How powerful IS the Soviet? Not strong enough to launch a war but too strong to be beaten, this expert believes

MAX WERNER January 1 1949


How powerful IS the Soviet? Not strong enough to launch a war but too strong to be beaten, this expert believes

MAX WERNER January 1 1949


How powerful IS the Soviet? Not strong enough to launch a war but too strong to be beaten, this expert believes


THERE is great confusion about Russia’s strength. We are told in the same breath that the Soviet Union outproduces the entire

world in weapons and that the Red Army is poorly equipped and backward; that the Soviet Union is making grandiose military preparations and that it would collapse within a few months, or even a few weeks, of an atomic attack. Thus, these days, fear of Russia is mingled in a peculiar way with the underestimation of the Soviet Union’s military strength. Yet the underrating of the Soviet Army is as wrong as the blind fear of the Soviet power is unfounded.

The Soviet Union is strong enough to defeat any aggression; it is not strong enough to make aggressive war. There is no contradiction in this statement. The Soviet Union’s armed forces are modern and formidable. But this strength has limitations of its own.

The Soviet Union is capable of fighting a protracted war by co-ordinating all efforts. This is the basic element of Russia’s strength. In World War Two Soviet military power grew stronger in spite of initial defeats, while German military power grew weaker in spite of initial victories. In 1940 the Red Army was already a strongly equipped mass army. I estimate that it consisted of some

100 infantry and 20 armored divisions, 20,000 guns, 6,000 first-line combat planes and 6,000 to 8,000 tanks.

At the end of the war the Red Army had four times more divisions, five times more planes and guns, and 15 times more tanks than in 1940. This was an amazing performance. At the end of the war the German Army was a melted mound of snow and the Red Army a moving avalanche.

The Russians are intense in their war efforts. In World War Two, for instance, their annual average steel production was somewhat below 15 million tons. The United Stetes produced over 75 million tons annually. Yet with a steel production of less than one fifth of the American, the Soviet Union produced the same amount of weapons for land war: tanks, guns and infantry equipment. With

this equal amount of land war weapons produced, Russia fully equipped and sent into the field five times as many infantry and armored divisions: about 450 against 90 American.

We must, of course, take a correction for LendLease which accounted for four |>er cent of the total Russian war material. We may say figuratively that in the Soviet Union one million tons of steel have “produced” 15 divisions, in the United Stetes slightly more than one. This is an astonishing equation. In the Soviet Union every available material resource was used for war; and complete mobilization of manpower was attained with a high percentage of this manpower put into action as combat power.

For today’s Soviet Army World War Two is not

a chapter of history,

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Continued from page 5

but a living experience. It was a military school in which the Soviet fighting forces were trained and steeled. That army fought for almost four years without letup: one year and a half in defensive and two and a half in offensive. They were able to carry offensive operations against the main forces of (he Wehrmacht at a breathtaking pace. Thus, after having taken Warsaw in January, 1945, the Red Army advanced 350 miles in 18 days.

Every single weapon was brought to full effectiveness. The combination of artillery, tanks, infant ry and support aviation worked as a single battle team.

Since demobilization the stress has

been laid on quality. Brigadier-General Edwin L. Sibert, assistant director of the U. S. Central Intelligence Group in Washington, is certainly right in stating that. Soviet demobilization was carried out on a selective basis. The basic infantrymen were quickly released while technicians and armored force troops were retained. The result, he concludes, gave the Soviet Union an army with special skill in armored warfare.

The Soviet Army remains a mass army, but not on the old scale. There is a higher saturation with modern weapons: more motors, fire power, mortars, guns, tanks per thousand soldiers. Although the wartime scale of aircraft production (40,000 planes annually) has been reduced, the ratio of jets and long-range bombers has

been increased. The fighting forces as a whole have become more compact and mobile.

The Soviet Union can send into the field after complete mobilization about 300 divisions, 100,000 guns, 60,000 tanks and 20,000 first-line combat planes.

The challenge of superweapons has been accepted by the Soviet Union. When Molotov said on Nov. 7, 1945, “We, too, will have atomic energy and many other things,” he obviously meant by “other things” the long-range rocket and the guided missile. In the field of rockets the Soviet Union had its own scientific . pioneer, the late K. Ziolkovski, an imaginative genius who as long as 30 years ago supplied a scientific basis for long-range rocket experimentation.

During the war the Soviet Army was the first to employ rocket artillery on a mass scale and the Soviet Air Force was the first to use rocket-firing planes. American observers agree that in rocket-guided missile production the Soviet Union does not lag behind the United States. Neither is Soviet production behind in aerodynamics and motor construction. Moreover, my analysis of Russian scientific reports and military literature indicates to me that Soviet military science has a very elaborate working program for a fully developed set of modern military supertechnology.

When will atomic production start in the Soviet Union? A few years ago opinion in the United States was sharply divided. At the end of 1945 the famous physicist Professor Langmuir believed Russia might produce the bomb between 1948 and 1950. General Groves, wartime head of United States atomic-bomb production, thought that the production of the bomb in Russia would require from 20 to 40 years of hard work. Now, however, the majority of American observers are inclined to think that the Soviet Union may have an atomic bomb shortly after 1950.

Since the end of the war the Soviet land army has been strengthened with superweapons. This is a new and original military idea. In the American conception superweapons, jet aviation, the rocket and the atomic bomb and guided missiles, are independent weapons, used primarily against the cities and industrial centres of the enemy. In the .Soviet concept, however, superweapons can be used both ways; in independent operations and combined with land offensive. Undoubtedly, jet planes, rockets and guided missiles can become highly effective as the first echelon of attack, moving and firing ahead of marching armies.

Can Bombers Get Through?

In the Soviet Union’s postwar strategy absolute priority is being given to air defense. In Russia today air defense is identical with atomic defense and with defense in general. Since the disappearance of the German and the Japanese armies, Russia is practically unassailable by land. If the Russian centres can be made atomproof, the Soviet defense problem will be solved.

The majority of experts believe that at the present time air defense is superior to the regular bomber. For the time being this may solve the problem of defense, since the longrange rocket for intercontinental war has not yet been developed and will not be ready for at least a decade, probably longer. This is a rather conservative calculation. A United States Navy Department paper discussing conditions of modern warfare reckons on 25 years of work still neces-

sary for the construction and production of the intercontinental rocket; further in an announcement made on Oct. 3, 1948, the Chiefs of Staff

of the U. S. Army, Navy and Air Force predict that this rocket will be ready by 1977. Until that time a thorough air defense can give to Soviet leadership a feasibly realistic certainty that Russia cannot be crushed from the air.

The war with superweapons is a twoway proposition; it is not the monopoly of any single country and it is not limited to the atomic bomb. United States research reports report that the ugly and terrible bacteriological warfare has been blueprinted in every elaborate detail. We may assume that the Russians have done some preparations of their own in this field, even though they have not published anything about their research.

Besides, there is for Soviet strategy a second working method: strategic air defense, a system of moves aimed at cushioning and preventing attack. Dispersion of industry belongs in this category. Another means is the threat of retaliations. An atomic attack can be deterred not only by the threat of atomic counterattack but by the menace of bacteriological warfare, or chemical weapons, or cosmic rays, or some secret weapon.

Three Tiers of Strategy

Thus, Soviet strategy consists of three tiers: the first, air defense; the second, land offensive; the third, longdistance retaliations. The active core of Soviet strategy is, however, the land offensive.

The Soviet’s allies in Eastern Europe represent solid military strength and thus augment Russian land power. First among these are the four Slav countries: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia,

Poland and Yugoslavia. In spite of the sharp split on the political level,'militarily Yugoslavia must still be considered part of the Soviet block. These four Slav countries together can mobilize some 80 to 100 divisions; they constitute the second strongest land power on the European continent. Furthermore, should Chiang Kai-shek collapse there can be little doubt that China will be added to Russia’s allies. Russia’s chain of continental alliances assures the Soviet Union of inexhaustible reserves in military manpower.

Let us now view these elements of Soviet military strength against their background of economic facts, of production limitations and weaknesses. The present steel production of about 20 million tons annually imposes a relatively low ceiling on the Soviet’s war-production capacity. (Present U. S. production: 66 million tons.) Because of this lack of production capacity, for years to come the Soviet Union will be handicapped in military supertechnology, above all in the production of the atomic bomb and of long-range bombardment aviation.

The military consequence is that in Soviet hands the atomic bomb and long-range aviation cannot be decisive weapons, but only instruments of retaliation.

Another production weakness is the vulnerability of Soviet industrial cities and big cities. Air defense may avert defeat from the air but can hardly prevent extensive damage.

Soviet strategy is tailored to Soviet economy, with its limited production resources. The Soviet choice is not between guns or butter, but between guns and machinery for industrialization. The years of war with their terrible damage were lost for the program of industrial growth.

These weaknesses must make war not only expensive but very dangerous for the Soviet Union. Russia cannot wage limited war. In a war the Soviet Union must throw into crucible its entire manpower and risk its very existence as an industrial power.

The relationship of power in the world is quite different from what it was in World War Two. Then Soviet Russia and Germany had almost the same military structure: big land

armies with support aviation. Today the Soviet Union faces the U. S.British - Canadian triangle. The strength of the Atlantic powers nowadays is based on industrial might and the air-atomic team. The Soviet strength, on the contrary, is based on modern land power. In industrial capacity the Atlantic powers lead Russia five to one. In land power, however, the Soviet Union has almost the same lead of five to one over the U. S.-Briti$h-Canadian combination.

The Soviet Union has won some new strategic advantages: since the German and the Japanese armies were destroyed and the American and the British armies reduced, the Soviet Army occupies a unique position, it has almost the monopoly of land power in Europe and Asia. There is no other modern mass land army anywhere else in the world.

The other Soviet advantage is air control over Europe. Today first-class British aviation is concentrated on the defense of the British Isles, while


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U. S. strategy gives priority to longrange bombardment aviation. Thus, as of today, the Soviet Air Force has the indisputable superiority on the European continent.

The atomic bomb, on the other hand, menaces Soviet security. For Russia, war now means a new and additional risk—not for the Soviet Army, but for the population; not of invasion, but of damage to its centres.

The United States can no more invade the Soviet Union than can the Soviet Union invade the United States. The United States can inflict great damage on the Soviet Union by atomicair offensive. But the vision of an atomic blitz attack breaking and defeating the Soviet Union is nothing but a seductive and dangerous illusion. American atomic blows can wreak more havoc in the Soviet Union than can Soviet retaliation in the United States, yet they cannot decide a war. The Soviet Union with its spaces and resources has unlimited possibilities for defense. The Soviet land power cannot prevent a United States atomic air offensive but neither can United States atomic air power stop Soviet land power in Europe and Asia.

Any war between the United States and the Soviet Union must be a war between continents. Their main land forces can hardly meet. The engagements would be rather between U. S. bombers and Soviet fighters, U. S. surface ships and Soviet submarines, with amphibious forces fighting for remote air bases.

Yet one should be very cautious in the presentation of a future war. There is something of irresponsible fantasy in the current descriptions of the projected World War Three. Soviet

strength is firmly controlled by a policy. This strength cannot be described merely by numbers of weapons and divisions.

In an editorial in Red Star, the Soviet Army organ, of Dec. 2, 1947, it was said that the object iic calculation of all factors and forces is the main rule of the Soviet war doctrine. The leaders of the Soviet Army express a high appreciation of the industrial power and the war potential of the U. S.British-Canadian triangle. They know the risk and the cost of war. Therefore the power of the Soviet Army cannot be unleashed light-mindedly.

The military ability of the Soviet Army to take the offensive does not mean political readiness to start aggression. In Moscow the risks of aggression are calculated earnestly and realistically. Soviet military writings have predicted in advance the consequences and the end of the German and of the Japanese aggressions. The makers of Soviet strategy realize that the worst thing which may happen to a great power is to win, not to lose, a Pearl Harbor. For them, Soviet cities and industries are not expendable.

On Feb. 23, 1948 (Soviet Army Day), Minister of Defense Marshall Bulganin made an important speech which was widely commented upon in the Soviet press. It was considered a cornerstone of Soviet military doctrine. Its main thesis was that “good strategic and operative plans are not enough; calculation of the. entire economic and morale potential is necessary.”

In terms of Soviet facts of life, “calculation of the entire economic and morale potential” means something very definite. Everything the Soviet leaders are doing in long-range economic planning indicates that they do not intend to expose the unfinished industrial structure of the country to the risk and dangers of war.

In his speech of Feb. 9, 1946, Stalin pointed the direction. There he ordered that the military security of the Soviet Union must be underpinned by the completion of the industrialization program. In the Soviet concept Russia can be made attack-proof only by the building up of economic strength, by the development of modern industry. This will require three five-year plans, (o be completed by about 1960. It is unlikely that the Soviet leadership will be ready to interrupt and expose this gigantic reconstruction work by the strain and sacrifices of a war.

To Avoid a Shooting War

The stress on “morale potential” points in the same direction. The Soviet Army is a popular army. Its morale and the morale of the civilian population is at a peak if attacked, but not if a war of aggression is ordered. The Soviet leaders know that the “morale potential” of the nation cannot and should not he squandered in the gigantic gamble of an aggression. In 1941 they preferred to be attacked by Hitler rather than take the risk of making an attack of their own. Their calculations were justified by the course of World War Two.

This military realism of the Soviet leadership implies strong self-restraint.

I believe the directive of the Soviet policy to its diplomacy is to avoid a shooting war, as it was in the ’30’s The calculation of the entire economic and morale potential speaks for cautiousness and against aggression. This is just the opposite of Hitler’s blitz theory. An aggression does not payoff if it brings about a long war. Aggression cannot start without belief in the possibility of a quick and easy victory. Obviously the Soviet leadership rejects the theory of a successful blitz. if