferred to the inevitable tender that lies off the coast. In any
case, the navy now means long voyages, long separations, and an
absence of the rewards in foreign ports to which sailors are
accustomed. Sailors are given very little foreign exchange, very
little time for sightseeing and are required to return by the evening
In naval training, repeated drill is greatly emphasized not only
for groups but also for individuals. It is believed that continuous
training is absolutely essential both at sea and when the ship is in
home port as well. 1 4 It is in this light that long cruises are justified
and viewed as essential. They promote not only experience in
unfamiliar waters but also endurance and the ability to develop
flexible responses to rapidly changing climatic conditions. This
justification for long cruises is frequently mentioned in naval
writing. As Fleet Admiral Kasatonov said:
Ocean cruises have become the main means of training our
Red Banner Fleets. In cruises of vigilance, the sailors get a
general perspective on their training, acquire sound knowl-
edge and naval tempering, and practice solving operational
training tasks under complex conditions on the seas and
oceans. 1 5
One of the major purposes of training is to prepare soldiers and
sailors for nuclear war. There is much in Soviet military literature
about the psychologically disabling effects of nuclear weapons and
the need to harden the military to conduct combat operations
under conditions of "tremendous tension and accompanied by
collosal destruction and mass losses of people and equipment," as
Army General Kulikov said. 1 6
Under conditions of mass destruction the military will have to
operate in a state of shock and in recognition of that reality much
Soviet training is directed toward hardening them for that
circumstance. Great emphasis is put on combat realism such as in
the naval exercises in Okean 1970 and Okean 1975.
The impossibility of duplicating nuclear realism was regretted
by General of the Army Epishev, the Head of the Political
Directorate, who said,
Certainly, as much as we might wish, we are not able to
demonstrate the full effect on nuclear explosion and its
consequences, or to accustom the men to the effect of its
injurious factors in the exercises. But in the future, it is
essential to improve these simulators . . . the soldiers and
sailors must be ready to accept unexpected complex and
dangerous situations. 1 7
According to the Soviet press one of the favorite methods of
approximating these stresses and hardening crews is through the
device of frequent alerts and calls to quarters, apparently even just
after coming home from long cruises.
The Soviet doctrine on war, which gives considerable weight to
seizing the initiative and the speed of attack, dictates an
extremely great emphasis upon combat readiness. Consequent
requirements are that weapons must be in excellent condition,
that specialists must be highly trained and that the strictest
discipline and organizational procedures must be observed and
that all of these elements are interdependent. One element
essential to combat readiness is precise computation of time. For
that reason, stopwatches are often used by naval commanders and
inspectors during naval training. Because of these demands for
speed and accuracy, constant readiness and alertness, observers
frequently suggest that naval squadrons and crews, even in
peaceful circumstances, live and work under the laws of battle
conditions. (It is surely absurd of NATO to think it will have
30-days warning of the imminence of hostilities.)
The stopwatch frequently determines the winner in socialist
competition. For example there are regular naval competitions for
the championship in finding and destroying enemy submarines.
According to Red Star, an outstanding submarine exceeded the
norm for tracking an enemy submarine by two and one half
times. 1 8
The heavy emphasis on the morale factors for winning the war
is connected with combat readiness. Military writers obviously
would believe in the importance of the weight of the collective,
bravery, self-sacrifice, and the willingness to take risks as essential
elements of the modern fighting man.
Sailors are expected to bear any hardships and to show an
insurmountable will for victory and to "withstand the severe stress
of war without losing the will to win." 1 9 Because of these severe
stresses, Soviet military policy apparently dictates a very strict
adherence to regulations and routines of procedure. This of course
is in conflict with the demands of initiative and independent
judgment, especially under conditions of nuclear warfare. Never-
theless, frequent references are made to the need for absolute
adherence to regulations. As stated in Red Star,
The secret of turning a collective into a monolith lies in a
source accessible to us all -military regulations. The most
important lever in uniting a collective is strict and undeviated
fulfillment of the regulations and maintenance of exemplary-
order in the units and sub-unit. 2 °
The belief is that through Soviet collectivism, the Soviet people
and Soviet fighting men will prove greatly superior to the
populations of imperialistic and capitalistic nations and that
therefore they will prevail.
In the drab Soviet reality, rituals of various sorts are created to
make military life seem more acceptable. All of the organs of
the media devote a very large percentage of their time to
glamorizing life at sea, life on submarines, life in remote garrisons,
and the heroism of death for the motherland. When they start
their service, inductees are given an elaborate sendoff in village
ceremonies with speeches, bands, reminiscenses by veterans, and
bouquets of flowers. There is also a ritual reception when the new
enlisted men, or officers, are greeted with ceremony upon their
arrival in their units.
The ritual begins with a meeting of all the officers in the
unit. In solemn surroundings, the commander introduces the
newly arrived officers, and talks to them about the combat
path and tradition. Such meetings are organized in such
places as the museum of combat glory. 2 1
There is a special ceremony for the initiation of submariners in
an obvious effort to emphasize the submarine service as the
leading arm of the navy. But it is also meant to reinforce the will
and harden the characters of the new sailors. As Red Star said,
"Naturally, this has a great emotional influence on a man and
engenders in him the aspiration to endure the difficulties of life
One function of the ritual is to create as quickly as possible the
sense of a collective through which behavior can be controlled.
The collective is extremely important both in the rewards and the
punishments of sailors and officers. For example, expressions of
praise for enlisted men and warrant officers are delivered to the
serviceman in the presence of his unit, or entries are made in the
"Book of Honor" of the unit or ship. The serviceman's collective
farm or former place of work is notified of his performance. In
general, honors are publicly conferred and special achievements
are celebrated with a dignified reception amid flowered wreaths
In addition to the awards of badges and titles of "out-
standing" which are given for exceptional competence and per-
formance, a ship or unit that has shown unusual courage in
the face of the enemy is granted the title "Guards Unit." Ever
after, it is referred to by its guards title, and it is given special
colors and insignia.
At the same time, punishment is also severe and also in-
volves, quite frequently, bringing to bear the pressure of the
collective. If a serviceman is sentenced to punishment in a dis-
ciplinary battalion, the allowances paid to his family are
stopped, no matter what hardships that might inflict. A ser-
viceman who has been accused of bad behavior is threatened
with having his family or collective informed of his poor per-
formance. Trials are normally held publicly and on shipboard a
trial probably is used as a spectacle and is made into an all-
hands evolution. When a case is decided to be sufficiently
representative, it is given publicity and coverage in Red Star.
No one's personal dignity is spared. Names are named and free
play is given to accusations of behavior inconsistent with Red
Star's interpretation of proper collective attitudes. In this way,
the press acts as another judge and jury.
The collective will is not just a Marxist one but is deeply seated
in Russian culture. Nevertheless, it is being used as a powerful tool
of party control and manipulation. The party is represented as the
soul and core of Soviet collectives.
Although there is a great effort made to form collectives out of
crews servicing airplanes, units firing certain weapons, crews of
submarines or ships, there is also the other side of the coin: the
fear of loss of control over what might become a "microcollec-
tive." In other words there is fear that a loyalty will be developed
to an individual unit or ship at the expense of the collective as a
whole and especially of the party. There is then this dilemma
between driving units to higher excellence through competition
and at the same time avoiding the formation of unit egotism
leading to it a sense of independence from the controls.
In discussing the role of the collective in determining a Soviet
sailor's effectiveness in war, the important point is that whether or
not he supports the ideology, whether or not he supports the
current regime (both questions which Soviet sailors would
probably never ask themselves in any concrete terms, much less
discuss with their colleagues), historic and cultural traditions
within Soviet society exert enormous pressures that can be
expected to produce or form predictable patterns of behavior.
Through the weapon of approval or condemnation of the
collective, powerful Soviet authority can be asserted to main-
tain a kind of conformity that still allows within it much
innovative behavior. The idea of the collective, which shares
many similar aspects of the idea of collective morale as prac-
ticed in our armed forces, has, however, a wider, deeper and
more persuasive meaning in the Soviet Union. Because every-
thing is organized into collectives, because the members of the
armed forces grow up in collectives, because personality and
goals are defined in terms of the collective, exclusion from a
collective carries with it some connotation of being excluded
from life as well. Therefore the pressures of collective behavior
patterns are not only positive, as they are in the United
States, but are also and perhaps primarily negative. While there
are few examples of this kind of pressure known to the West,
the most famous and obvious one is that of the Soviet writer
Alexander Solzhenitsyn who, although in danger of his life and
certainly of his freedom within the Soviet Union, fought long
and valiantly in order not to be excluded from the Soviet
Union, from his language, heritage and collective.
Another kind of pressure is a collective sense of responsibility
to the motherland. The military is always being reminded of its
obligations to the country. The massive media coverage of the
Second World War, the horrors of starvation and destruction, are
kept before the eyes of the whole civilian and military population.
In addition there is rarely a speech or article by any Soviet
military authority in which the sudden German invasion is not
cited in order to prove the need for constant and unceasing
vigilance. As the former Minister of Defense, Marshal A.A.
Grechko, expressed it in one of the infinite variations on the same
Our problem is to increase the military preparedness of the
troops, and the fleet to the highest level to adopt every
means for raising vigilance of the staff, to perfect the conduct
of military watches in order that no sneakiness of the enemy
could possibly throw us into confusion. 2 3
All of the organs of press and propaganda are constantly
reminding the armed forces of the will of the party and the militant
spirit of the nation. The lines of communication are almost
overwhelming in their multitude. Besides the military press, radio,
television, films, and newspapers, there is also fiction in the form of
novels, plays and poems that are produced by the Military
Establishment, published in military organs, and read by military
readers. Lines also from political, social, security, and educational
organizations reaching every ship and unit of the Soviet Navy
throughout the world also stress the party will.
The third form in which the collective spirit is used to control
the behavior of the Soviet sailors is the unit traditions of heroism
generally associated with the Second World War. Unlike the U.S.
Navy, where billet rotation means that every organization is in a
constant state of flux, there is relative stability in the Soviet Navy
with respect to leadership and personnel assignment. Of course,
officers rotate and fill different billets; nevertheless, it is not
unusual for the commanding officers of a ship to have that
command for many years, for teaching staffs to remain relatively
unchanged, and for crews to have long periods on the same ship.
In any case, there appears to be a high incidence of long service
within one or another of the fleets.
The effect of this comparative stability appears likely to facilitate
the use of the heritage of past victories to control or at least to
influence the behavior of the officers and men. A large portion of
Soviet military propaganda is directed toward that end, and not only
the military crews but also the civilian population, schoolchildren,
workers and foreign tourists are lectured about the fearless and
heroic traditions of this or that unit or ship. The award of medals and
orders from World War II alone seems to have been in sufficient
quantity to keep military historians occupied for the foreseeable
future. For example, 78 ships and units of the fleet were given the
highly coveted honor of being called "Guards" in their title, which in
effect designated them as an elitist unit. In addition, some 238 other
units and ships of the fleet were given honorary orders. All four
fleets, the Northern, the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Pacific,
have been awarded the order of the Red Banner, the Baltic Fleet
having won that honor twice. During the war 350,000 sailors,
petty officers and officers received awards and medals for bravery
and heroism and 580 sailors received the highest honor, Hero of
the Soviet Union, seven of whom received it twice. 2 4
These titles, honors and orders are not allowed to become mere
empty phrases. In the official Soviet language when you want to
refer to the Baltic Fleet, you must say "Two Time Winner of the
Order of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet." If you are referring to the
Frunze Naval Academy you will refer to it as "The Higher Naval
Order of Lenin, Red Banner, Order of Ushakov Academy named
after N.V. Frunze." The uninitiated would have difficulty recog-
nizing under that ponderous appellation the institution founded
by Peter the Great in 1702.
One cannot help questioning how seriously this should be
taken. To the Western reader such a blatant political and patriotic
indoctrination would seem absurd. Perhaps that condition of
absurdity is the very measure of the seriousness with which it
should be judged. It certainly is a measure of the distance between
our two cultures. Such patriotic political propaganda could be
published hardly anywhere in the West without exciting laughter.
Yet, it occupies millions of pages of newsprint daily in the Soviet
One useful approach to understanding this facet of the Soviet
political and military mind is to regard it as working somewhat
like a religion; that is to say, to think of it as using a theological
rather than a logical cognitive process. In the Soviet Union, the
intended result is the thing that must determine the selection and
interpretation of information. For example, the triumph of the
Communist Party and the Soviet state determines what facts of
current history may be recognized and what facts must be ignored.
A history of the Second World War as seen from the Soviet point
of view is not a history of events in chronological order, of battles
won or lost, but a history of the triumphs of the leadership of the
Communist Party and the heroism of the Soviet collective. In the
official history of the Soviet Navy in the Second World War, 25
there is no analysis of any defeats. In fact the word is hardly ever
mentioned. In the whole history of the war, the role in the final
victory of foreign supplies and materiel is not discussed. When the
subject of the convoys to Murmansk could not be avoided, it was
merely said that the goods they brought were in exchange for
Soviet raw materials that they carried back. One reads that the few
small ships lent by the United States were returned at the end of
the war. So much for lend-lease.
There is an allusion to the importance of the convoys but not
from the Soviet position in this official naval history. Instead the
point of view is that of Hitler. The Soviet line asserts that he made
a mistake in thinking that the convoys were of extreme im-
portance to the Soviet Union and therefore erroneously decided to
use surface ships and submarines to achieve a victory in the East.
In exaggerating the significance of this aid, he "assumed that the
delivery to the Soviet Union of goods, materiel, and ammunition
from America and England would significantly strengthen the Red
If one tries to read Soviet history or Soviet political com-
mentary as if it were written with all of the academic and
scholarly precepts for truth and accuracy that are characteristic of
writing in the West, one simply dissipates one's intellectual ability
in indignation. For example, such is a likely reaction to the tribute
paid to the heroism and bravery of the Americans who died on the
Murmansk run during the war. In a history praising every minor
Soviet action as sheer genius, the U.S. aid and its sailors' sacrifices
are referred to as follows: "During the whole period of the War,
738 transport ships in 41 convoys arrived and 726 transports in 36
Allied convoys left." 2 7
If on the other hand one understands that these versions of
history are meant to be in part parables, that they are in fact
lessons for right conduct and proofs of the miraculous results of
right thinking, then one can begin to understand the paradise that
is promised and the demanding path toward salvation.
The hurdle is to realize that truth here is simply deductive,
conceived through the same process as a religious truth. Negative
events such as defeat and calamities simply have no place in the
big plan. For this reason the observer needs special tools or
preparations to be able to read and to understand Soviet
publications and to perceive intimations of strategic intentions
conveyed in a ritual language. 2 8
In Western ports Soviet sailors have been observed to go
about only in groups. (In the 1960s, until adverse publicity
forced the political officers to change their orders, Soviet sailors
at liberty in a foreign port were required to hold hands.) What is
not generally known is that the pressure for this kind of group
evolution takes place in the Soviet Union as well. It is part of a
whole system of surveillance and group control that the party has
made a ubiquitous part of Soviet life. For example, soldiers or
sailors who go to the theater or on an excursion are required to
move in formation under the command of the senior in the
group. 2 9
Soviet officers are encouraged to take their vacations in groups
and efforts are made to form collectives out of the families. Crews
and units are kept under the constant surveillance of political
officers and party activists.
Although 200 separate languages are recognized in the Soviet
Union, only Russian is used in the Soviet Armed Forces. The
authorities are obviously not pleased that minority languages exist
and the military apparently brings considerable pressure, no doubt
on the basis of national security, to enforce the standards for
reading and writing Russian at the secondary school level.
Indications are that the linguistic and cultural differences are not
only persisting but are also increasing. A study of the 1970 census
indicated that Russians in the Soviet Union will be in a minority by
1985, and that Slavs which includes Great Russians, White Russians
and Ukrainians, will be in a minority by the year 2000. Nevertheless,
the principle of multinational crews is adhered to, at least for
publicity purposes. One submarine crew was said to contain men
from 22 republics and regions representing 11 nationalities. 30
The fact of the class differences represented by the military
structure in a Communist state is glossed over in Soviet writing.
Differences between ranks are strictly enforced, apparently to a
greater extent than in capitalist military organizations.
After the Revolution, the idea of ranks was not considered
consistent with the aims of the Communists and ranks were
abolished. In 1935, they were largely restored. In 1950, the
various ranks of generals and admirals were reintroduced. The rank
of marshal, which did not exist in czarist Russia, was introduced
and the special rank of generalissimo, which had never before
existed, was formulated for Stalin.
The distinction between ranks is maintained in spite of the
Marxist goal of a classless society. As it was put in one military
journal, "On official service matters military personnel must address
each other in the impersonal form." The "impersonal form" is, of
course, the formal means of address between superior and inferior.
The class origin of generals and admirals serves to emphasize the
changing nature of Soviet society. Fifty-four percent of flag
officers are of peasant descent, but about 85 percent of young
officers are the children of manual and office workers. Only 15
percent come from the ranks of agricultural workers. Nor are
they the sons of the proletariat, the workers, in whose name the
Revolution was fought and who give the Soviet Communist Party's
worldwide aspirations their Marxist legitimacy.
The transformation of the Red Navy into a modern bureaucracy
with inherited self-interest is not surprising. Neither is it surprising
that many dominant Russian cultural traditions and czarist
concepts have reasserted themselves. After all, man is the creature
of his preconceptions.
In very broad terms, there were two great currents in Russian
life which converged to bring about the Revolution, one political
and the other social. The major justification for the repressive
measures of the czarist regime was that such sacrifices were
required if Russia was to be the most powerful state in the world.
The defeats of the Crimean, Russo-Japanese and First World Wars
disastrously undermined that argument and made the government
It appears that these factors are again -although slowly and
erratically —reappearing in Soviet society. The distance between
the classes is growing and the repressions, which continue, some
with increased severity, are weakly justified by the needs, to use
Gorshkov's words, for "the power of the state." In the meantime,
the gap between depressing Soviet life and foreign standards
grows. In an age of mass communications, even with Soviet
censorship and jamming, it is impossible to keep the people
ignorant of their suffering and deprivation. That plus the official
fear and ignorance of the outside world creates terrible internal
Those on watch and responsible for crisis decisions can gain
little comfort from this state of affairs. It is necessary to consider
the Soviet policy as originating from an internal code that few in
America can interpret correctly. (The projection of some American
concept of "the reasonable thing" onto Soviet leaders is, of
course, absurd.) The Soviet Union, having destroyed the fabric of
its social structure and normal relations between men, lives in a
mental world of its own creation. It is ruled by autocrats who,
ignorant of the outside world and with few internal checks and
balances— far fewer than Nicholas II had, certainly— are capable of
religious madness in the role of the vicars of Marx, the terrible,
inhuman violence of the righteously unbalanced. The world has no
choice but to wait in fear and on guard for a return to sanity.
ORGANIZATION FOR WAR
THE TACTICS OF WAR
It may be debatable that there is a "national" approach to
strategy, i.e., that the British and Americans tend to be pragmatic,
the French spirited but erratic, and the Germans careful and
methodical. About Soviet military thought, however, there can be
no argument. It is conceived, developed and implemented as a
national science. Discussions of military doctrine are tied to a firm
theoretical and scientific base.
While the Soviets like to trace the ideal of the systematization
of military knowledge back to Henry Lloyd, who served in Russia
under Catherine in the 19th century, the introduction of Marxist
dialectics led to a major refinement of the method of military
thought and to some new formulations in military science. Russian
thought characteristically searched for a totality. The idea of Marx
and Engels that there were scientific laws governing all phenom-
ena, which were all interrelated in a material universe, found a
very sympathetic audience. Undeniably, Marxism brought about
different ways of looking at the universe and yielded new concepts
about science, including military science.
A key concept was that war had evolved into a complex
national undertaking not only because of the introduction of new
weapons and techniques but also because of the development of
new industry and of the participation of the working masses. The
idea of military strategy, it was argued, was no longer sufficient to
explain war. Instead, it was understood as a social phenomenon
with an economic base. The Soviets criticized Western theore-
ticians for thinking that the problems of war could be placed
within the framework of strategy alone and explained that this
backwardness was caused by the egocentric orientation of Western
concepts, their emphasis on individual strokes of genius. 1
Instead the Soviets devised a theoretical and unitary "science"
of the practice of war in which there was a continuing dialectical
modification between strategic theory and strategic practice; that
is, each affected the other in a continuing relationship that
ensured a constant, never-ending interaction.
The Soviet idea of military science leads to some very fixed
categories, however, that characterize Soviet thought. For ex-
ample, the dictates of military science require that there be exact
classifications of various military disciplines and a whole series of
hierarchies in which relative positions are assigned that then
determine the weight of various military capabilities. For example,
the speeches of the Minister of Defense on an anniversary of the
Great War of the Fatherland (World War II) designate the relative
importance of the various services and in turn, the ranking of the
weapons systems within each service; e.g., long-range strategic
submarines take precedence within the navy.
In the elaboration of their system, the Soviets have devised two
terms that are somewhat confusing: military science and military
art. Although they appear sometimes to be used interchangeably,
the two terms refer to different methods of analysis. Military
science is the theoretical study of war. Its object is to discover
those laws that are universally valid. The theory of military art, on
the other hand, applies to the actual practice of war itself. It is
divided into the studies of strategy, operational art, and tactics.
By strategy the Soviets mean roughly the same as we mean in
the West. The only difference is that their use of the term is more
encompassing in the sense that it emphasizes the role of the
political and civilian sectors and the psychological preparation of
the masses. Military strategy is always emphasized as being closely
connected with all other social and natural sciences as it must
absorb quickly new scientific discoveries and achievements when
formulating its own goals.
Another way in which the study of strategy differs from the
general practice in the West is in its emphasis on future war.
Although certainly all strategic concepts relate, by implication, to
future wars, Western strategic emphasis is upon deterrence (the
impossibility of war-its "unthinkableness"— is a widespread pre-
conception), while the Soviet concept looks toward the proba-
bility of war and its victorious conduct. The Soviet perception,
therefore, lays enormous stress on the civilian and industrial
sectors of the economy and on morale or as it is called "the
spiritual state of the masses." In other words, the Soviet concept
of strategy is never very far from the practical problems of
preparing the country for war. Also, it deals with the laws of war
as an armed conflict in the name of certain class interests. War is
always political and being political implies a hierarchy of moral
values including the destruction of backward social systems, a
legitimate undertaking as it is historically inevitable.
The foregoing obviously means that Soviet strategic concepts
about war must include nuclear missile warfare. The theoretical
approach to war clearly drives it in the direction of all-out nuclear
strikes; and tactics must be able to implement nuclear strike
Naval strategy cannot be separated from overall strategy that is
dictated by politics and is that part of military art concerning
itself with the fundamentals of preparing for and waging war as a
whole. By denying an individual strategic role to any of the
services, the theory insures a conceptual coordination. This idea is
stated in the Officers' Handbook. "Coordination of the actions of
all the services of the armed forces in war is possible only within
the framework of a common military strategy." 2
Military thought is divided basically into three sections and our
concern with these sections is partly the result of our understand-
ing the degree to which they can be known outside the Soviet
Union. The three sections are: military science, military art, and
military doctrine. Military science, the examination of the
technological nature of weapons, specifically the scientific princi-
ples governing them, is generally open for discussion within the
Soviet Union and is reflected in numerous articles in journals
received abroad. Many scientific articles relate to foreign equip-
ment. By implication one assumes that they relate also to Soviet
Military art is about the employment and coordination of
weapons. As long as the discussion is theoretical and abstracted
from specific Soviet systems it may take place also in unclassified
The third category is military doctrine that results from the
assessment of the political situation in the world and is determined
at the highest levels. Changes in military doctrine, which are
matters of considerable secrecy, are only known by their
reflection in changes in military tactics, equipment or theories.
For example, until about 1965 Soviet military doctrine was
believed to hold that any war with NATO or the United States
would immediately escalate into a nuclear war. But in 1965 an
article by Colonel-General Lomov 3 argued that local conventional
wars could occur in Europe in which tactical nuclear weapons
might or might not be used and that the U.S.S.R. should be
prepared to fight such wars. The implications were that such wars
could remain conventional. Soon after, new equipment in the
Soviet divisions in Europe seemed to indicate that the possibility
of flexible response had become part of the military, and therefore
the political, doctrine of the Soviet Union. The third edition of
Marshal Sokolovskiy's Strategy contained a number of revisions
that seemed to underscore the concepts of flexible response;
however, that was a side issue. 4 Conventional weapons, like
aircraft carriers, would be useful in many ways but against the
main enemy, the United States, it was the doctrine (at least in
practice) that nuclear weapons would certainly be used.
The Officers' Handbook is clear about the role of military
doctrine. Doctrine is established only after the Communist Party
of the Soviet Union has formulated its conclusions and interpreta-
tions about the current stages of development of socialism with
respect to the historical level of imperialistic powers; that is, their
degree of disintegration. All of this, of course, is interpreted in the
light of the "scientific" laws of Marxism translated into Leninist
tactics pointing toward the "inevitable" victory of the socialist
system. There is no question that when pronouncements are made
about doctrine they are no longer subject to debate. Doctrine is "a
single system of views and directions free from private views and
evaluations." 5 But in military science contradictory points of view
are permitted and varying hypotheses can be presented.
Officially defined, military doctrine is:
A system of guiding views and directions of a state on the
character of wars in given specific historical conditions, the
determination of the military tasks of the states, the armed
forces and the principles of their structuring and also the
methods and forms of solving all these tasks, including the arms
struggle which flows from the goals of war and the socio-eco-
nomic and military technical possibilities of a country. 6
When, as is frequently now the case, official Soviet spokesmen
make the statement that the correlation of forces has changed in the
the favor of the socialist camp, we may assume (1) that this is a
reflection of a change in military estimates and (2) that there are
consequent changes in concepts of military strategy. When such
statements are connected with other pronouncements concerning
the economic decline of the West and the crisis of capitalism,
comments frequently found in the Soviet press, we may be sure that
strategic assessments have been revised and should not be surprised
to see new and more aggressive political and military initiatives.
The other way in which we can assess Soviet military strategy is
through its historical development, and statements in contem-
Commander Herrick's book, Soviet Naval Strategy, illustrates
the extreme difficulty involved in trying to determine Soviet
strategy on the basis of evidence that appears in the press. He
could prove his thesis that there was serious interest in a
blue-water navy in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. What was not
revealed, however, was how serious that interest was, what
strategies were influenced by it or what caused the idea to be
dropped. The kind of material that Commander Herrick analyzed
is not defined by the Soviets as naval strategy at all but naval art.
Soviet naval art has to do with the use of weapons. It is the
translation of theoretical decisions into practice and is generally
treated as classified information.
The Soviets have named three stages in the development of
military art since World War II. 7 These stages undoubtedly also
reflect changes in Soviet military strategy. The first stage was from
1945 to 1953, the second from 1953 to 1959, and the third began
in 1960 and has lasted presumably until the present. (Some would
probably argue that at least in naval art there was another period
that began just before 1975. They would point to the articles of
Admiral Gorshkov. But Admiral Gorshkov only elaborated ideas
that he had expressed in 1967 and that were the fulfillment of
Stalinist concepts of 1945. Although the basic direction remained
the same, the doctrines around 1975 recognized to a greater
degree the possibility of limited war and the use of military
presence only under conditions of the changed correlation of
The first period, ending in 1953, was clearly one dominated by
Stalin. Nevertheless, the major principles of that time were not
totally different from those that succeeded them. The massive
forces that remained mobilized, the plans for construction of
many major capital ships, and the enormous sacrifices demanded
of the civilian sector of the economy differed in degree but not in
kind from decisions made after Stalin's death. Construction of
nuclear submarines began in 1953 and that was the dominant
direction of the Navy for the next 20 years. A major difference
was that under Stalin decisions were not made on what would now
be called a scientific basis.
The major strategic concern both of that period and of the one
that succeeded it was that the imperialistic coalition, with the
United States in the lead, would use its superiority to unleash a
war to destroy the socialist camp. Given Stalin's paranoia, the
propaganda about the warlike intentions of the West, and the
experience of the ferocity of the Nazi invasion, a Soviet citizen
would have come to no other conclusion. Nevertheless, until 1953
the Soviet Union was too weak economically to have any other
reasonable strategy. It had to depend on morale of the rear-that
consisted of a terrorized population, numb from privation,
deception and secrecy.
After Stalin's death, the study of strategy was reorganized, so it
was said, to prepare for nuclear war under the new technological
conditions. This also involved preparing the population for its
dispersion, for methods of civil defense, and for education for
In 1959 a major decision regarding strategy was apparently made
by Khrushchev and his advisors and approved by the Presidium of
the Central Committee. That decision almost certainly had to do
with defining the nature of nuclear war, the inevitability of war with
the West, and the possibility of the Soviet camp surviving. A
concomitant decision was to drive to achieve nuclear parity. But in
Soviet terms it was axiomatic that nuclear parity was not enough.
The Soviet Union would of course seek nuclear superiority in all
fields as well as superiority in the conventional fields of military art.
Ironically, this decision was made at the time of "the thaw" in
domestic affairs when Khrushchev was talking about an increase in
consumer spending, although he must have known that the
economic and technological demands of the decision meant a
continuation of economic scarcity for the people.
The revolution in weaponry was to incorporate in operational
art new developments in missilery and rocketry, primarily surface-
to-surface missiles. In 1959 the Styx missile was placed on a small
torpedo boat, a combination of platform and weapon designated
by NATO as the Komar. 8 It is ironic that the little Komar marked
a change in naval warfare as significant as the employment of
the aircraft carrier at Midway, or of torpedoes (exploding
projectiles) at Sinop. It meant the end of conventional naval
tactics and the end of conventional assessments of navies by
tonnage and firepower. The later placement of a surface-to-surface
missile on the Echo submarine confirmed that naval balances had
Analysts are fairly certain that overall Soviet strategy between
Stalin's death and the major decisions of 1957-1959 was to engage
and stop Western forces far from Soviet shores. That had always
been Russian strategy -protect the center. The heavy submarine
construction, which probably would have taken place under any
circumstances, could have been justified as a means of interdicting
the resupply of NATO, of challenging the strategic use of aircraft
carriers and of moving the line of defense further to sea by cutting
lines of communications. The idea of the use of the navy to
support state interests, which caused such a stir in the Gorshkov
papers of 1975, was already part of naval concepts in 1964, for
Soviet ships increasingly began making formal visits to foreign
This was announced in Red Star in 1963:
the party has reached the conclusion that the armed forces
and the country as a whole must prepare for a war in which
nuclear weapons will be widely used; which will present a
decisive, classic version of two opposed world social systems;
and which will be distinguished by unprecedented violence,
dynamic force and high maneuverability of combat opera-
Admiral Kuznetsov had reopened the question of naval tactics
in 1953 in an article in which he said that World War II experience
was no longer a sufficient guide for military strategy. This was
after Stalin's death and was the first public challenge to Stalin's
famous dictum that winning a war depended on (1) the stability of
the rear, (2) the morale of the troops, (3) the quantity and quality
of divisions, (4) the efficiency of armament, and (5) the
organization and ability of the general staff. Stalin's principles-
placing the human element above the mechanical— dominated
Soviet military thought during his lifetime. After his death, to
reawaken discussion, the first tentative and somewhat timid
suggestions began appearing in the press in 1956. Suddenly,
Stalinist precepts were replaced by arguments that atomic weap-
ons, missiles, helicopters, nuclear warships, and radar had so
affected war that military thought was out-of-date. 1 ° Theoreti-
cally, at least, an effort began to turn strategic thinking away from
World War II and toward the future.
Marshal Zhukov, in 1956, argued that in any case large forces
would be necessary as the occupation of enemy territory, even
after a nuclear exchange, would be essential. Admiral Gorshkov
accepts that concept and uses it to support his idea about the
priority of action against the shore. 1 1 This also justified the need
for large reserves and the necessity for the three states of readiness
that characterized Soviet forces; that is, first, line units ready for
immediate operations; second, backup units not quite up to
strength in men or equipment; and third, line units that could be
made ready in short order.
The mental paralysis induced by Stalinism and the growing need
to define new doctrines for the accommodation of the new
weapons brought about an exceptional concession in the extraor-
dinarily secretive Soviet Union; that is, publication in 1962 of a
book on military strategy under the editorial direction of a Soviet
military leader and theoretician, Marshal Sokolovskiy.
The main thrust of the first edition of this book was to discuss
the changes brought about by nuclear warfare. The second edition
incorporated the idea of the preemptive strike and discounted the
idea of sparing cities (counterforce) as impractical (after all the
United States has many more large cities than the Soviet Union
and can therefore presumably spare more). The third edition
mentioned the possibility of nonnuclear war and considered that
nuclear strategy was only one of many possible strategies.
However, in all editions a premise taken for granted was that war
would end in a massive nuclear exchange and that the decisive
battle could only be won with occupation of foreign territory.
The third edition, published in 1968, was also significant in that
the Soviet Navy was mentioned for the first time as playing a
strategic role. This was because of the advent of strategic
submarines. In 1971, similar ideas were reiterated by the Defense
Minister, Marshal Grechko, who said, "We are aware that in the
future world war, if the imperialists start it, nuclear missiles will be
decisive means of armed combat. Along with this, conventional
weapons will find their use, and under certain circumstances the
units and subunits may conduct combat actions only with
conventional means." 12 Statements like this, echoed in Soviet
military publications, clearly showed that the armed forces were
prepared or being prepared for an intense nuclear exchange,
although the possibility of other kinds of warfare continued to be
The Soviets had exploded a hydrogen bomb in 1953 and had
first successfully tested ballistic missiles during the period of 1955
to 1957. Exercises for nuclear warfare began at that time and
increased in sophistication.
Even if the Soviets had adopted a policy of flexible response,
military and political analysts could hardly find that a sign of the
lessening of tensions between the two camps. Soviet military
doctrine, in emphasizing the class nature of war, showed little
concern for the degree of destruction. In fact, in emphasizing the
need to wipe out the strategic and economic base of the enemy in
the first minutes of war, the policy promised vast population
Military doctrine insures that Soviet concepts are always
aggressive. Because all war is "class" war, there is no provision for
passivity or assumption of good will. Soviet military art, in which
such questions as estimates of the preparedness and intentions of
capitalist nations, their plans for preemptive strikes and the
significance of their military expenditures are analyzed for the
political leaders, starts with an assumption of the danger of war.
As we shall see in a short review of Soviet military thought, even
in the period of the policy of detente, the dialectics of the
permanent nature of the conflict with capitalism formed the basic
One place in which the Soviets have recognized the possibility
of flexible response has been in the navy. (It should be added that
the use of satellite troops as surrogates, the sale of arms, and
economic support are also weapons of a flexible response.)
Admiral Gorshkov has advertised the Soviet Navy as a flexible
instrument of state power. This has been apparent in the use of
the navy, particularly since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. With the
rapid growth of the Soviet Mediterranean force and the tactic of
shadowing U.S. ships during crises, the Soviet Navy advertised
Russia's challenge to the naval balance. 1 3
Since the Second World War, the Soviet Navy has not suffered
in the party's allocation of new technology. It is also apparent that
the party has been aware of the navy's role as an advertisement of
the economic sophistication of the nation. As Admiral Gorshkov
wrote, "The navy, having always been the focus of the latest
achievements in science and technology, was the first of the
branches of the armed forces to see the large scale and widespread
introduction of nuclear missiles, radioelectronics and nuclear
propulsion." 1 4
The pace of innovation in the Soviet Navy has been nothing
short of remarkable. Since the Second World War no less than 17
different classes of submarines have been built and if one considers
various modifications then that figure would reach 28. It is
obvious that in submarine construction the Soviets have been
aware that their technology lags behind the West but they have
compensated for that with numbers. As their technology im-
proved, they built more sophisticated submarines and traded
reduced quantity for improved quality.
In the 1960s, as a result of new technology, an independent role
was assigned to the navy in strategic operations, undoubtedly
because of ballistic missile submarines and a recognition of the
importance of limited wars. 1 5 Interestingly, the Soviets concen-
trated on the navy's ability to attack the land while America
concentrated on the autonomy of naval elements at sea: the attack
aircraft carrier, the ballistic missile submarine, the amphibious task
The development of heavy aircraft armed with missiles and
electronics was the Soviet alternative to the aircraft carrier. That
was a recognition that long-range airpower of various sorts fitted
not only the Soviet concept of war, but also the Soviet geographic
position. Heavy aircraft filled a tactical need very quickly (major
land and sea objectives were within range) and certainly more
cheaply than the aircraft carrier could have done and gave the
Soviet Navy both flexibility and range. The late development of
Kiev with its VSTOL aircraft only underscores the degree to which
the Soviet Navy has become luxurious.
The next logical step, begun in the late 1960s and early '70s,
was to develop foreign airbases so that the zones of offense/
defense could become greatly extended. The results were the bases
in Egypt, Somalia, Guinea, and eventually in Cuba. As Lt. Gen.
S.A. Gulyayev, the Commander of Baltic Fleet Aviation wrote in
Naval aviation armed with missiles with nuclear warheads
can use its powerful weapons outside of the operational range
of shipboard surface-to-air missiles and almost beyond the
potential range of fighters directed against these aircraft. This
permits missile-carrying aviation to carry out effectively the
mission of destroying enemy warships and transports at sea,
regardless of their anti-aircraft defense systems. Modern naval
aviation has great possibilities for conducting successful
combat operations not only against large surface warships but
also against submarines including nuclear powered
ones . . . and in many instances aircraft have many advantages
over surface combat ships and even more over modern
submarines. With their great range and speed they can strike
quickly against enemy forces found at sea. Aviation units and
forces can be transferred to other operational areas quickly
(for example large groups of aircraft can be redeployed from
one continent to another in a day without any loss of combat
capability). 1 6
As part of the change caused by forward deployment, the
Soviet Navy recognized the need for greatly increased air cover.
Many older units were reequipped with surface-to-air missiles in
addition to surface-to-surface missiles and new ships were designed
The history of Soviet ASW efforts does not begin until the late
1950s because until then there was no real ASW problem. There
was no requirement to protect convoys in coastal zones and there
was not any great prospect of a submarine threat. Because there
was no need to protect shipping on the high seas there was no
concept of sea control except for the defensive rings in the Baltic,
Black and Okhotsk seas. The Polaris threat abruptly forced the
Soviet Navy to expand its operational art. New classes of ships,
submarines, and airplanes were developed and became operational
in the second half of the 1960s as the Soviets, to meet the threat,
adopted an operational doctrine of combined systematic employ-
ment of all existing forces for antisubmarine warfare. 1 7 The
totally new ship design, the Moskva -class ASW cruiser that was
commissioned in 1967, bears witness to the attention that was
devoted to that problem.
Basic to the new tactics of that decade was the idea that one did
not achieve superiority through a concentration of weapons
platforms but through a concentration of missiles. 1 8 The new
tactics deemphasized the importance of maneuvering the platform
because with the new missile technology it was the maneuvering of
the trajectory that was important. Furthermore, with the greatly
expanded ranges, the navy's support on the flanks of the army was
recognized to be at such a distance that the navy would be
accomplishing other tasks as well.
As the decade progressed technology was increasingly sophisti-
cated. It became apparent that the tactics of naval maneuver were
not just those of controlling the missile but also of electronic
maneuver. In fact, the range of electronic detection and recon-
naissance can control modern warfare, as Admiral Gorshkov
admitted. 1 9
These new concepts brought the amphibious forces back into
play. The necessity to invest the land with troops in a nuclear
attack finally was recognized. An amphibious force would be
needed. With their organic concepts the Soviets could go in several
directions, increase their amphibious forces, or augment the
training of paratroops to fill that need. Demanding an individual
dedication would not be characteristic.
An important consideration was that the Soviets regarded the
era of large ships as ended. However, this did not eliminate the
aircraft carrier as a useful platform in other kinds of wars, or for
other purposes. After all, the Soviet Union faces other maritime
problems than those posed by the United States.
The new tactical orientation involving the concentration of
missiles and electronics but not of carriers was thought to mean
the end of large ships. Admiral Gorshkov said in 1960 that "the
significance of aircraft carriers has fallen sharply. Like battleships,
they have already had their day and are inevitably moving into the
past." 20 By 1969, that tune was changed when he said, "Of
course, one should not minimize the combat potential of aircraft
carriers, especially when they are brought to bear against fully
armed countries." 2 1 By 1972, the renewed use of aircraft carriers
was fully elaborated. In an article in Morskoy sbornik, the
rationale was stated as follows:
In connection with revolutions in military affairs, during
the last fifty years and the development of navies, the role
and missions of the various forces and ships have changed.
Large gun ships have almost lost their value in naval battles.
Aircraft carriers have again become one of the strike forces
against surface ships and also can be useful in solving several
other problems such as ASW and shore bombardment, etc. 2 2
The new priority for aircraft carriers should not disguise the
fact that the Soviets thought they had resolved all the naval
problems they faced before 1970 in terms of naval science and
operational art. The one exception was the ballistic missile
submarine. (That is not to say that they could have successfully
implemented all of their solutions.) The renewed interest in
aircraft carriers represented the new naval problem; the increased
complexity of antisubmarine warfare and the vastly increased
scope of Soviet naval activity. The scene of action was no longer
confined to shallow contiguous seas under the umbrella of Soviet
land-based aircraft. The navy had to solve the problems of forward
Between the end of World War II and 1955, the Soviet Navy
greatly emphasized the importance of aircraft, but tactics and
operational concepts seemed to repeat the experience of the
Second World War rather than changed conditions of the modern
era. There was heavy emphasis on fighters. There were no
long-range naval aircraft but only some light bombers, torpedo
carriers and reconnaissance airplanes. The first regiments of TU-16
Badger bombers were transferred to the Navy in 1965 along with
some long-range Bears. In 1960 Air Defense Service (PVO) was
given responsibility for supporting the navy in the coastal zone
and therefore all navy fighters were transferred to it. Soviet naval
aviation suddenly dropped from approximately 3,500 airplanes to
800. In 1966 there were three combat branches of naval aviation:
reconnaissance, strike (meaning missile launching), and antisubma-
rine. 23 Together with the training and transport commands,
Soviet naval aviation probably numbered about 2,000 aircraft.
Heavy emphasis was put on air refueling. Now practically all
naval air long-range missile bombers and reconnaissance planes are
capable of air refueling. This gives them practically unlimited
range in the northern hemisphere. The critical role of aircraft in
naval maneuvers was demonstrated in exercises Okean 1970 and
1975. To consider the Soviet naval aviation potential as limited by
that service alone, however, would be a mistake. Establishment of
smooth cooperation in command and control with the Long
Range Air Force has been well advertised and demonstrated. The
first vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the Freehand,
was exhibited as early as 1967 at the air show at Domodedovo
near Moscow. The claim was made that the aircraft was opera-
tional in 1972, a claim that should probably be discounted.
Nevertheless, it is now providing some of the striking power for
Subordinate to the Soviet Navy is a sizable shore defense force
that provides defense along the vast coastline and particularly
around Soviet naval bases. The defense force is now missile
equipped. One of its early missiles was a coastal version of the
Styx missile, which shows the adaptability of Soviet concepts. The
major element of the shore defense force has traditionally been
the naval infantry proper, which was reformed prior to 1964. It
has remained at approximately 15,000 men in spite of the
strategic notion of the need to conquer and invest the land. The
number of amphibious forces can remain small because of the
close coordination with other branches of the service. The
operations of the naval infantry appear to be essentially similar to
those in Western navies except that the Soviet Navy's lack of
shipborne air cover is supplied by land-based air cover and missiles
on various platforms. To soften up beachheads, the tactic to be
employed is to use submarines, aviation, surface ships, and even
land-based missile units all with nuclear weapons, of course, "in an
attempt to destroy and neutralize missile installations, air de-
fenses, and air fields in the coastal defense zone." 24 For this
purpose cruise-missile-firing submarines and cruise-missile-firing
patrol boats, such as the Osas and Nanuchkas could probably be
used. Considerable use is also made of airborne troops which are
delivered both by parachute and by helicopter and whose mission
is to secure the rear while the naval infantry secures the coastal
The spirit and elan of the naval infantry apparently is very like
that of the U.S. Marines. It considers itself to be an elite group,
able to perform all missions and whose motto is: "Advance,
advance, advance, advance." As one advertisement put it:
Our marines can do everything. They can blow up bridges
and remove mines from harbors. If necessary, just two of
them can disrupt an entire platoon in the rear of the enemy.
They can also jump from [sic] parachutes, they can climb
mountains like mountaineers and they make excellent
snipers. 2 5
All the naval infantry units are guards (elite) units. They probably
retain their traditional brigade organization. A brigade is divided
into three or four battalions, one of which is a tank battalion. The
brigades probably are distributed among the four Soviet fleets and
there is a total of perhaps seven brigades. 2 6
Soviet faith in the ability to solve naval problems includes
boasts that convoys cannot be defended. Emphasizing the dual
capability of Soviet weapons systems, tacticians write about the
difficulty of planning an effective defense of convoys:
Under modern conditions, convoys have to disperse widely
in order to minimize losses from a nuclear strike which could
be launched by attacking submarines. But attacking sub-
marines welcome this dispersal. They carry torpedoes which
have acoustic guidance systems and the warhead can be either
conventional or nuclear. 2 7
With so much emphasis upon aircraft and submarines, the key
concept for the design of the new Soviet surface fleet has been
that it was, tactically speaking, an auxiliary fleet. Its all-purpose
design was to make it able to solve other problems, primarily ASW
but also to provide support for shore bombardments and landings,
to patrol and to convey political signals.
The design of some ships, Kara for instance, was also most
likely influenced by a political requirement for it to advertise the
industrial and scientific success of the Soviet people.
A Marxist concept, widely reflected in military thinking, is:
Ideological conviction based on the study of the theory of
Marxism/Leninism is one of the most powerful controllers of
human behavior. Ideas having sunk into the consciousness of
a person cause him to act in a certain way. Ideas become
transformed, as Karl Marx said, into a physical force. 2 8
Certainly, Soviet naval commentators think of their navy as the
embodiment of ideas. Soviet military designers are constantly
being harangued to design for the future. Marshal Grechko said
that military science must "always be ahead of practice, always
look further ahead, reveal possible paths for development . . . ." 2 9
There is little doubt that Soviet military critics mean what they
frequently say about large ships making good targets. The fact that
the Soviets have continued their major surface shipbuilding
program while at the same time criticizing the usefulness of
surface ships would logically indicate the following: the recogni-
tion of the possibility of limited naval engagements at sea
(probably with nations other than the United States); a recogni-
tion of the role that surface ships must play in destroying
submarines, primarily FBMs; and a recognition of the importance
of surface ships for deterrence, presence and politics. It also may
have been a propaganda cover for their deficiencies.
Some Western commentators, in arguing that the Soviet Navy
has been designed under the assumption that it is expendable, have
called it a "throw -a way" navy. While such hyperbole is intriguing,
it masks the fact that the Soviets consider many things expendable
if they contribute toward the achievement of their ideological
goals. 3 °
The lessons of World War II, so constantly reiterated, are that
people are expendable; that they must die for the motherland if
required to do so; that if they allow themselves to be captured
they will be considered traitors unless there is proof that they
were unconscious at the time . This finds expression in one of the
laws of operational art that holds that the enemy must be located
and immediately attacked with all means and maximum force. The
implication is always quite clear that loss of life and equipment are
not important considerations if the attack has been decided upon.
When Admiral of the Fleet Isakov called aircraft carriers
"floating mortuaries" in 1963, one may be sure that he was
engaging in psychological warfare because the Soviets had no
carriers. Such a concept would not be likely to occur to Soviet
planners about their own forces. After all, death is the business of
war. The lessons of the Arab-Israeli wars were quite clear: in
modern warfare everything has to be expendable; even such
comparatively small objects as tanks make extremely easy targets.
The idea that Soviet ships are expendable is a condition of modern
war. It emphasizes Soviet operational art which is to strike first
and devastatingly. The effect of this condition of naval warfare is
well known to the Soviets, as Admiral Gorshkov wrote:
. . . one must not forget that in contrast to past wars,
under nuclear warfare conditions the replacement of naval
forces will be very difficult or practically impossible. Conse-
quently, the problem of building a modern balanced navy can
be resolved mainly in the process of building in peacetime. 3 1
The design of Soviet surface ships is also dictated by their
concept of command-at-sea that stems from a different theoretical
framework from ours although the practical execution may prove
tactically similar. For the Soviets, the idea of command-of-the-sea,
until recently, has been non-Mahanian. Economic limitations
dictated a sector concept. The sea was to be controlled in a
specific area to the degree necessary to insure the success of the
operation underway. As described by a Soviet naval theoretician:
Based on Lenin's teaching on war, our naval art correctly
considered that to be everywhere equally strong was im-
possible, and therefore, to insure success, it was essential to
regroup forces and means for achieving a superiority in the
primary direction .... [In the Second World War] while
confirming the principle of achieving superiority over the
enemy in the main direction, Soviet naval theory did not
reject the principle of command of the sea but thought of it
not as a goal but as a means of creating favorable conditions
for the successful conduct of operations. In a course of
lectures at the Naval College at that time, it was put as
follows: "To achieve superiority of force over the enemy in
the main direction and to pin him down in the secondary
directions during the time of the operation-that is the
meaning of achieving command of the sea in a theater or in
part of a theater; that is, creating such a situation that the
enemy will be paralyzed or inhibited in his actions or
weakened and therefore thrown into confusion by us in the
fulfillment of his operation or in solving his operational
plan." The principle of achieving command at sea, from that
point of view, was applied in the last war and is still valid
today. 3 2
That, however, was the "line" for limited and defensive wars
under the condition of an unfavorable correlation of force. One
application was for the support of guerrilla movements. This was
described as follows:
In connection with the task of preventing local wars and
also in those cases where military support must be furnished
to those nations fighting for their freedom and independence
against the forces of international reaction and imperialist
intervention, the Soviet Union may require mobile and well
trained and well equipped armed forces. In some situations
the very knowledge of a Soviet presence in an area in which a
conflict situation is developing may serve to restrain the
imperialist and local reaction, prevent them from dealing out
violence to the local populace and eliminate the threat of
overall peace and international security. It is precisely this
type of role that ships of the Soviet Navy are playing in the
Mediterranean. 3 3
This is practically a mirror image of the missions of the 6th Fleet
in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s and it does define the politico-
military role of the Soviet Mediterranean squadron. 34
The new line inevitably led to a new posture and to the danger
that the Soviet Union would play the role of the bully in
international affairs. Warnings and boasts, such as the above, have
become more frequent and are likely to increase in aggressiveness.
A second implication is that there is a change in operational art
that must also indicate a change in strategic policy. A plan for
increased capability in the Soviet Union is often the signal for
increased boasting and aggressiveness. It is not, therefore, sur-
prising that Admiral Gorshkov, in his book, strikes a new line for
naval warfare. The ominous part is that we will probably see the
increased forces in the years ahead. The boast will be made real.
The new line is that the Soviet Navy must strive for sea control,
not in the old sense of sector control but in the even older sense of
Mahan's concept of sea control.
This is a logical outcome of the Leninist doctrine on the
method for defeating imperialism: to seize the means of produc-
tion; to cut off the source of supply for industrial production.
Two things have reinforced the validity of those ideas in recent
years: the Arab oil embargo in the winter of 1975 and the
increasing intensity of competition for the resources of the oceans.
The Gorshkov pronouncements on sea control suggest that the
Soviet strategy will be to intensify the battle for control of those
resources. The Soviet Navy will be ready, as it was not during the
Cuban missile crisis and sugar boycott, to defend the sea lines of
communication. If it has been the preponderant power in strategic
forces, it will be able to pose a threat of alarming dimensions. The
nuclear umbrella makes sea control, again, a valid concept in naval
A second, operational, factor has reinforced the idea of sea
control. Modern warfare will be fought with enormous speed.
Timing is critical. Large surface targets cannot hope to survive.
Therefore, they must be positioned where they can quickly
perform their assigned task in a coordinated attack. Defense can
no longer play a prominent role because of the power, accuracy,
and destructiveness of missiles. Modern naval warfare has changed,
in that it is not so much concerned with the formation of a task
force as with the placement of missile and electronic platforms.
(Needless to say, whether the platforms belong to the navy, army
or air force is only of administrative interest so long as it fulfills its
functions.) Gorshkov recognized this in saying:
The maneuver will be carried out on the basis of data
received from various electronic systems, even under condi-
tions of the most intensive electronic warfare, which, when
correctly organized, can fully paralyze data acquisition and
monitoring systems. 3 5
Because of the importance of electronics, and of timing, the
nature of naval warfare has totally changed. In fact, much greater
authority must inevitably be given to the separate units that are
maneuvering for position in order to execute their electronic or
missile attack roles.
The nature of naval warfare is distinguished by its global
scale, the briefness of its engagements, and the considerable
increase in the effectiveness of its combat operations in
comparison with operations of the past. This circumstance
greatly increases the responsibility of every commanding
officer in making decisions and carrying them out without
delay, and confronts him with the need to display excep-
tional operational efficiency appropriate to the dynamics of
the events taking place. 3 6
The implications of such a concept of naval warfare, given the
Soviet orientation, are anything but comforting. They suggest that
the only kind of successful war— because of timing and logistic
factors— will be one that is preemptive.
In Soviet military art the navy, like all branches of the service,
must be designed for flexible uses. Western tactics are frequently
criticized in Soviet literature for the competition between the
branches of the service. In contrast, Soviet military writers think
of themselves as not having discovered but having more fully
understood the need and nature of coordinated attack in the
modern era. As one writer put it,
. . . Soviet naval art was the first to take into account the
sharply increased significance of coordination which to a
considerable degree was the result of the stormy development
of aviation and the increased effectiveness of air operations at
sea. Our naval theory emphasized that it is incorrect to
interpret coordination simply as delivering attacks by a
variety of forces at one moment on some objective. It can
include attacks at different times and even in different places.
But it is important that these variously delivered attacks, at
different times and different places, be operationally con-
nected and subordinate to the solution of one problem. 3 7
Unity in the Soviet Navy implies considerably greater forces
than are at the disposal of most other navies. Because the Soviet
Government owns everything, the merchant and fishing fleets, the
hydrographic fleet and any other resource necessary for naval
warfare, all can immediately be put at the disposal of the armed
forces. The nation, which already operates on the basis of wartime
mobilization, can quickly be converted to total military support.
While such notions are not new, they are part of the concept of
"operational art" that the Soviet theoreticians formulated in the
thirties and that helped them to "move significantly and tac-
tically." 38 These concepts lead to vast exercises in coordinations,
such as Okean and, most importantly, affect Soviet naval
estimates. The unity of views in the armed forces is certainly
supported by all military leaders. Admiral Gorshkov reflected in
greater detail that concept which in his book was more softly
stated, when he wrote in 1972:
The place and role of each of the branches of the armed
forces of a country can change both in peacetime as well as in
war, depending on the technical transformations, on the
enemy who is opposed, the geographic conditions,
etc., ... As is clear, in all cases, one aspect remains un-
changed: the results of the victory in a campaign or war can
only be secured by ground forces capable of proving the
reality of it by their actual presence. 3 9
It is not surprising that the navy's main tactical mission is again
against the land.
Soviet military art dictates many operational doctrines shared
by all of the services. Briefly, they are the following:
1. Surprise is frequently considered the most important tactical
element insuring victory under modern conditions. The doctrines
of all of the services often state that because of the nature of
nuclear war, he who achieves the greatest surprise is most likely to
win. Essential to achieving surprise are, as Admiral Gorshkov
noted, intelligence and reconnaissance, automated information
systems, and successful maneuver of missile and electronic
platforms. Combat readiness is stressed above all else in the name
of achieving tactical surprise which, under nuclear conditions, may
mean strategic victory. Maintaining a sense of nervousness about
the dangers of war is useful for promoting combat readiness and to
do this Soviet naval training officers have the services of all of the
nation's organs of information, propaganda and censorship.
2. Speed, certainly a corollary to surprise and combat readi-
ness, is also frequently mentioned as essential to victory. The
speed of decision and action and the rapidity with which
circumstances change help to confuse the enemy and assure
victory. This factor increases in importance with each develop-
ment of technological change and causes greater demands on
personnel, advancing technical knowledge and absolute loyalty.
3. Joint action of all the services is being emphasized now,
perhaps, more by the navy than by others. In any case, because of
its historic lack of air cover the navy has been more acutely aware
of its need for coordinated operations. By drawing from all of the
services a force can be composed that is specifically designed to
solve a particular problem and that will be more effective than a
force from just one service. Smooth joint operations have
characterized Soviet forces for years. There really is no evidence to
support arguments that the forces compete, as ours do, for
allocations, unless they are perceived as competing with the
civilian sector of the economy.
4. The characteristic strike in Soviet tactics has not changed
significantly from the days of Catherine's brilliant General
Suvorov. It is to attack with maximum surprise, maximum speed
and maximum force. As in all of these concepts there have to be
trade-offs— maximum force may reduce the possibility of surprise
—so one must analyze a situation to estimate to which element
Soviet tacticians will give the greatest weight. The history of
Russian warfare suggests that priority is often on the side of
maximum force. That may have something to do with the Soviet
submarine force that is of spectacular size and, on the whole, fast,
but not very quiet.
In any case, the Soviet naval theory of the strike is to attack the
main or critical target first with maximum force. What has
changed is that the targets must be attacked over much greater
distances, and with greater destructive force. The size of the
attacking platform no longer matters. Because of its power, the
strike may be decisive; thus it has become a strategic factor.
The differing combinations of arms in the Soviet Navy since
World War II reflect responses to the threat, the economic capability
of the country, and the theory of balanced forces. By "balance" the
Soviets do not mean a navy that is equally proportioned according to
some sort of abstract design, but a navy designed to meet the
presumed threat and carry out a nation's missions in a given
geographic area. This is naval science in the purest sense. Balance
does mean, for the Soviets as for the United States, achieving the
greatest degree of versatility with the forces available. 40
On the basis of the composition of the Soviet Navy and current
doctrine, the following are the major modern tactical concepts:
a. Soviet surface ships are not likely to operate in large
groupings. Missiles and means of detection and destruction
make the use of a task force unlikely. The Soviets think that
they have solved the problem of reliably sinking large ships;
therefore, surface ships will be used for ASW to attack the
shore, for gunboat diplomacy and for patrol and shadowing
other forces in both a strategic role and a tactical one.
b. A primary task for surface forces in conjunction with
ASW air forces, is to seek out and destroy enemy submarines.
In addition, submarines are taking a more important role in
this operation. Whether it is in advance of the reality or not
(which would be typical) the Soviets are already boasting
that they can detect and destroy nuclear subs. 4 !
c. In Okean 1975 the Soviets appeared to show that
they could destroy convoys. Their vast submarine fleet would
surely be used in hunter-killer operations for blockades and
interdiction and to destroy surface ships. The submarine fleet
will also be used in various peacetime and aggressive roles in
support of Soviet foreign policy. It is also to be used against
the land in both a strategic role and a tactical one.
d. Whether or not it is able to accomplish all of the
above successfully, the Soviet Navy will always have an
important role in support of army operations on the land.
This is a function of the geographic problem. The emphasis
on the idea of investing the land may suggest that the naval
infantry will grow and that there will be increased production
of amphibious ships. Considerable innovation in naval tech-
nology for attacking the land and guerrilla operations is likely
including air-cushion and hydrofoil ships.
The Soviet concepts of military doctrine, military science and
military art seem, in fact, to have insured that the Soviet solutions
to military problems, far from being tradition-bound and para-
lyzed by controls, are innovative, imaginative and oriented far
more toward the future than the past and toward concrete
While Admiral Gorshkov has obviously been an effective naval
leader of the modern Soviet Navy, it is certainly not the result of
his genius alone. Other branches of the service, having a similar
discipline for military thought, have been extremely innovative as
well. Furthermore, theirs is a society in which priority is given to
the military and one that exacts great sacrifices from all of its
citizens to insure maximum military preparedness, a society that
considers peace as one of the battles in a permanent conflict.
Admiral Gorshkov has had a considerable number of resources at
Russia has a long history of thinking itself invincible and then,
in war, proving that the system does not work. The thesis of the
use of power— a Romanov as well as Leninist idea -has, in practice,
often given way to its antithesis, a collapse of power. We must
examine some of the problems.
PREPARING THE MIND
The October Revolution destroyed many things in Russia but
not the naval officer educational system which, in spite of all the
years of war, civil strife, chaos, privation and purges, resumed its
functions and many of its traditions in the same buildings and
with the laboratories and many of the teaching personnel of the
Imperial Navy. 1 The Imperial Naval Cadet College, founded by
Peter the Great— who even taught there— on the banks of the Neva
in St. Petersburg became the Frunze Higher Naval School. The
buildings are the same. The cadets before the Revolution were
exclusively the sons of the nobility. For a brief period after the
Revolution, they were the sons of workers and peasants. Now,
however, many of the cadets are the sons of naval officers in a
kind of hereditary nobility of the sea. A class structure appears to
be reasserting itself.
One of the traditions of the Imperial Russian Navy was to lay
great emphasis upon education. That continues to be true in the
Soviet Union where the naval officer spends a good percentage of
his service career in formal schools, a large percentage of his sea
time training, instructing, and testing. The tradition established by
Peter that the leader must know the details of the equipment that
his subordinates operate remains in force and must pay big
dividends under Soviet conditions.
Leningrad is the focus of naval education. The naval schools
renamed Frunze and Dzetzhinskiy, an engineering school, were
reopened in 1922 and were elevated to the status of institutions of
higher learning, on a university level, in 1939.
There was a considerable expansion of training for the Soviet
Navy in the years just before World War II when schools
modeled after Frunze and the engineering school were opened on
the Pacific at Vladivostok, at Baku on the Caspian, and in the
Crimea. In addition, in specialized schools for naval communica-
tions and gunnery, the curricula were expanded to 4 years.
In 1944 a 7-year prep school was organized-the Nakhimov
School— for young cadets under the age of 15. They then enter
the Frunze Academy where the curriculum is concentrated on a
technical naval education.
After graduation and completion of 2 or 3 years in their first
assignment, officers are customarily sent for an additional year
of training at a specialized officers' technical school. Upon
completion of the year an officer is assigned as the head of a
department on board ship.
In 1967, a banner year for fundamental changes in the Soviet
Navy, the higher line schools were combined with the engineer-
ing schools to form a higher naval command and engineering
schools system with curricula of between 5 and 5% years. This was
in recognition of the greater technical and scientific demands of
modern naval science. The result is that all Soviet naval officers are
now graduates of these schools and hold diplomas as engineers.
Vice Adm. V.A. Krenov explained that the longer period of
training was necessary because of the enormous increase in the
volume of scientific, technical, and specialized knowledge that was
necessary not just to maintain but to improve the quality of naval
and command training. 2
All of the officers on Yankee-class submarines have received a
higher education. Of the officers entering the forces, according to
the late Defense Minister Marshal Grechko, more than 50 percent
have a higher education. This compares with the fact that only
seven percent of Soviet officers at the outbreak of WW II had a
higher education. 3 Although a military career does not stand very
high in the list of choices of Soviet youth, there are nevertheless
several applications for every vacancy at the naval cadet
At the present time there are in the Soviet Navy at least ten
higher naval schools; five in Leningrad, two in Sevastopol, one in
Kaliningrad, one in Baku, and one in Vladivostok. The higher
naval political school is in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine and
there is an auxiliary fleet maritime school in Lomonosov, a town
on the mainland just across from Kronshtadt.
In addition, there are many other schools for such common
technical services as naval medicine. Naval aviators are appointed
to the navy from air force higher schools and officers for the naval
infantry come from the ground forces higher school. 4
There are three sources for officers in the Soviet Navy. All
graduates of the Nakhimov school system are assured of an
entrance to one of the higher naval schools without examination.
For others there are competitive entrance examinations for
admission to the higher naval schools with preference given to
qualified servicemen. Finally, civilian candidates who are graduates
of the Soviet equivalent of our high schools may apply, but they
first must undergo a period of observation aboard ship.
The curriculum of each school is scientifically oriented with
heavy emphasis on mathematics, electronics, physics, chemistry,
engineering, and ordnance. In addition, a specific period of time
(15 percent of the time is one estimate) must be spent on political
Beyond the higher naval institutes are military academies 5 and
the period of study lasts for 3 to 5 years.
The courses are varied according to the specialty being studied;
however, it is these schools, of which there are about 40, that
produce many of the theoreticians of Soviet military art and
science. In addition there are specialized short courses for future
admirals and generals.
The highest level of education for senior officers and admirals is
the Higher. Naval Academy where courses of instruction in
operational art are given. This school is directly subordinate to the
Chief of the General Staff of the Military Council of the Soviet
Union. Those who attend are approved by the Minister of Defense
and are not called "students" but slushateli or, literally, "listen-
ers." The period of education is about a year.
The course of education for a Soviet naval officer, then, might
be as follows:
Age School Length of Study
1 5 Nakhimov Institute 3 years
18 Higher Naval Institute 5 years
26 Special School 1 year
34 Military Academy 3-5 years
40 Higher Naval Academy 1 year
Morskoy sbornik, a kind of equivalent of the Naval Institute
Proceedings (although much more narrowly technical and profes-
sionally oriented), has been published almost continually since
1848. It is part of the vast military publishing enterprise that
includes the publication of novels, poetry, and even music.
Morskoy sbornik is a monthly with (usually) nine sections as
a. An introductory section. The leading article is often by a
prominent military or political leader. Included are inspirational
sections such as pictures of naval heroes of the Soviet Union.
b. Naval Art-A "how to" section with examples often based
on historical experience.
c. Military and Political Preparedness-A catchall section for
both propaganda and information about technical developments in
the naval service.
d. Pages of History. Stories of the Second World War, referred
to as "The Great War of the Fatherland" (the U.S. and England
are hardly considered to have played a part) dominate this section.
e. Armaments and Technology-A hardware section in which,
because of security, foreign technology is usually discussed and
one assumes that Soviet developments are often being referred to
(for those "in the know") by implication.
f. Phenomena of Nature and Life of the Ocean-A section on
oceanography written on a technical level.
g. Foreign Fleets. Pictures and information about foreign navies
are published in a kind of continuing intelligence program. For
example, details of the SOSUS system may be published or the
capabilities of a new ship.
h. Criticism and Bibliography. Here are recommendations for
study on such subjects as underwater sound.
i. Literary Section. This usually contains a short story or
excerpts from a book and reviews of new books.
From an even cursory examination of nearly any Morskoy
sbornik it is quite obvious that Soviet naval officers are very well
informed about developments in NATO navies and particularly the
U.S. Navy. Much of the information presented (such as about
SOSUS) is the kind that in the United States would be considered
classified and not widely disseminated.
The contents of Morskoy sbornik reflect the highly educated,
technical level of Soviet naval officers. Many of the articles take a
knowledge of electronics, physics, and higher mathematics for
granted. They are nearly all written by officers who are military
scientists and specialists, graduates of the military academies,
including retired and reserve officers. A high percentage of the
military authors have doctoral and predoctoral degrees in naval or
Political activity in the armed forces is supervised by the Main
Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Navy. The Political
Directorate does not report to the Minister of Defense whose
subordination is in the government chain. Instead, the Political
Directorate is directly subordinate to the Central Committee of
the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In other words, it is
directly supervised by the Communist Party. There is a chief
political directorate of the Navy which, of course, is subordinate
to the Main Political Directorate. The chief of the Political
Directorate makes his views known in the operational chain of
command through his position on the Military Council of the
Each fleet has a Fleet Political Directorate and also, in its
operational chain, a Fleet Military Council. The Political Direc-
torate, of course, acts in both. Following down the line, each
subdivision of the fleet such as flotillas, units in fleet aviation,
naval bases and so on have political departments. On each ship of
destroyer escort size and larger there is a deputy commander for
political affairs called the zampolit and for smaller units and
aircraft squadrons there is a division zampolit.
The political officers serve two major functions: on the one
hand they are a kind of Communist chaplain performing morale
and political functions, agitation, and interpretation of the party
line; on the other hand, they are secret agents who watch carefully
for any signs of political disloyalty or even questioning of party
decisions. In foreign ports the zampolit and his staff determine
who may go ashore, who may have contact with foreigners, and
what may be discussed.
The party puts enormous emphasis upon the need to prepare
officers and men for the conditions of modern warfare and for the
sacrifices they are expected to make for the fatherland and the
future workers' paradise. It is through the indoctrination by the
political workers that these tasks are accomplished and it is for
this reason that they have been labeled, "true engineers of the
sailors' souls." 6
Line officers are forced to participate in political indoctrination
as their fitness reports reflect the degree of their enthusiasm for
party political work, their knowledge of Marxism/Leninism, and
their ability to inspire a high state of political-moral preparedness
in their command.
Partly because of the unpopularity of the political officers and
the boredom with which their lectures on the party line are
received, there have been numerous efforts to try to upgrade them
in the eyes of the regular navy. Political officers are required to
undergo much of the same military training as the regular line, to
stand watches at sea, to be able to fly aircraft, and to navigate.
They are given constant military training. 7
The amount of time devoted to political indoctrination, is
considerable. Each officer must attend 50 hours of lectures or
seminars per year solely on Marxism/Leninism. However, that is
not all that he is expected to do. He is expected to attend
theoretical conferences, debates, and lectures after regular duty
Enlisted personnel must attend two or three so-called political
information periods of 20 minutes duration in addition to the 3
hours of political instruction each week. 8
With the navy's all-ocean obligation for the protection of state
interests has come an enormously increased pressure on the
political officers. The men of the Soviet Navy are being exposed to
foreign cultures and influences and are more able to observe
alternative ways of life.
During the Second World War the experience of seeing Eastern
Europe had a very dramatic effect on Soviet troops who had been
led to expect that they would find only impoverished masses who
were oppressed and exploited. Many who saw the West were
forced to undergo a long period of reindoctrination after the war.
Now, before visiting the foreign ports, sailors are told what they
will see. After their visit what they did see is given the correct
Marxist interpretation. This tells them what they may say about
their impressions when they arrive home. Any show of enthusiasm
or undue interest in a foreign port would probably insure that a
sailor would never again make a foreign visit.
There is little doubt that the party political work is boring but
that it is an effective instrument of control and discipline. The
problems of the past when the political officer and the senior
operational officer vied for control have been resolved in favor of
the authority of the commanding officer. However, he only gets to
be a commanding officer if he himself functions, to an important
degree, in the role of a political officer as well.
The history of party/military coexistence, as we have seen, has
been an uneasy one. This is probably not simply a function of the
military alone for it appears to be a Soviet institutional procedure to
have strict lines of organization— a clear-cut wiring diagram— and
then to confuse the picture by assigning multiple responsibilities.
For example, in 1971 the 24th Party Congress greatly increased the
number of party organizations having a right to supervise the
establishments with which they were associated. The supervision is
accomplished through a kind of "control commission" which is
made up primarily of party members but also with an admixture of
knowledgeable persons with appropriate qualifications. One would
expect that in an important factory, the plant manager would have
final authority. This is not the case. Through the control commission
the manager can be overruled or brought to account.
This system, of course, has caused some problems. For example,
one secretary of a party group asked, "How can I, the assistant to the
department head, supervise the work of my chief?" 9 This duality
exists throughout the government where there is a party control
commission, of some kind, for every important governmental
function. This is true also throughout the armed forces. And,
although Soviet military writers assert the principle of edino-
nachal'e- the principle of the right of the military commander to
command— the traditional Russian paranoia, the institutional
functioning of the Soviet state, and the party's watchful fear of all
deviation combine to insure that their principle is only partially
followed. In any case, even if the captain has final authority, the
party shares control at all echelons below him.
The party manifests supervisory power through the party cell
structure, the Komsomol (Young Communist League), the system
of the political deputies, the control commission, and finally even
through the military press. The CO cannot be in complete control
of his own ship.
While the party has greatly extolled the military and allowed it
a very privileged position in Soviet society, at the same time it has
been very wary if not suspicious of the power the military can
wield. It has a fear of Bonapartism (the fear that a military leader
will gain sufficient power and popularity to take over the
government, the fear that led to Marshal Zhukov's being removed
as Minister of Defense and exiled in 1957. Marshal Zhukov's
disgrace was almost certainly the retribution for his moves to relax
party control of the military. 1 ° )
Because the military is clearly within the government (as opposed
to the party) chain of command with a clear organizational structure
and a fixed philosophy of subordination in the military chain, how
does the party exert its control? The answer is that the party
exerts control from the top down through a parallel structure.
Admiral Gorshkov, like all other military leaders, affirms and
reaffirms the leading role of the party in all of his public speeches
and articles. One might think that this control and leadership of
the party would be in matters of policy, morale, and education
but the party's role is not limited by that. There appears to be no
military question, however technical, from which the party would
consider itself excluded. As stated in an authoritative party
Party leadership over the Armed Forces is carried out in all
areas . . . determining the main direction for the development
of types of Armed Forces, their organizational structure and
equipping with modern technology and weapons, the training
and indoctrination of military personnel, and the taking of
specific measures related to further raising the level of Party
political work ... in essence, there is no area of military
affairs in which the leading role of the Communist Party, its
Central Committee, and the Politburo of the CPSU Central
Committee would not be manifested. 1 l
Comrade Brezhnev, in consolidating his power as the first among
equals, has become an authority on military questions. Military
readers refer to him with increasing deference, a trend that has been
formalized by his appointment as a general of the army and marshal.
The party control of the military undoubtedly begins with the
august and rarely mentioned Military Council. This is a group
composed of the highest leaders of the government and party with
selected military representation. Little is known about the actual
membership. (Only through his obituary was it confirmed that
Marshal Grechko was a participant.)
This is the level on which military policy, reflecting strategic
political decisions, is made. This body apparently can concern
itself with technical questions as well as those of the roles of the
services. Khrushchev must have "sunk" his cruisers and Stalin
must have planned his aircraft carriers during meetings of the
Considering the kind of control that such a body exerts in the
absence of interest groups with a political constituency, one can
be reasonably certain that service factions do not play a
competitive role in the public formation of policy. Information
about naval policy is revealed only with this body's permission.
Certainly, Sokolovskiy 's and Gorshkov's books and articles would
have been approved for publication on this level.
The commanding officer of a ship would necessarily be a
member of the Communist Party. As such, he would be
subordinated in two party chains. In one, he would be a member
of the Peoples' Control Group where he would be subjected to the
rule requiring open criticism of all members. Questioned even by
his subordinates, he could face some kind of discipline through
the party chain.
In the other chain, he would participate in the Military Council
through which he would have to justify his decisions to the party
political apparatus. In addition, his command would be weakened
by the fact that the overwhelming majority of the officers and
men (90 percent for the navy) are either Communist Party
members or in the Komsomol.
Through the party chain, these members are subjected to party
discipline and party leadership. At party meetings they have the
right to criticize their seniors and the duty to express doubts
about party loyalty or honesty of any of the personnel, seniors or
juniors, in their unit.
The military press, such as Red Star, is a means of control.
"Citizens'" letters of complaint are published (obviously after
careful selection). Names are named and accusations are made.
The reporters and editorial staff of Red Star constitute a kind of
disciplinary court, for they take it upon themselves to investigate
suggested abuses and to decide questions of guilt.
Finally, there is the traditional Russian system of informers,
spies, and agents of one sort or another. All members of the
Communist Party and Komsomol are frequently exhorted and
admonished about their sacred responsibility to report abuses
wherever they see them. In addition, there are the agents of the
KGB and the Military Intelligence Service, the GRU, placed
throughout the armed forces. 1 2
Although the principle of the CO's leadership and independence
is frequently affirmed, obviously he cannot function without
party support. Quite clearly command is subject to debate,
criticism, and revision. It is almost certain that under conditions of
stress, decisive leadership would be impaired. A very close
correlation is maintained between success in combat readiness and
success in party political work. Thus, success in military training is
attributed to success in party work and failure is a failure to
maintain party controls. Either way the party wins. As stated in
the Soviet Military Review:
One of the fundamental features of our armed forces and
the basic source of their insuperable strength is the high
political consciousness of the Soviet fighting men. 1 3
Possible political indoctrination was easier when the world was
divided between East and West. The appearance of many
alternatives makes political officers' duties very much more
difficult, for by even denouncing alternative theories of com-
munism and socialism they are suggesting possibilities of which
Soviet citizens heretofore would not have been aware.
Those who have not lived under such a system would have
difficulty taking seriously the intensity of the party political
workers; however, one must remember that the Soviet Union is a
nation of 250 million people who are taught to believe that there
is no alternative to their system and that no right-minded person
has ever entertained any alternative ideas. When Secretary
Brezhnev says, as he did to the 24th Party Congress, that, "We are
living under the conditions of an unceasing ideological war that is
being waged against our country ... by imperialist propaganda
using refined methods and powerful technical media," the Soviet
citizen is not supposed to know any of the facts of the ideological
war being waged "against our country" and yet he is supposed to
support Comrade Brezhnev's indignation. Obviously, such absurdi-
ties are difficult to manage. Under these conditions it is obvious
that "bourgeois ideologists are trying to weaken the combat might
of our armed forces and influence the political- moral state of the
Soviet soldiers." 1 4 The only reasonable response is, of course,
redoubled vigilance, and intensification of party political work,
and a call on all to unmask those who would weaken the unity of
The West, and primarily the United States, becomes the
convenient whipping boy for all problems in the Soviet Union.
The fact that there is a problem with ideological deviation among
Soviet youth is caused by the United States where insidious
ideological sabotage is aimed "first and foremost at our youth." It
The bosses of monopoly capitalism [who] are betting
particularly on the ideological degeneration of Soviet youth
and are endeavouring to weaken its revolutionary enthusiasm
and to dull class awareness. We cannot help but consider this
since the young people are the predominant majority among
army and navy personnel; and in moral, political and
psychological terms, we are preparing precisely the young
people for skillful actions in modern war. 1 5
Characteristic of the demand for purity is the idea that anything
connected with foreign taste or ideas is subversive. Parents of
those girls who wear eye makeup or boys who have hair down to
their shoulders and wear tight-fitting trousers were admonished as
being those "who do not stop to consider that youngsters
sometimes go from trying on foreign fashions to trying on foreign
One of the nightmares the party political workers must face is
the fear that the spirit of the Kronshtadt rebellion could resurface
and citizens could begin demanding the rights that are guaranteed
by the Constitution. For example, when the Secretary of the
Komsomol was confronted by the fact that two young recruits
admitted to being devout Moslems, he answered, "We have
freedom of conscience in our country." But the reporter com-
mented in Red Star with indignation that the Komsomol secretary
did not seem to understand that "freedom of conscience in our
country also implies an obligation on the part of each citizen to
participate in anti-religious propaganda work." 1 7 Red Star was
equally scandalized that the wife of a warrant officer was a Baptist
and did not intend to renounce her religion and that the party
political worker accepted the Baptists as a "sect that was
Examples of titles of political lectures for naval personnel in the
long hours of indoctrination at sea are: "The Ideas of Marxism/
Leninism"; "Boundless Devotion to the People"; "The Homeland,
the Communist Party, and the Soviet Government"; "The In-
vincible Unity and Fraternal Friendship Among the People of the
U.S.S.R."; "Proletarian Internationalism and Combat Cooperation
with the Armies of. Fraternal Socialist Countries"; "The Moral
Code of the Builder of Communism"; "The Spirit of High
Vigilance"; "Class Hatred for the Imperialists and All Enemies of
Communism"; "Personal Responsibility for Defense of the Soviet
Homeland"; "Readiness to Give One's Life Itself if Necessary to
Achieve Full Victory"; "The Domestic and Foreign Policy of the
Communist Party"; "The Revolutionary Combat and Labor
Traditions of the Party, the Soviet People and its Armed Forces";
"The Successes of Building Communism in the U.S.S.R. and the
Building of Socialism in the Fraternal Countries"; "The Advan-
tages of Socialism Over Capitalism"; and "Pride in the Homeland,
Its Great Achievements, and Its Noble History." 1 8
The West is pictured in such a way as to support the combat
readiness of forces. For example, a commonly repeated statement
is that hatred for the enemy "is the most important component
part of the perseverance and heroism of Soviet troops." 1 9 "The
Communist Party educates the troops to hate enemies of the
Soviet Union and always to be ready to destroy them." 20 The
subject "hate for the enemy" is one which is formally recognized
as appropriate for lectures, indoctrination and special studies.
Indoctrination must include teaching hatred for imperialists and the
enemies of communism. Soldiers and sailors are expected to have a
burning hatred for their enemies. Whenever possible this spirit of
hate is related to specific objectives. For example, the sailors on a
Soviet missile cruiser in the Mediterranean were given a lecture on
"The U.S. Sixth Fleet: A Weapon of Aggression and Plunder. " 2 '
The purpose of the massive exposure to the horrors of the Nazi
invasion and the Fascist movement is in part to imply that the
Government of the United States and the leading citizens of
America share such destructive and cruel aspirations and inten-
tions toward the Soviet Union.
Detente, the exchange of visits by heads of state, and signing of
treaties and agreements such as SALT I and II, have created some,
but comparatively minor, problems for the political propagandist.
The line currently adopted seems to be the obvious one: because of
the change in the correlation of forces, the imperialist nations led by
the United States are aware that should they attack the Soviet
Union the results would be catastrophic for them. Nevertheless,
the argument maintains that capitalist forces that dominate the
United States are pressing for a war of revenge and that in any case
war and aggression are necessary to make the capitalist system
work. 2 The distinction is always made that in the ideological
sphere there is not and never can be peaceful coexistence.
The high U.S. budgets for military expenditures provide very
convenient propaganda for the Soviet Government and Commu-
nist Party. By calling attention to this, they are able to justify the
obviously high expenditures within the Soviet Union under
conditions of public privation. The West, with the United States in
the lead, has singlehandedly started the armaments race. The
increase in the Soviet published military budget from 13.4 billion
rubles in 1966 to 17.9 billion rubles in 1970 are justified by
pointing out the dangerous new U.S. strategic doctrines such as
"assured destruction" and "counterforce." 2 3 The current line is
that communism is the wave of the future and that the Soviet
Union is in the vanguard, that the correlation of forces has
changed and that if the danger of capitalist aggression is somewhat
lessened it is because of the successes of the Soviet Union.
The naval officer corps is an elite group and apparently a stable
one. There is no officer retention problem. 24 Soviet society
provides very few alternatives in terms of position and rewards
better than the life of an officer. Furthermore, switching to an
alternate profession with the same pay, not to mention the same
privileges, is very difficult if not impossible once a career is
Adding to the prestige of a naval career is the fact that a Soviet
officer has the possibility of having one of the most coveted prizes
in the Soviet Union, a visit to a foreign country. Only officers and
crews, however, who have been screened for political reliability are
permitted in ships visiting foreign ports. Reliability ratings reflect
somewhat the possibility of contact with foreigners. Even permis-
sion to live in one of the open ports of the Soviet Union where
foreign tourists or ships visit— Leningrad, Odessa, Tallin, or Riga,
for example— or even in Moscow for that matter, is dependent
upon political reliability. Any shadow of doubt, even about close
relatives, may limit a sailor's career opportunities.
Nearly all Soviet foreign naval attaches are officers from the
military intelligence organization, the GRU, or from the KGB, the
government intelligence organization. The practice for all per-
sonnel serving or visiting abroad is to hold at least one immediate
member of the family hostage in the Soviet Union to insure that
there are no defections. This is routinely done with all diplomatic
families as well. Everyone knows that if a father defects, his wife
and children will suffer at home.
Such controls, however bizarre to an American, are so much a
part of Soviet life that they are probably taken for granted. While
the Soviet line officer who supports the system with enthusiasm is
rare, an officer who supports it out of ignorance of the alternatives
appears to be the norm. In any case, professional training and the
increasing prestige in the Soviet Union of the naval service insure
that the Soviet officer is competent and dedicated. What would
happen if he were given free alternatives and the chance to
experience some other life is the nightmare with which the
Politburo constantly wrestles.
A SUMMING UP
Commenting on the Winter War with Finland, Khrushchev said,
"You wouldn't have thought that the Finns would have the
advantage at sea but our Navy couldn't do anything right." 1
Admiral Golovko, Commander in Chief of the Northern Fleet,
was so uninformed about the political situation that he had to infer
the possibility of the Nazi invasion from the flow of refugees, the
massing of enemy troops, and the increase in aerial reconnaissance. 2
These and other anecdotes suggest that the Soviet Navy shares
not only many of the traditions but also many of the problems of
its czarist predecessor. It has brilliant theories and brilliant
practitioners, but the characteristics of the Soviet system and the
Russian culture keep it from being, by any stretch of the
imagination, perfect operationally.
In many ways, Admiral Golovko 's memoirs about the Second
World War provide a kind of textbook of Soviet naval thought
even today. Then the fate of the navy was determined by Stalin.
Those now in charge of the Soviet system are men who not only
survived Stalin but also who were promoted by him. The new look
of the Soviet Navy should not disguise the fact that it has taken
place under the old leadership.
The suppression of information, which makes the Soviets so
difficult to understand, also makes them vulnerable to their own
propaganda. Historically, Russian and Soviet leaders, who-
through their dictatorial internal control-lull themselves into a
false security, have made the grossest miscalculations about war.
Golovko illustrated the most important one: he was not even
informed that war with Germany was imminent, nor was the
Commandant of the Leningrad Naval District.
Although the problems of dual command stemming from having
a government and a party chain are said to be resolved in favor of
the commanding officer, the system makes decisive command
inherently impossible. In many tactical exercises, a command
appears to be clear and direct but when situations are new or
unexpected, the lines of authority in the Soviet Union are blurred.
The party, of course, has the last word and that knowledge alone
undermines the authority of the military chain of command.
There is always a question of who speaks for whom.
Soviet citizens, even their admirals, are so controlled, the
information they receive is so censored, that the rest of the world
is a composite of their dreams, government propaganda and a few
facts. This makes them subject to unpredictable behavior in the
face of situations that do not correspond with their expectations.
In spite of all of the emphasis on combat readiness, the Soviets
cannot possibly be prepared as the world they are informed about
is the artificial construction of the political organs.
Although the Officers' Handbook calls for "burning hatred of
the enemy," the Soviet sailor has difficulty developing such hatred
for something so abstract and so remote. Furthermore, because
the culture he is to hate is the producer of the goods he
desperately wants— the going rate in the black market for
secondhand blue jeans is well over a hundred rubles ($1 10)— he has
trouble thinking of it as all bad. In fact, being subjected to a
barrage of political propaganda about places they are not allowed
to visit and not daring to discuss the party line except to agree
with it, Soviet citizens have become indifferent to politics and not
easily moved by hate literature.
The refusal of the Northern Fleet soldier to fire at German
airplanes indicates another problem in the system. In the Soviet
Union, justice is extremely arbitrary. No one can be assured a fair
trial, or even a trial. Those who offend the system may simply
disappear. Thus, although unquestioning fulfillment of orders is
required, everyone learns to consider whether disobeying an order
would be more dangerous than obeying it. The chain of command
can work smoothly but it is frequently interrupted by competing
authorities such as secret police or political officers. For this
reason, orders— even on the bridge of a ship— may be questioned
and challenged, as foreign observers have noticed. If reality were
to penetrate the preconceptions of the collective with too great a
shock, the whole fabric of control would probably collapse as it
did in the October Revolution. One only need remember the
millions of Soviet citizens who greeted the invading German
troops as liberators. Had Hitler understood Russian culture, he
could indeed have taken Moscow.
The Westerner has difficulty appreciating the degree to which
the Soviet system can be self-destructive. For instance, the theory
that a nation acts in its vital interests must be questioned when
one considers the behavior of the Soviet Government in the
thirties. After the purge, in the Northern Fleet, when the war
began there was no officer on the staff over 35 years of age.
Therefore, there was no one who had ever seen military action
before unless it was against the Finnish Navy. Admiral Golovko
became the commander in chief with only 13 years of active duty
behind him, much of it in schools. 3 While there have not recently
been purges, the conditions that made them possible still exist.
The Soviet system facilitates the possibility of erratic, irrational,
and unbalanced behavior in its leaders. (They themselves charac-
terized Khrushchev, who fell only in the last decade, as an
unstable adventurist and Stalin was undoubtedly insane.)
Five days after the Nazi invasion, Admiral Golovko had no
more fuel for his ships. There was only the oil in the tanks. The
problems of supply and resupply in Soviet Russia, as in old Russia,
are apparently never-ending. (A former fishing fleet captain has
said that because there was not space on the Trans-Siberian
railroad, he customarily had to dump up to half of his fishing
catch.) Central planning may be a rational idea but it leads to
miserable shortages. The simplest items— shoelaces, screws or
flour— disappear from the shops for months. In logistics, it means
an enormous supply problem and in an economy such as that of
the Soviet Union, there are not duplicate products; there are few
off-the-shelf items. Although there have been enormous improve-
ments since the Second World War, there have also been great
increases in the complexities. Ships may become ineffective for
want of parts.
For these reasons, Soviet military systems must be built to be
rugged, interchangeable, and enduring. Although they seem crude,
they are meant to be good enough for the job. Designers realize
the importance of trying to avoid the problem of resupply
altogether. Nevertheless, under conditions of war much equipment
and many systems would not be operational for lack of a bolt.
At such a point the Soviets would fall back on the traditional
answer-the use of the masses. The Stalinist dictum that it is people,
not equipment, who win battles was, of course, a rationalization for
the materiel deficiencies of the Soviet Armed Forces. Nevertheless,
it said something about the Russian mentality. Historically, in
wartime and in peace, it has been national policy to sacrifice human
lives with less concern than one sacrifices equipment. For instance,
Admiral Golovko tells the story:
We had no marine infantry in the Arctic at that time. The
first so-called naval detachments of volunteer sailors, most of
whom were skilled ship's specialists with four or five years'
service were formed in literally so many hours. 4
But the losses were horrendous because the sailors were totally
untrained and even went into battle upright. They had not been
taught to crouch down. 5
On the other hand, the permanent condition of scarcity
encourages a degree of physical hardness and endurance as well as
a great degree of innovation. Soviet forces can make do with far
less than their Western counterparts, judging by their history.
Again, Admiral Golovko gives an illustration. Because amphibious
forces were essential to holding the front around Murmansk, and
there were no amphibious ships, the troops were delivered in
fishing vessels. That took place in freezing waters on rocky shores
held by hostile forces with superior arms and inadequate recon-
naissance. After Gallipoli, most Western nations would not have
considered such an operation feasible. Because of the incredible
Russian sacrifices, the German forces never broke through to
Murmansk. Leningrad and the Northern Fleet including the critical
supply line were saved.
Although the Soviet Union has had some spectacular techno-
logical achievements, it is a nation only recently industrialized and
in which technology is very unevenly distributed. Many of its
sailors come from collective farms, forests, and industrially
primitive regions of the Soviet Union. The heavy emphasis on
education obviously suggests both a pragmatic and a cultural
rationale. Soviet crews are far less sophisticated, technically, than
their Western counterparts. As ships spend more time further from
their bases, their problems in repair and maintenance are likely to
become more serious.
Finally, there is the enormous problem of reality versus
scientific theory or plan. The Soviets' difficulty in distinguishing
between v what actually exists and what is planned has already been
mentioned. An example of such a mentality comes from the
former Minister of Defense, Marshal Rodion Malinovsky, who died
in office in 1967. In 1959, he said:
Our navy has become in the fullest sense a modern navy
capable of resolving any strategic mission in its area of
responsibility. Overseas, they quite frequently speak and
write that the U.S. Navy is capable of delivering an attack
and landing at any point along our coastline. But as the
saying goes, "it is easy to boast but also easy to fail." It
seems to me that the people overseas should be thinking of
the fate of their own coast and their extended lines of
communication, whose vulnerability is now monstrously
bared and about the traditional invulnerability of America
which has been forever eliminated. 6
In 1959, the Soviet Navy was far from being a modern navy
capable of resolving any strategic mission; however, that was the
plan and the new navy was beginning to be built. Whether or not
Malinovsky believed what he said, his subordinates had to and
they had to hurry.
New operational systems, under such pressures, appear before
they are fully tested. This is partly owing to the ability of the
planning cycle to produce a false reality, partly owing to the waste
which the Soviet military system permits, and partly because of
the velocity of technological change in the Soviet Union. In any
case, the West, and no doubt the Soviets themselves, are
frequently giving credit to the Soviet Navy for a new system or a
new capability that in fact is not proving effective in action. 7
Deception and bluff, as well as incorrect predictions, charac-
terize the Soviet life. Lenin was a master of deceit. Many of his
lessons in tactics employ deception as a matter of course. Because
of the Soviet system of political controls and repression, like the
comparatively mildly repressive czarist system before it, a neces-
sary cultural characteristic of Soviet peoples is to develop the art
of deception. Khrushchev used deception so openly, so often and
with such little art that in the end he came to be considered
something of a buffoon even by his own people. Nevertheless, his
techniques were very effective in influencing the behavior of
Western governments. 8
With respect to the navy, Khrushchev told the world that large
ships were outmoded and that cruisers were only good for state
visits. That was in 1959 and 1960. But in those years, he
negotiated the right to build a naval base in Albania and must have
authorized plans for the considerable expansion of the Soviet
Navy. He approved plans for new and radical weapons to be
carried on large naval platforms.
His biggest game of deception was during the placement of
missiles on Cuba, an act that might well have been influenced by
the fact that a navy was being planned that could protect the
delivery of the missile-carrying freighters. The confusion between
present and future was clearly illustrated. In any case, the Cuban
action was a gross miscalculation that should have taught the West
two important lessons: (1) that the degree of thought control and
censorship within the Soviet Union means that one cannot depend
upon their making realistic appraisals of foreign situations; and (2)
that a leader can acquire the power to engulf the world in war
with few checks or balances. 9
Trying to browbeat the world with its missile superiority was
not an isolated Soviet tactic in international diplomacy. Boasting,
bluffing, and deceiving are weapons that are almost constantly
used to try to make the world, including the Soviet people, believe
that the advent of Soviet-style socialism is inevitable. The current
massive campaign to convince us that "the correlation of forces"
has changed, or that the balance in the Mediterranean has shifted
to the side of the Soviet squadron are elements of that same
campaign. Admiral Gorshkov's articles and speeches about the
Navy are similar moves. Otherwise they would not be published,
quoted, and referred to in such a variety of Soviet publications for
foreign consumption. He is, to some degree, being used as a voice
of propaganda. That, however, only emphasizes the degree to
which the new Soviet Navy is prepared for gunboat diplomacy.
Historically, Soviet bluff and bluster have not been always
successful, for when the Soviets have tried to take the lead in some
aspect of technological development they have often only fallen
behind. The exploration of space is an obvious example. An even
more critical failure centered on agriculture after all of Khrush-
chev's bluster about the virgin lands and increased productivity.
Ultimate sorts of discouragement come from the fact that the
Soviet Union cannot feed itself, after 60 years of spectacular
advancement in agricultural machinery and chemicals in the rest of
the world, and that the Soviet leaders have all had the experience
of seeing people starve to death during the war if not during the
thirties. Such failures must set limits on strategic planning.
Without food and with endless problems in spare parts, the Soviet
Union is unlikely to plan for a long war.
One of the most amusing annual games of deception is the
Soviet budget. In this game, the United States is particularly
vulnerable because one of our national characteristics is to have
trouble understanding the importance of something fully until we
know how much it costs. Whenever the specter of the Soviet Navy
is raised, it is necessary to try to say how much the new ships are
worth in order to make it clear that there is a valid naval threat.
The joke is that no one, not even the Soviets, knows how much
the new ships cost and if you could assign a value, it would no
more be a measure of the ship's worth than if you could calculate
the value of a teaspoonful of dust picked up on Mars. First of all,
rubles are not money. They are a kind of scrip or voucher used,
among other purposes, to allocate scarce goods internally. Labor is
exploited on an enormous scale, compared to the rest of the
world, and paid an artificially low rate. The cost of materials is
assigned and does not represent either competitive bids, intrinsic
worth, or scarcity. Thus, if one somehow does calculate the cost
of labor and material in rubles, the resulting sum reflects
absolutely nothing comparable beyond the Soviet borders. Finally,
much of the Soviet Defense Establishment is not reflected in the
budget at all. Research and development, some equipment, and
many services are placed under a variety of other headings.
Recent defense budgets were-in 1966, 13.4 billion rubles; in
1968, 16.7 billion rubles; in 1970, 17.9 billion rubles; and in
1971-72 the defense budget was said to have leveled off without
increase. But in 1970, Marshal Grechko referred to "a further
strengthening of our country's defenses" 1 ° and in 1973 there was
a statement that the Central Committee had taken steps to bring
"troops up to strength" 1 l implying that troop strength had
increased. Although Red Star 1 2 denied that Soviet expenditures
were increasing, these were the years of the massive naval exercise
Okean 1970, the reequipping of the Soviet forces with modern
weapons, the introduction of a series of new atomic submarines,
and the construction of Soviet aircraft carriers. That expenditures
had not increased could only have been meant for the naive.
But deception can work two ways and the greatest danger to
U.S. Forces is probably not so much from Soviet deception as
from our self-deception.
Theories of convergence and peaceful coexistence (by which we
mean the nonexpansion of Communist domination) ignore the
realities of the Soviet system. The greater the domestic economic
and foreign failures, the more the danger that the Soviet leaders
will turn to military power in their frustration. With no time to
prepare in modern war, we must correctly read the signals. We are
in a new era of Soviet military expansion which means military
bullying such as the world experienced during the various Berlin
maneuvers of Stalin and Khrushchev. The difference now will be
that the Soviets will have vast forces to play with on a worldwide
Most important will be understanding the role of the Soviet
Navy in the dialectics of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
that pretends-with its enormous powers of destruction— to see a
world that, in a mirror of unreality, is a world like the following:
Facing the future, socialism offers a specific alternative to
the misfortunes and horrors of capitalism. A qualitatively-
new, historically international basis of the people's struggle
for peace, democracy, national freedom and social progress is
emerging. Socialism's enormous successes are a key turning
point in the development of all aspects of the world
revolutionary process and in the formation of a communist
civilization throughout the globe. 1 3
FOREWORD-THINKING ABOUT NAVIES
1. Sergei G. Gorshkov, Sea Power of the State (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976), p. iv.
2. Friedrich Engels, cited in Gorshkov, p. 314.
4. Rodion Malinovsky, "Introduction," in Marshal Sokolovskiy, ed., Military
Strategy, 2nd ed. (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1963).
5. Such a critique of the Soviet Navy was apparent in a work so recent as Edward
Wegener's The Soviet Naval Offensive (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1975).
CHAPTER I-EAST VS. WEST: THE TWO LANGUAGES OF WAR
1. Of course, nothing on the scale of the purges of the thirties has recurred. For
example, Marshal Zhukov, the World War II hero and the nearest thing to a popular
figure in the Soviet Union, was removed from office in 1957 and allowed to retire. Even
so, he was publicly disgraced and prevented from enjoying the honors that were his due
because "he followed a course of curtailing the work of Party organizations and military
councils and for the liquidation of management and control of the armed forces by the
Party." (From a Decree of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union, CPSU.) That, in the strange Soviet doubletalk, translates to
mean that besides arguing for greater independence in military decisions, Zhukov had
gained sufficient power and popularity to become a political danger. Admiral Kuznetsov,
Admiral Gorshkov's predecessor as the Soviet CNO, was demoted and disgraced and had
to make his promotion to admiral twice. He was not mentioned in Admiral Gorshkov's
book although other naval leaders of that period were.
2. This more aggressive internationalist theme was clearly stated by Brezhnev in
his plenary speech of the 24th Congress of the CPSU and restated, with increased
emphasis at the 25th Party Congress in 1976. (See Reprints from the Soviet Press, 15
April 1976.) The theme was taken up by numerous officials. (For a recent version, see
Marshal I. Yakubovskiy, "Victory was Forged by the People," Moscow Pravda, 8 May
1976, p. 2.)
3. L. Brezhnev, Stenograficheskii otchet XXV S'ezd KPSS (Moscow: Politizdat,
1976), v. I, p. 35.
4. Sergei Gorshkov, "Navies in War and Peace," Morskoy sbornik, February 1972,
5. V.I. Lenin, Selected Works (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1967), v. 9, pp. 475-479.
6. For example, at the 25th Party Congress, Brezhnev attributed the recognition
by the world of the German Democratic Republic and the inviolability of its borders to
united strength of the socialist countries and pointed to the series of agreements with the
United States as having a decisive influence on the decline of threats to the socialist
system. See Morskoy sbornik, May 1976, p. 4, for a review of the most important
aspects of the conference from the navy's point of view.
7. Roman Kolkowicz, "Strategic Parity and Beyond: Soviet Perspectives," World
Politics, April 1971, p. 449.
8. For directing attention to this testimony, I am indebted to Roger W. Barnett's
article, "Shattering the U.S./S.U. Mirror Image." The quote may be found in U.S.
Congress, Senate, Committee on Armed Services, Military Implications of the Treaty on
the Limitations of Anti- Ballistic Missile Systems and the Interim Agreement on
Limitations of Strategic Offensive Arms (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1972), p.
9. S.N. Kozlov, The Officer's Handbook (Moscow: Ministry of Defense, 1971), pp.
10. V. Ye. Savkin, The Basic Principles of Operational Art and Tactics (Moscow:
Ministry of Defense Press, 1972), p. 109.
11. Phyllis P. Kohler, ed., Custine's Eternal Russia (Coral Gables: Center for
Advanced International Studies, 1976), p. 114.
12. A.S. Milovidov, ed., The Philosophical Heritage of V.I. Lenin and Problems of
Contemporary War (Moscow: Ministry of Defense Press, 1972), p. 19.
CHAPTER II-CONCEPTS OF WAR, EAST AND WEST
1. Richard Pipes, "Some Operational Principles of Soviet Foreign Policy,"
Memorandum, Subcommittee on National Security and International Operations, U.S.
Senate (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1972), no. 71-039.
2. Sergei G. Gorshkov, Sea Power of the State (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976), p.
3. Marshal A. A. Grechko, Krasnava Zvezda, 12 July 1972, p. 1.
4. A.S. Milovidov, ed., The Philosophical Heritage of V.I. Lenin and Problems of
Contemporary War (Moscow: Ministry of Defense Press, 1972), pp. 1-2.
5. S.N. Kozlov, The Officer's Handbook (Moscow: Ministry of Defense, 1971), p.
6. A. Kormil'tsev, "Concern for the Good of the Nation-The Highest Law of the
Party," Morskoy sbornik, December 1975, pp. 3-8.
7. Kozlov, p. 71.
9. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1960), v. 38, pp.
10. Leonid Brezhnev, Report of the CPSU Central Committee to the 24th Congress
of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 30 March 1971, translated in Reprints
from the Soviet Press, 14 May 1971, p. 27.
12. Milovidov, p. 19.
14. L.I. Brezhnev, Lenin's Cause Is Alive and Is Triumphing (Moscow: Politizdat,
1970), p. 211.
15. S. Gorshkov, "Navies in War and Peace," Morskoy sbornik, February 1972, pp.
16. For this list of Leninist tactics, I am indebted to Doctor Kunta of the Army
Institute of Advanced Slavic and East European Studies.
17. Milovidov, p. 4.
18. Kozlov, p. 79.
19. Ibid., p. 11.
20. Ibid., p. 11-12.
21. Ibid., p. 73.
23. Ibid., p. 74.
24. T. Kondratkov, "The Social Character of War," Red Star, 16 December 1970,
CHAPTER III-THE SOVIET NAVY IN MARXIST STRATEGY
1. Nikolai Kuznetsov, Nakanune (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1966), p. 258. Robert
Herrick, in his book, Soviet Naval Strategy; Fifty Years of Theory and Practice
(Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1968), points out the interesting fact that
references to the big-ocean navy, including the aircraft carrier, were not published in the
serialized version of either the English language journal, International Affairs, or in the
widely circulated Soviet magazine, Oktyabr'. It is apparent that the memoirs were
censored at least three times: once by the Military Publishing House; once by the
domestic censorship service; and once by the censors for foreign disclosure.
2. Kuznetsov, p. 259, quoted from Herrick, p. 33.
3. Herrick, p. 34.
4. S.G. Gorshkov, "The Development of Naval Art," Morskoy sbornik, February
1967, pp. 12-13. (Hereafter "Development.") The comment about "the period of the
rehabilitation of the navy" refers to the late twenties when a new period of construction
was begun after the long period of suppression after the Kronshtadt rebellion.
5. Herrick, p. 35.
6. John E. Moore, The Soviet Navy Today (New York: Stein and Day, 1976), p.
7. Milovan Djilas, Conversations With Stalin (New York: Harcourt Brace and
World, 1962), p. 182.
8. Gorshkov, p. 15.
9. Sergei G. Gorshkov, Sea Power of the State (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976), p.
10. "Komandir," Red Star, 11 February 1967, p. 1.
11. Nikolay Smirnov, "Soviet Ships in the Mediterranean," Red Star, 12 November
1968, p. 1.
12. V. Kulikov, "Modern Missions and Tasks of Soviet Air Defense Forces,"
Vestnik protivovozdushnoy oborony, April 1973, p. 1.
13. See, for example, V. Kasatonov, "The Mediterranean is not an American Lake,"
Soviet Military Review, January 1969, pp. 53-55.
CHAPTER IV-THE HISTORICAL SETTING
1. It is interesting that Admiral Gorshkov, in all of his writing, emphasizes the
continuity between the Russian and Soviet Navies and their ties even to the distant
Slavic past. In his book, Sea Power of the State (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976), (hereafter
Sea Power), he uses the past— glorified, censored and distorted to be sure— for two
purposes: to emphasize the heroic traditions of the present and to justify and support
current strategic concepts.
2. These relationships are recognized by Admiral Gorshkov who gives the battle
against the shore primacy for the navy. Gorshkov, p. 283.
3. The Russo-Japanese war actually caused Mahan to revise his theory in such a
fundamental way as almost to abrogate it. In 1911, in Naval Strategy, he wrote, "There
is one further conclusion to be drawn from the war between Japan and Russia, which
contradicts a previous general impression that I myself have shared, and possibly in some
degree have contributed to diffuse. That impression is that navies depend upon maritime
commerce as the cause and justification of their existence. To a certain extent, of course,
this is true; and just because true to a certain extent, the conclusion is more misleading.
Because partly true, it is accepted as unqualifiedly true. Russia has little maritime
commerce, at least in her own bottoms; her merchant flag is rarely seen; she has a very
defective seacoast; can in no sense be called a maritime nation. Yet the Russian Navy had
the decisive part to play in the late war; and the war was unsuccessful, not because the
navy was not large enough, but because it was improperly handled. Probably, it also was
intrinsically insufficient— bad in quality; poor troops as well as poor leadership. The
disastrous result does not contravene the truth that Russia, though with little maritime
shipping, was imperatively in need of a navy." From Alfred T. Mahan, Naval Strategy
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1911), p. 445.
4. Frederick T. Jane, Imperial Russian Navy (London: Thacker, 1904), p. 136.
5. Alfred T. Mahan, "Current Fallacies upon Naval Subjects," Harper's New
Monthly Magazine, June 1898, pp. 44-45.
6. Gorshkov, p. 359.
7. See Arseni G. Golovko, With the Red Fleet (London: Putnam, 1965) for an
account of how you fight a war without information, trained troops, equipment or fuel.
8. V.K. Klyuchevskiy, Kurs russokoy istorii (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1937), v. IV, p.
9. One is tempted to push comparisons too far; however, it is not difficult to
understand why Peter the Great is such a hero for the Soviet proletariat. On his way to
Holland to learn how to build ships— and incidentally during that excursion through
Europe he did not allow himself to be diverted to see any major artistic objects
whatsoever— he called at the court of the Duke of Bradenburg in Konete, now
Kaliningrad. He was, at first, shy but soon collected himself, began to chat, charmed
everyone, made his host and their retinue drunk with toasts, admitted that he did not
love music or hunting but loved sailing, building boats, and fireworks. He showed the
host the callouses on his hands and took part in the dancing but thought that the corsets
the German women wore were their ribs and lifted the future mother of King Frederick
the Great up by her ears and kissed her, thereby absolutely destroying her hairdo.
(Klyuchevskiy , ibid. )
10. It is tempting to observe that like many modern Soviet visitors abroad, Peter
the Great affected not to admire aspects of contemporary foreign life but concentrated
almost entirely on technology, production, and craftsmanship. His primary diversion was
not foreign cultural activities but alcohol.
11. Klyuchevskiy, p. 22.
12. Interestingly, Soviet military commentators including Admiral Gorshkov,
attribute a similar strategic requirement to Americans. It is probably characteristic of all
military leaders to want overwhelming forces. Perhaps too much is made of this so-called
Russian strategic law.
13. Brokgaus i Efron, eds., Entsiklopedicheskiy slovar (St. Petersburg: Brokgaus i
Efron, 1902), v. 38, p. 906.
14. N. Boyev, "Memoires du Comte de Langeron," Russkiy vestnik, No. 4, 1878, p.
1 5. Catherine's evaluation of her fleet was even lower. She wrote that she had seen
the fleet "fire all day without once hitting it [the target] and it maneuvered more like a
fleet of herring boats than a naval squadron." Frances Gribble, The Comedy of Catherine
the Great (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1912), pp. 169-170.
16. The Empress had concrete imperial intentions. She told the Hapsburg heir
apparent in 1782 that "all" she wanted was a port on the Black Sea and two or three
Greek islands for entrepot purposes. Alexander Bruckner, Istoriya Ekaterinoj Vtoroj
(St. Petersburg: A. Suvorin, 1885), v. Ill, p. 38.
17. In discussing John Paul Jones' experience in Russia one is torn between the
brilliance of his tactical and strategic plans on the one hand and the fascination of the
court intrigues and the machinations of Catherine's favorites against him on the other.
Actually, one should not try to separate the two for in Russia they went hand in hand. It
was not enough to be a tactical genius. One also had to know the strategy even of the
18. John Paul Jones, Memoirs (London: Washbourne, 1943), v. II, p. 87.
19. Ibid., p. 84.
20. Ibid., pp. 151-153.
21. An incidental result of this royal christening was that during a rebellion against
Nicholas I, the peasants were incited to adopt the slogan "Constantine and Constitu-
tion." It is said that when later interrogated, they explained that they thought that
"Constitution" was Constantine's wife.
22. Lord Nelson was sufficiently aware of this to induce Paul to give Lady
Hamilton the Order of St. John of Jerusalem which was bestowed in a letter from the
Emperor of Russia to Lord Nelson dated 12 December 1799 and written in Paul's hand.
23. Horatio Nelson, Memoirs of the Life of Lord Nelson (Boston: William Norman,
1806), v. II, p. 5.
24. Letter of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton, 5 May 1801 in Nelson's Memoirs, p.
25. Jane, p. 142.
26. A. Bubnov, On the Czar's Staff (V tsarskoy stavke) (New York: Chekov Press,
1955), p. 219.
27. Ibid., pp. 222-223.
CHAPTER V-WAR AND REVOLUTION
1. M.G. Saunders, ed., The Soviet Navy (New York: Praeger, 1958), p. 53.
2. Ibid., p. 45.
3. The necessity for developing the port of Murmansk and increasing the capacity
of the dockyards at Archangel made those ports important targets and the northern sea
lines vulnerable to German attack. The result was the organization of the Northern
Flotilla in July 1916 to protect those sea lines of communication. Shipping on these
lanes increased enormously from a negligible figure to 1,800 ships delivering 5,475,000
tons between 1915 and 1917. K.A. Stalbo, The History of Naval Art (Istoriya
voennomorskogo iskusstra) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1965), p. 128.
4. A. Bubnov, On the Czar's Staff (V tsarskoy stavke) (New York: Chekov Press,
1955), pp. 1-3.
5. Ibid., p. 124.
6. Saunders, p. 56.
7. T.G. Martin, "A Soviet Carrier on the Horizon?" U.S. Naval Institute
Proceedings, November 1970, p. 47.
8. That Lenin never intended any sort of disarmament is fairly certain as he made
many pronouncements against it of which the following is an example: "Disarmament
(universal and total) can be implemented only as a result of the victory of the socialist
revolution in the entire world .... The disarmament idea is a Utopia in a society based
on class contrasts .... This disarmament slogan was used by the bourgeois pacifists and
was taken up by the Second International to deceive the working masses thirsting for
peace . . . ." From the Large Soviet Encyclopedia, 1st ed., v. XLVIII (Moscow: Goslit,
1941), p. 158.
9. Stalbo, p. 156.
10. Ibid., p. 168.
11. Ibid., p. 153.
12. Ibid., p. 168.
13. V.I. Achkasov, et al., Combat Path of the Soviet Navy (Boevoy put' sovetskogo
Voyenno-morskogo flota) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1967), p. 148. (Hereafter Combat Path.)
14. Ibid., p. 196.
16. N.G. Kuznetsov, Nakanune (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1966), p. 257.
17. Ibid., p. 94.
18. Sigfried Breyer, Guide to the Soviet Navy (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute,
1970), pp. 21-37.
19. Voenno istoricheskiy zhurnal, No. 6, 1971, pp. 36-37.
20. Robert Herrick, Soviet Naval Strategy; Fifty Years of Theory and Practice
(Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1968).
21. Other references to these debates are found in: Kuznetsov, p. 49 and S.G.
Gorshkov, "The Rise of Soviet Naval Art," Morskoy sbornik, February 1967, pp. 9-12.
22. Nicholas Shadrin, "The Development of Soviet Maritime Power," Unpublished
Dissertation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 1972, v. I, p. 51.
23. Kuznetsov, p. 221.
24. After the conclusion of the nonaggression pact in August 1939 with Nazi
Germany, Stalin went to the extreme, considering his paranoia with respect to revealing
military information, of placing the naval base at Murmansk at the disposal of the
German Navy and of even agreeing to the passage on the North Sea route of a German
armed merchant cruiser transiting to Japan. Such largess is yet another proof that he
really did not expect war.
25. Nikita S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970),
26. Ibid., p. 155.
27. Arseni G. Golovko, With the Red Fleet (London: Putnam, 1965), p. 22.
28. In Combat Path the authors wish to pass off the inadequacy of the development
of aviation as a function of foreign influence. "However, at that time, our military
thought— like even that of foreign countries— greatly underrated the enormously
increased possibilities of aviation which had become at the beginning of the Second
World War a powerful striking force in battle at sea. Soviet military doctrine at that time
was based on comprehensive conceptions of the strategic use of naval forces in their
contiguous waters which led to a well-known contradiction between tactics and
operational art," pp. 9-10. What all of that means is that the Soviets were simply
unprepared for defensive warfare.
29. Stalbo, pp. 171-174.
30. N.G. Kuznetsov, "Second Book of Reminiscence, The War Years," Oktyabr',
31. Saunders, p. 59.
32. Kuznetsov, "Second Book of Reminiscence, The War Years," p. 118.
33. Saunders, pp. 79-80.
34. Ibid., p. 78.
CHAPTER VI-A SOVIET/RUSSIAN SYNTHESIS
1. N.G. Kuznetsov, Nakanune (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1966), p. 579.
2. V.I. Achkasov, et al., Combat Path of the Soviet Navy (Boevoy put' sovetskogo
Voyenno-morskogo flota) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1967), p. 539.
3. P. Bashurin, "Frunze Military Academy," Voyennyy vestnik, December 1968,
4. N. Sergeev, "The Ocean Fleet of Our Fatherland," Morskoy sbornik, July 1975,
5. Ibid., p. 8.
6. Herbert Goldhamer, The Soviet Soldier: Soviet Military Management at the
Troop Level (New York: Crane, Russak, 1975), p. 71. lam particularly indebted to Dr.
Goldhamer for his well researched illustrations from the Soviet press.
7. Ibid., p. 81.
8. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1977-78
(London: 1977), pp. 8-9.
9. A. Chernomys, "The Far-flung Orbit of Voentorg," Red Star, 29 June 1971, p.
10. "The Culture of the Military Town," Red Star, 28 September 1971, p. 1.
11. Goldhamer, p. 32.
12. Zev Katz, "Sociology in the Soviet Union," Problems of Communism,
May-June 1971, p. 37.
13. P. Ushakov, "The Collective in Work and Personal Responsibility," Kommunist
Vooruzhennykh sil, January 1971, pp. 53-55. (Hereafter KVS.)
14. A. Fedoryk, "The Inertia of Habit," Red Star, 14 October 1971, p. 2.
15. Goldhamer, p. 108.
16. Ibid., p. 109.
17. Ibid., p. 111.
18. Ibid., p. 117.
19. Ibid., p. 172.
20. Ibid., p. 173.
21. Ibid., p. 193.
22. Red Star, 5 February 1971, p. 2.
23. Cited in editorial "A High Level of Training— The Basis of Military Readiness,"
Morskoy sbornik, June 1975, p. 3.
24. S.G. Gorshkov, "The Navy Fulfilled Its Duty to the Motherland Up to the Very
End," Morskoy sbornik, p. 15.
25. Interestingly, in Gorshkov's resume of history in Sea Power of the State
(Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976) (hereafter Sea Power), there is no mention of the atomic
bombs dropped on Japan, the Kronshtadt rebellion, the importance of convoys to
Murmansk or many other critical historical events. Gorshkov reaches a height of
absurdity in dismissing the Battle of Trafalgar as of no great importance, p. 81.
26. Achkasov, p. 231.
27. Ibid., p. 243. There is an additional note that the officers and sailors of the
English merchant and Royal Navies fulfilled their duties bravely and well. There is no
mention of other allied participation. America did not even rate a footnote.
28. Another indication that Soviet history is serving religious purposes is that of
frequent digression in nearly all Soviet military writing, including that of Admiral
Gorshkov, to list names of heroes or heroic acts. These digressions are particularly
interesting because they have a very close parallel in classical literature, specifically in the
works of Homer and Virgil. These lists are very like the catalog of heroes in the Iliad.
In the modern Soviet state, being listed is somewhat the equivalent of achieving
sainthood. Another technique in discussing major battles is to list who was present
among the subsequently important Soviet leaders. Through such lists one learns, for
example, that Admiral Gorshkov served in the Black Sea Fleet during the war and shared
some experiences with Marshal Grechko. As details of their exploits in these
engagements are usually not told— except in the case of Stalin in which the details were
simply fabricated for his greater glorification— the effect is a religious one of conferring a
kind of benediction for proximity to a great event. Presence at the Battle of Stalingrad
has become a kind of mystical requirement in the current Soviet leadership, as already
In any case, these catalogs of heroes and battles are proof of the promise of
immortality for those who have sacrificed themselves for the Soviet state. Though one
cannot say to what degree this observance inspires the modern Soviet sailor, one can at
least affirm that the official Soviet effort to create shrines and tributes to those who fell
in a state of Communist grace is massive and unstinting. Others die without a trace, even
a telegram to their families, and those disgraced are blotted out of history.
29. V. Leskov, "Military Character," Red Star, 10 February 1972, p. 2; Goldhamer,
30. V. Konopolev and V. Kovalev, "On the Role of the Armed Forces in Modern
Society," KVS, February 1971, pp. 27-34.
CHAPTER VII-THE TACTICS OF WAR
1. See Marshal Sokolovskiy, ed., Military Strategy, 2nd ed. (Moscow): Voenizdat,
1963), p. 6 and Sergei G. Gorshkov, Sea Power of the State (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976),
pp. 198-212. (Hereafter Sea Power.)
2. Officers' Handbook (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1971), p. 68. (Hereafter Handbook.)
3. S. Lomov, "The Influence of Military Doctrine on the Development of Military
Art," Kommunist vooruzhennykh sil, November 1965, pp. 15-25.
4. Gorshkov speaks of the "flexibility" of the navy but his discussions of its
capabilities leave few doubts that its response in battle is geared to the nuclear age. Such,
for example, is the following: "The steady increase in the range and power of naval
weaponry is fostering the further development of this trend, [the use of missile
weaponry] which permits the accomplishment of tactical missions under certain
conditions, not through prolonged and stubborn fighting, but by a single unilateral
action against the enemy." Gorshkov, p. 286.
5. Handbook, p. 294.
6. Ibid., p. 73.
7. These stages were identified by A. A. Strokov, ed., History of Military Art
(Moscow: Voenizdat, 1966), p. 590. There were many references to the same period by
such men as M.I. Cherednichenko, "On the Details of the Development of Military Art in
the Post-war Period," Military History Journal, June 1970, p. 19 and others.
8. This was not without precedent. As Gorshkov observed, during the war the
"Katyusha," multiple rocket launcher, was put on torpedo boats, p. 555.
9. N.A. Sbytov, "The Revolution in Military Affairs and Its Meaning," Red Star,
15 February 1963, p. 2.
10. Maneuvers, taking into account the use of atomic weapons, were conducted as
early as 1954. See Sokolovskiy, p. xix.
11. Gorshkov, p. 272.
12. Marshal A. A. Grechko, On Guard Over the Peace and the Building of
Communism (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1971), pp. 52-57.
13. See Robert G. Weinland, "The Changing Mission of the Soviet Navy," Survival,
May/June 1972, pp. 129-134, and a general study of naval policy by Ken Booth, "Navies
and Foreign Policy," Department of International Politics, University College of Wales,
Aberystwyth, March 1974. In addition, see Thomas Wolfe, "Soviet Naval Interaction
with the United States and Its Influence on Soviet Naval Development," Soviet Naval
Developments (Halifax: Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, 1972), p. 62. Also see
Richard T. Ackley, "The Soviet Navy's Role in Foreign Policy," Naval War College
Review, May 1972, p. 48.
14. S. Gorshkov, "Guarding the Achievements of the Great October," Morskoy
sbornik, October 1967, p. 7.
15. See V.A. Alafuzov, "On the Study of Military Strategy," Morskoy sbornik,
January 1963, pp. 88-96.
16. S.A. Gulyayev, "The Role of Aviation in Combat Operations at Sea in
Contemporary Conditions," Morskoy sbornik, June 1965, pp. 36-43.
17. V.G. Efremenko, "The Rise and Development of the Submarine Force and Its
Tactics," Morskoy sbornik, October 1970, pp. 16-23.
18. This is Nicholas Shadrin's clarification. See his "The Development of Soviet
Maritime Power," Unpublished Dissertation, George Washington University, Washington,
19. Gorshkov, Sea Power, p. 289.
20. S. Gorshkov, "True Sons of the Fatherland," Pravda, 31 July 1960, p. 3.
21. S. Gorshkov, "The Ocean Guards of the Fatherland," Pravda, 27 July 1969, p.
22. V. Germanovich and N. Klimov, "The Destruction by Aviation of Large Surface
Ships at Sea," Morskoy sbornik, March 1972, p. 45.
23. V.V. Mikhajlin and Ya. G. Pochupajlo, "The Path of the Avrora," Morskoy
sbornik, October 1967, p. 18.
24. V.V. Vlagin and M.V. Patrikejtsev, "Rockets in the Navy," Morskoy sbornik,
August 1922, p. 92.
25. "Naval Guards: Report from on Board a Landing Ship," Komsomol 'skaya
pravda, 18 September 1966, p. 1.
26. Shadrin, p. 181.
27. Bol'shakov and Chuprikov, "Submarines Against Capital Ships at Sea,"
Morskoy sbornik, June 1972, p. 35.
28. Herbert Goldhamer, The Soviet Soldier: Soviet Military Management at the
Troop Level (New York: Crane, Russak, 1975), p. 207.
29. M. Kozlov, "An Important Factor in the Power of the Armed Forces," Red
Star, 21 April 1976, pp. 2-3.
30. Expendability has long been one of the principles of the Russian Navy. At the
turn of the century, a Russian naval tactical genius wrote, "If ships only busy themselves
about supporting one another in battle, the enemy who is in no way hindered, will
invariably win." S. Makaroff, Discussion of Questions in Naval Tactics, trans, by John B.
Bernadow (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1898), p. 25.
31. Gorshkov, Sea Power, p. 324.
32. N.P. V'yunenko, "Soviet Naval Art on the Eve of the Great War of th«
Fatherland," Morskoy shornik, June 1971, pp. 29-35.
33. Vasily M. Kulish, Military Force and International Relations (Moscow:
International Relations Publishing House, 1972), p. 103.
34. The change in the "correlation of forces" of course produced a change in naval
politics, a new line. The new, more aggressive, posture which Brezhnev struck at the 24th
Party Congress was reflected in more positive statements about the role of the navy such
as "Our fleet is now fulfilling an important international mission. By its presence on the
expanses of the seas and oceans, it shackles the aggressive intentions of the imperialists.
The USA, whose naval forces are often used as a billy club by the Pentagon against
people who are fighting for their freedom, independence and democracy, has to take it
into account." V'yunenko, p. 35.
35. Gorshkov, Sea Power, p. 289.
36. Ibid., p. 264.
37. V'yunenko, p. 31,
38. Ibid., p. 32.
39. Sergei Gorshkov, "Navy Missions," Morskoy sbornik, February 1972, p. 22.
40. Gorshkov, Sea Power, p. 324.
41. Gorshkov wrote, "Today the navy is capable of successfully carrying out
strategic missions not only by destroying important targets in enemy territory, but also
by destroying submarine platforms for nuclear weaponry at sea." Ibid., p. 260.
CHAPTER VIII-PREPARING THE MIND
1. See Nicholas G. Shadrin, "Development of Soviet Maritime Power," Unpub-
lished dissertation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., June 1972, v. I, p.
212. Naval officers' schools were given the status of higher educational institutions in
1939 and their enrollment was increased. However, while increased numbers of officers
were coming into the navy from below, the numbers of experienced officers at the top
were being drastically reduced in the purges. Again, the former czarist naval officers
maintained the standards of the navy, for many of them staffed the educational and
scientific institutions, and in the general slaughter of Soviet trained officers, in the
purges, two of them emerged as fleet admiral and full admiral. See Robert Herrick,
Soviet Naval Strategy; Fifty Years of Theory and Practice (Annapolis: U.S. Naval
Institute Press, 1968), p. 45.
2. V.A. Krenov, "Forge of Naval Officer Cadres," Morskoy sbornik, January 1971,
3. I.I. Gusakovskiy, "Develop and Educate Military Cadres According to Lenin,"
Red Star, 20 January 1970, p. 2. It is not known how much of that low level of
education was due to the purges.
4. A.E. Orel, "The Ushakov Naval Academy," Morskoy sbornik, March 1969, pp.
5. The Russian cognate for academy, akademiya, causes translators and writers
difficulty. Whereas in English, academy means a college-level education, in Russian it
always means an advanced-level institute. Only officers with the highest recommenda-
tions and usually with 2 years' command experience are admitted. The general age limit
is 38 years (although officers up to 45 years of age may be admitted to the extension
schools for study).
6. N.M. Zakharov, "The Authority of the Ships Political Worker," Morskoy
sbornik, January 1970, pp. 41-46.
8. Shadrin, p. 210.
9. For a discussion of the problems of dual control in the military see Herbert
Goldhamer, The Soviet Soldier: Soviet Military Management at the Troop Level (New
York: Crane, Russak, 1975), pp. 295-307.
10. Until Marshal Zhukov became a full member of the Politburo in 1957 (also the
year in which he was dismissed from all of his posts) no professional military officer had
had membership in that leading body. (Trotsky is a semiexception.) Marshal Grechko, 15
years later, in 1973, was the second officer to achieve that distinction. He undoubtedly
learned from Marshal Zhukov's experience not to try to weaken party controls.
11. N. Goncharov, "The Meaning of the Decisions of the 24th Party Congress . . . ."
Kommunist vooruzhennykh sil, November 1971, pp. 59-64. (Hereafter KVS.)
12. The KGB is far greater in size and complexity than the CIA. In addition to
performing all of the functions of the CIA, it operates a considerable armed force of its
own. It controls the border guards which involves an army, navy and air force and at
various times has maintained a uniformed force for internal security and control as well.
13. V. Pustov, "NATO Designs Against the Arab East," Soviet Military Review,
January 1970, pp. 52-53.
14. G. Zavizion, Yu. Kirshin, "Soviet Military Science: Social Role and Function,"
KVS, September 1972, pp. 9-16.
15. Goldhamer discusses Soviet charges of subversion of youth, soldiers and
security, pp. 212-223.
16. Ibid., p. 217.
17. V. Devin, "When One Forgets About An ti- Religious Propaganda," Krasnaya
zvezda, 22 August 1972, p. 2.
18. P. Efimov, "Documents of Great Political Significance," KVS, April 1973, pp.
19. Goldhamer, p. 224.
20. V. Matsylenko, "Operational Disguise of Soviet Troops," Military Historical
Journal, June 1972, pp. 11-21.
21. Goldhamer, p. 225.
22. Such an argument seems to be the basis of an article in KVS: S. Bartenev,
"Imperialism-The Cause of Wars," KVS, November 1972, pp. 71-76.
23. M. Cherednichenko, "Modern War and Economics," KVS, September 1971, pp.
24. Shadrin, v. I, p. 212ff.
CHAPTER IX-A SUMMING UP
1. Nikita S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970),
2. Arseni G. Golovko, With the Red Fleet (London: Putnam, 1965), p. 22.
3. Ibid., pp. 11-12.
4. Ibid., p. 47.
5. Ibid., p. 49.
6. R.Y. Malinovsky, Izvestiya, 4 February 1959, p. 1.
7. Michael MccGwire has written very convincingly on the degree to which the
Soviet Navy uses bluff and deception to make the world believe that it is far more
capable than it is. See his excellent book, Soviet Naval Development (New York:
8. Khrushchev's false statements published in Pravda, 28 July 1959, that the
Soviet Union had taken the lead in the production of ICBMs threw the United States
into something of a panic in 1 959.
9. After Nixon's years, the world can say the same thing about the U.S.
Presidency. Perhaps it is a consolation that the world will not, normally, be kept
ignorant of its danger from the United States in advance.
10. M. Cherednichenko, "Modern War and Economics," Kommunist vooruzhennykh
sil, September 1971, p. 20. (Hereafter KVS.)
11. P. Efimov, "Documents of Great Political Significance," KVS, April 1973, pp.
12. "Answers to Questions Asked of the Editors of Red Star," Red Star, 10 July
1973, p. 3. The editors not only flatly denied that the Soviet defense budget had
increased but also they claimed that it had actually declined and stressed that armaments
were only produced to satisfy the needs of defense.
13. A.I. Sobolev, "The Revolutionary Transforming Activity of the Working Class,"
Rabochiy klass i sovremenniy mir, 16 March 1976, p. 19.
Motiuk, L. Strategic Studies Reading Guide. Ottawa: Research
Board, annual. Lt. Col. Motiuk issues this bibliography, the
most exhaustive available on strategic studies, yearly.
Scott, William F. Soviet Sources of Military Doctrine and Strategy.
New York: National Strategy Information Center, Inc., 1975.
An excellent critical bibliography, this has the advantage of
containing Colonel Scott's very informed comments.
Periodicals in Russian
Kommunist vooruzhennyk sil'. (Communist of the Armed Forces.)
This is a doctrinaire monthly journal, an important source of
information on changes in strategy and tactics. One must be
prepared, however, to spend hours of tedious reading for a few
gems of information.
Krasnaya zvezda. (Red Star.) This is a daily newspaper that repeats
the leading articles of Pravda and Izvestiya, the Party and
government newspapers respectively. One does not read it for
the news, however, but for the speeches of leading military
figures. The obituary column in Red Star is the most popular
among Kremlinologists who keep card files on who went to
whose funeral. That is the means by which they determine who
is advancing in the hierarchy. Such close analysis also, some-
times, reveals the probability of some disaster, such as a nuclear
Morskoy sbornik. (Naval Gazette.) This is a monthly, the rough
equivalent of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. It is far less
informative and written in an exceedingly dry style. Significant
articles are translated into English by the U.S. Navy Scientific
and Technical Center.
Voenno-istoricheskiy zhurnal. (Military -historical Journal.) An
exceedingly wordy rewrite of history, this journal occasionally
contains some information that throws some light on an event
or operation of interest.
Books in English
Cable, James. Gunboat Diplomacy. New York: Praeger, 1971.
Whether or not one agrees with Cable's conclusions, this is an
indispensable book because of its methodology.
Chomeau, John B. Seapower as a Political Instrument: The Soviet
Navy in the Mediterranean. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms,
Goldhammer, Herbert. The Soviet Soldier: Soviet Military Manage-
ment at the Troop Level. New York: Crane, Russak & Co., Inc.,
1975. This is a comprehensive compilation and analysis of the
information available from the Soviet press on Soviet military life.
All scholars must be deeply grateful to Dr. Goldhammer for his
painstaking research of Soviet periodicals— an exceedingly
Gorshkov, S.G. Morskaya moshch' gosudarstva. (The Military
Might of the State.) Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976. This has
become the new bible for the study of the Soviet Navy. It is, of
course, very significant; however, it contains much that Gorsh-
kov has been saying for years and much misinformation.
Herrick, Robert W. Soviet Naval Strategy. Annapolis: U.S. Naval
Institute, 1971. This is one of the first books to try to
formulate the strategy of the Soviet Navy. It is particularly
valuable for showing the problems connected with the study of
the Soviet military. Herrick's research remains valuable and
many of his conclusions remain valid.
Jane, F.T. The Imperial Russian Navy. London: W. Thacker & Co.,
1904. This history, by the founder of Jane's Fighting Ships, is
still a primary source in English of information about the
history of the Russian Navy. The author had the advantage of
visiting Russia under the protection of one of the grand dukes.
Kilmarx, Robert A. Soviet-United States Naval Balance. Washing-
ton: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1975.
Kolkowicz, R. The Soviet Military and the Communist Party.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.
Kozlov, S.N. Spravochnik ofitsera. (Officer's Handbook.) Wright
Patterson: Foreign Technology Division, USAF, 1971. This is a
basic document on standards of service conduct, regulations,
Martin, L.W. The Sea in Modern Strategy. New York: Praeger,
MccGwire, Michael. Soviet Naval Developments: Capability and
Context. New York: Praeger, 1973. This is by far the most
significant current scholarly work on all aspects of the modern
Milovidov, A.S. The Philosophical Heritage of V.I. Lenin and the
Problems of Contemporary War. Translated by the USAF.
Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., #0870-00343. This series of
translations by the Air Force is under the general title of
"Soviet Military Thought." This series makes available in
English the best of what is available in Russian and is quite
Mitchell, Mairin. The Maritime History of Russia. London:
Sidgwick and Jackson, 1949. This history summarizes available
information for the period 1848-1948.
Moore, John E. The Soviet Navy Today. New York: Stein and
Day, 1975. This is the best unclassified source of information
on Soviet naval ships and weapons. The author brings very
expert knowledge to bear on the subject both as the editor of
Jane's Fighting Ships and a former director in British naval
Polmar, Norman. Soviet Naval Power: Challenge for the 1970's.
New York: National Strategy Information Center, Inc., 1972.
This is an extremely useful, short study of the Soviet Navy by
an author with a broad range of interests and experience. The
book is kept current through revised editions.
Saunders, M.G. Editor. The Soviet Navy. New York: Praeger,
1958. This is a basic textbook on Soviet seapower until the 60s.
It is now rather dated, but there are many articles of lasting
value in this volume.
Shadrin, Nicholas George. Development of Soviet Maritime Power.
Washington: George Washington University Microfilms, 1972.
This book, an unpublished dissertation, is one of the best works
available on the whole of Soviet maritime expansion and
development. It is written by a very sensitive observer.
Sokolovskiy, V.D. Editor. Soviet Military Strategy. Translated by
Harriet Fast Scott. New York: Crane, Russak & Co., Inc., 1975.
This is the most important and only published full statement of
Soviet military doctrine. The introduction and commentary by
Mrs. Scott are particularly valuable.
Soviet Watch Officer's Guide. Translated by W.B. Cramer. Wash-
ington, NavSTIC, 1973.
Theberge, James D. Editor. Soviet Seapower in the Caribbean:
Political and Strategic Implications. New York: Praeger, 1972.
Wegener, Edward. The Soviet Naval Offensive. Annapolis: Naval
Institute Press, 1975. This is important because it presents a
view of Soviet seapower as seen in Europe. The concepts,
however, appear to be highly conventional.
Woodward, David. The Russians at Sea: A History of the Russian
Navy. New York: Praeger, 1966.
*U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1980—602-714