The advent of atomic weapons has not modified Communist ideology which emphasizes the inevitability of world revolution and the ultimate collapse of capitalism. Despite talk of “peaceful coexistence,” a state of war, whether open or disguised, is, in Kremlin theory, the inevitable relation between the USSR and the Free World. Communist leaders consider conflict with the Western world and ultimately the United States to be inevitable. Nothing short of world domination, therefore, can be their necessary objectives.
The new dimensions to strategy which atomic weapons introduced, however, have forced the Kremlin to review its own program of aggression. This review has long been completed. The basic Soviet program and strategy remain. Lenin’s teachings on this point have never been disregarded: “In order not to get lost in the periods of retirement, retreat, or temporary defeat, or when history, or the enemy, throws us back—in my opinion, the important and only theoretically correct thing is not to cast out the old basic program.”
In a penetrating analysis “Time and the Bomb,” an Australian M.P., W. C. Wentworth, stated that Stalin established the framework of the long-range Soviet Atomic policy in 1946: “With the discovery of the atomic bomb, Russia entered a ‘soft-shelled’ period. For the immediate future, her comparative position was vastly weakened; for the more distant future there was the prospect of vast new strength.” Yet Stalin foresaw that, “It was no longer inevitable that the struggle to communize the world would be a long one.”
American possession of atomic weapons would, for a while, however, frustrate Communist plans. Stalin’s basic problem, consequently, was how to get through this “soft-shelled” period. The vital choice lay between two alternatives—
One: To accept international control of the atomic bomb, and allow the world situation to develop without any possibility of atomic war.
Two: To sabotage international control of the atomic bomb, so as to force the world eventually towards Communism, either by general atomic war or by the constant threat of general atomic war.
Stalin, Wentworth argued, chose the second of these two alternatives.
Regardless of the validity of this interpretation, the outline of the atomic plan which the Soviets adopted a decade ago is beginning gradually to emerge. It is reflected in the shift in pronouncements by Soviet leaders; from marked indifference toward atomic weapons, through eulogy of peaceful applications of atomic energy, to blunt assertions of their power to annihilate nations in a single shattering blow. Meaningless as isolated statements, these expressions contain hints of hidden Soviet atomic policy.
Any objective accounting of where things stand after ten years of the atomic age would show that many of the pillars on which the United States has based its strategy have been weakened. The United States as well as the USSR is now dangerously exposed to atomic attack; and U. S. allies act as if a nuclear stalemate already exists.
Having created these mid-century power realities, the Soviet Union initiated after Stalin’s death in 1953 a flexible, accordion strategy of alternating conciliation and threat. It is now proposed to examine available Soviet literature on nuclear warfare, to establish the range of possible Soviet nuclear-based strategic policies, and to point up the responsibilities of the United States as the principal defender of world freedom.
Unfortunately for us, there is no Soviet equivalent to The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The paucity of detailed information filtering through the Iron Curtain, other than that reaching only highly classified agencies, necessitates resort to research in available Soviet publications; Russian developmental trends, state, military, and industrial, are nebulous.
The Soviet Army newspaper Red Star in January, 1954, began a series of articles on atomic energy and its application to military and civilian uses. This series represented the first major effort to make available to the Soviet people information concerning nuclear energy and its range of peaceful and military applications. The Soviet Union had obviously not disclosed the whole course of its atomic policy in its controlled press. Thus Stalin’s initial outward display of unconcern over American atomic developments contrasted with his already initiated espionage efforts, antedating the first test explosion at Alamogordo, to obtain the secrets of atomic weapons. Similarly Colonel Gavrikov’s article in the Sovetskaya Armiya (in 1955). typical of Red military thought in encouraging soldiers to accept atomic weapons as merely another tool of war (“soldiers who know the simple and reliable methods of protection can carry out their missions even if the enemy employs atomic weapons”), is for home consumption. Nevertheless, Soviet publications do provide a useful record of Soviet nuclear progress.
Atomic weapons were adopted by the USSR contemporaneously with attaining an all-around mature economy, the result of Stalin’s forced industrialization of the country. The Soviets were consequently ready to expand in the nuclear sphere on the foundations of an economic program which had always been weighted toward heavy industry and military production in particular. Postwar technological developments in all three armed services have continued at the expense of production for strictly civilian uses. The recent elevation of the Soviet Union’s “Long Range Air Force” along with unexpectedly rapid progress in nuclear sciences is conclusive evidence of the Kremlin’s interest in the atomic age.
The Kremlin was fully aware of the strategic significance of America’s atomic monopoly in 1945. While Russia bent every effort to break this monopoly, the Soviet press began to play down the military use of nuclear energy and to extol the peaceful applications of the atom. A Soviet scientist’s comment is characteristic: “It has become possible to organize the production of atomic energy in our country. This has dealt a serious blow to the warmongers who had tried to use the secret of the production of atomic energy and the possession of the atomic weapon as a means of blackmail and intimidation of other nations. The Soviet Union resolutely stands for prohibiting the atomic weapon, for the earliest possible use of internal nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”1 Behind this benign screen, the Kremlin had long since initiated practical military programs of major significance. Whereas the United States deferred construction of an air defense system until its atomic monopoly was completely broken, the Soviet Union created an integrated system of air defense immediately following the close of World War II. Components of this system included dispersal, shifts of key industries into the central Asian region, construction of underground facilities and shelters (the Moscow subway was purportedly built as a wartime shelter), development of an air warning system, and priority production of fighters, such as the MIG-15 and -17.
The policies behind the Soviet air defense effort appeared in a 1954 Red Star article, “The Atomic Weapon and Anti-Atomic Defense” by B. Olisov, Professor, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Winner of the Stalin Prize, Major General, Engineering and Technical Service: “The entire history of wars and of the development of military technology convincingly says—that the application by either side in a war of new kinds of weapons or the perfecting of those already known has always also called forth means of counteraction. . . . At present, when the striking power of atomic and hydrogen weapons has already been sufficiently explored, we can speak of reliable and, as experiments have shown, simple methods and means of defense. Measures are being taken not only for the direct defense of troops and the population but methods of combat against airplanes and other carriers of atomic bombs are also being developed, and also methods of conducting combat operations under the conditions of the application of the atomic weapons.”
Olisov continues, “Strategic atomic bombs . . . great danger to the civilian population, are of little effect on the battlefield.” In an aside to the Soviet Navy, which ignores the basic physics of underwater bursts, he notes that “of all vessels the submarine best withstands the pressures created [by atomic weapons].” Shifting to a medical note he states that “physical hardening of the body increases resistance to radiation sickness as it does against all illness.” Ending on a theme worthy of the military third of his title, Olisov orders: when the “special atomic alarm signal” sounds “no one will cease carrying out his combat tasks.”
Less publicized in the Soviet press has been the Kremlin’s venture into a new sector of warfare—strategic bombing—undertaken simultaneously with air defense plans and the production of nuclear weapons. Yet by 1955 frank and revealing statements on this subject emanated from far more important spokesmen than the technical writers on atomic defense.
An action of great significance was that of the Supreme Soviet—divorcing the Soviet Long Range Air Force (A.D.D.) from Army control to the personal supervision of Defense Minister Marshal Georgi Zhukov.
We need no official evidence that the USSR has adopted Western concepts of unified, indivisible air power designed preeminently to win “command of the air.” Absolute dictatorships do not reveal potential strategies in advance to win public support for accelerated expenditures. Today’s separate Soviet A.D.D. could, tomorrow, comprise the entire Russian air strength simply upon Kremlin edict. The important fact is its very existence—an index of Soviet awareness of fission/fusion weapon strategy—plus its technological excellence, warning of its fighting potential.
Evidence of Communist policy stems from the peak of the totalitarian pyramid, Malenkov’s demotion and abrupt recanting of his “hydrogen bomb warfare could destroy the world” speech. So, too, traditional Soviet doctrine expressed in Stalin’s personally promulgated “principles of war.” Their emphasis upon “solid rear areas, without which it is impossible to conduct a war,” previously assumed to indicate reliance upon fifth column subversive action against an enemy (together with the converse, rigidly enforced discipline among the entire population of Russia to support the armed forces) admirably fits a concept of atomic “knockout blows” against the hostile seat of government and key industrial areas. Ominous echoes of near greats comprise a chorus. Lt. Gen. S. S. Shatilov, political administrator of the Defense ministry, warns that “atomic weapons and, equally, surprise attacks are double edged weapons.” Marshal Rotmistrov, Armor Commander, writes of the “growing role of surprise attack.” Politburo speeches forecast the need to “abandon old concepts” in planning future strategies and declaim the advantage of their dispersed industries over those of the United States.
Exuding the Soviet’s increased confidence on this question, Olisov very recently stated: “The existence of atomic and hydrogen bombs in the USSR has shown that the atomic armaments race cannot be a guarantee of the safety of the United States of America in case of war.”
It further evidence be needed, Red Star, semi-official publication of the Ministry of Defense, publicizes a sharp trend from ground troops supported by air to air-atomic power as the decisive instrument. This apparent trend does not mean, however, that the Soviet Union is neglecting the task of reorganizing the Red Army for nuclear warfare. Soviet theorists ascribe these common-sense efforts as counter-action to American aggressive plans.
“Not having given up aggressive plans in relation to the USSR and the people’s democracies,’’ the prolific Olisov warns, “the ruling circles of the USA are now shouting about the so-called tactical atomic weapon, that is, the weapon intended for use directly on the battlefield.”
A Red Star (1954) series on “anti-atomic defense” proves the Kremlin was not surprised by Marshal Montgomery’s proposal to hold strategic nuclear attack for retaliatory purposes while employing fission (if not fusion) weapons for the “tactical” defense of Europe. These instructive articles advise commanders how to use terrain, soldiers, and civilians on protective measures, especially in the organ of the Young Communist League. These advise soldiers, civilians, and their leaders of junior rank. Detailing measures which insure survival in atomic explosions, they primarily stress that “everyone can carry out his mission under hostile nuclear attack.”
Utilization of the ground, long a skill among Communist forces, receives thorough attention. Instructions range from the individual’s hastily dug fox-hole to painstaking preparation of “bombproof” field fortifications for whole units. Specifications for digging into the ground all classes of weapons and equipment are readily met by troops accustomed to pick, spade, and axe.
Candidate of Technical Sciences Colonel A. Glushko devotes a lengthy section on the atomic protection afforded by forests, not forgetting the clearing of strips to control fires started by heat radiation and the mudplastering of wooden huts to protect them from igniting. On the prospect of converting cities into strong points for atomic defense, he advocates using only the cellars which are to be developed into “bomb proofs with filtered ventilation.”
What is the significance that defense against the bomb, from individual behavior of the Soviet soldier to plans of Soviet generals, is covered without mention of the offensive potential of the same weapons? We only have access to the openly published Communist writings. In the closed book of Soviet tactics, reserved for the higher and politically trusted hierarchy, would doubtless be found complete directives and planning factors for Russian tactical and/or strategic atomic offensives.
While the value, psychological and utilitarian, of indoctrinating civil population and lower military ranks in protective measures against anticipated enemy weapons is obvious, neither of these groups require prior knowledge of the converse, Soviet use of atomics against their foes.
We do have some evidence, however, that the USSR is developing weapons which seem to be fashioned for offensive atomic action. For example, the magazine Air Force (May, 1955) credits the “Malot” (Soviet equivalent of the U. S. B-52) with a cruising speed of 630 miles per hour at 55,000 feet and rates its four jet engines at 15,000 pounds static thrust. An indication that these newest planes’ early appearance was no extraordinary spurt of Soviet technology and industry may be found in the statement of General Nathan F. Twining, USAF Chief of Staff, that “lead time” for the MIG-15 was placed at one year while the USA’s F-80 required two.
Soviet naval capabilities in nuclear conflict are also growing. Whether or not they are actually building aircraft carriers, their expanding cruiser strength ranks second in world navies, close behind acknowledged pre-eminence in undersea craft. It seems unlikely that guided missile delivery from both types has been neglected. In fact a note in the Proceedings (August, 1955) reports a Soviet guided missile with “140 mile range which can be fired from a submarine at 300 feet depth,” and voices “fears that the USSR is ahead in atomic rocket propulsion.”
A similar excellence in ground armament seems probable, even though reports are vague. As to general trends, Liddell Hart warned five years ago: “The Red Army has proved over a whole decade its capacity to keep abreast or even a step ahead of other armies.”
The Range of Soviet Strategy
The Soviet acquisition of both atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons introduces new factors into the military power equation. The basic Soviet program, as the Free World has come to learn, is world-wide domination under the iron heel of the Kremlin. Belief that conflict between Communism and the Free World is inevitable is and has been the mainspring of Soviet actions. The specific elements by which this strategy has been carried out since the end of World War II can be summarized as follows:
- Protect the Soviet Union from attack.
- Maintain armed forces of a size and character which can constantly menace the West.
- Increase the effectiveness of subversive efforts to undermine the Free World.
- Press the Free World as far as possible but do not deliberately invoke war.
- Openly challenge the West for the leadership of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
There is no indication that the Soviets intend to relax this program. The new regime appears to believe, however, that it is now tactically desirable, both because of their own internal situation and to enhance the possibilities of friction existing in the Western rearmament effort, to subdue the aggressive nature of their military preparations.
Like other ingredients of Soviet policy, Russian strategy also derives from Lenin. “The soundest strategy in war,” said Lenin, “is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the delivery of the mortal blow both possible and easy.” In his system of warfare, psychological took precedence over military attack and defense. But, be it noted, not over military power, because military power is the essential base of Soviet expansion, and atomic weapons are the modern quintessence of military power. Timeless patience is the key to Lenin’s strategy. War, declared or not, should be resorted to only when the enemy has been maneuvered, or subverted, to a condition of weakness wherein easy victory seems assured.
The Soviet march toward world domination can be pursued along three broad lines. These, which will be described subsequently, are peaceful conquest, creeping expansion, and nuclear knockout. A component feature of all of them is the neutralization of America’s nuclear power.
The persistent Communist public theme song on atomic weapons is “outlaw them.” Last summer Prime Minister Bulganin declared Soviet Foreign policy was oriented toward “peace, the reduction of armaments, and the banning of atomic and hydrogen weapons.” Consequently, the expenditure of immense efforts to attain “nuclear parity” with the “Anglo-American bloc” might point less to an intention to provoke all-out atomic-hydrogen conflict than to a frantic endeavor to neutralize the strongest weapons system available to the democracies.
Any appraisal of the military establishments of today suggests the preponderance of the Communist bloc’s (in truth, merely Russian) “conventional” arms. “Outlawing” or neutralization of nuclear weapons would redound to the definite weakening of the NATO nations, vis-à-vis the Soviets, while presumably eliminating all serious threat to the “solidity” of the latter’s “rear areas.”
The Soviet encyclopedia tersely states the Communist case this way: “After the Second World War the ruling circles of the USA, considering themselves monopolists in the sphere of the production of the atomic weapon, tried to intimidate peace-loving peoples with the application of the atomic weapon. . . . While possessing the atomic weapon, the USSR more than once advocated the banning of its production. In 1954 the Government of the USSR came forward with a proposal that the relevant States should undertake a solemn and categorical obligation not to use atomic, hydrogen, or other kinds of weapon of mass destruction. However, the proposal of the Soviet Union was rejected by the representatives of the Powers of the North Atlantic bloc and primarily by the USA.”2
The purpose of continued Communist invective against “inhuman nuclear weapons” is simple: prepare for the worst eventuality but work unceasingly to disarm your potential enemy of his essential weapon which is no more than an auxiliary arm for yourself. Contrary to their words, however, Soviet actions all point toward neutralization rather than outlawing these weapons.
There are vital differences between “outlawing” nuclear weapons and their “neutralization” by expanding Communist thermo-nuclear bomb and long-range air force (or intercontinental ballistic missile) capabilities. Any tenable agreement to ban such weapons inevitably includes inspectional provisions antithetical to the sanctity of the “iron curtain.” The Soviets will talk about inspection but never accept it.
“Neutralization” from strength poses a more dangerous possibility for the West. Communist leader Khrushchev, touring India in November, 1955, when the explosion of a Soviet megaton bomb was announced, made this calculated bid for neutralization: “We will never be the first to use such a weapon. We will be very glad if bombs are never exploded on cities or villages. Let them lie and influence the nerves of those who would start a new war. Because if they start a war, they will receive a proper answer.”
As other nations besides the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain possess the weapons, the deterrent effect of our Strategic Air Command to prevent nonatomic forms of aggression diminishes. NATO nations’ demand for protection rather than “liberation” prophecies their distaste for a conflict which would destroy their homeland—whether the bombs be “strategic” or “tactical.” Nuclear “parity” will exist when both sides have sufficient bombs (and delivery capability) to destroy the other. It does not require equal numbers, as in the case of high explosive weapons.
The Three Strategies
Atomic parity may open attractive strategic possibilities to the Kremlin. On the assumption that the West lets down its guard and loses its political and military cohesion, the Soviets have three possible strategy choices. The first is a surprise “knock out” nuclear attack designed in such a way as to destroy the U. S. capability of retaliation. This possibility cannot be ignored, especially since Soviet military writers are now paying considerable attention to the virtues of surprise. An article appearing in Red Star in March, 1955, had this to say, “It is necessary to state frankly that in some instances a surprise attack, with the use of atomic and hydrogen weapons, can be one of the decisive conditions for the achievement of success not only in the initial period of the war but in the war as a whole.”
Secondly, and especially if the United States vigorously protects its retaliatory capability, the Soviets may only seek an effective neutralization of nuclear weapons in order to pursue a strategy of increased political warfare under two possible variants. The first variant is that Red Armies would actually be unleashed for peripheral aggression; the second would be that the threat of their possible use coupled with intense political pressure and fifth columns might bring about the capitulation of important border nations without the actual use of force.
The third possible strategy is that the Soviets might seek to achieve their goal through genuine peaceful competition. This competition would endeavor to demonstrate to technically backward peoples, particularly in Asia, that Communism offers a better and quicker means of achieving industrialization and hence national power than any adaptation of the free enterprise system.
The Nuclear Knockout—Strategy No. 1
While the Soviets may believe that the triumph of Communism is inevitable, they may feel that the leisurely, almost inevitable rise in their relative power position in comparison with that of the United States is too slow. For this reason a strategy which would quickly eliminate their only opponent has obvious attractions.
Nuclear “blackmail” to sunder opposing coalitions, nuclear devastation of a defeated foe to occupy more easily and Communize his whole country are readily conceivable Communist strategies. Surprise attack with nuclear weapons against a powerful opponent, trusting to the annihilating effect of the “first blow” may, however, be too great a gamble for cold-eyed men whose fundamental ideology tells them that time is on their side. According to their lights, they need only steadfastly refuse to be “provoked into empiricist errors” by the actions of their implacable capitalist foes. Recent Communist emphasis upon surprise attack might originate in the need for self-assurance, and as a warning to the West that the Soviet is ready to meet such an onslaught. It may be an entering wedge in a long-range campaign of nuclear blackmail.
The enormity of the stakes demands we prepare to defend against strategy No. 1.
Wentworth’s penetrating article3 explains discerningly why the Soviets might adopt a “knock out” strategy. Some of the elements of such a plan (against which many of the events of the past decade seem understandable) were:
- During the period of atomic weakness maintain an attitude of qualified hostility toward the West. Gesture toward general war, but back down whenever general war is threatened.
- Push forward on many fronts so as to obtain maneuver space, which would be particularly valuable in the last phases of atomic disadvantage.
- As nuclear parity approaches, the substitution of a policy of “pretended friendliness” for the policy of “unfriendliness short of war” would be possible. This would bring short-term advantages in the free world, and the late stages of the period would not be sufficient for the policy’s longer-term internal disadvantages to develop.
- Consistently sabotage any scheme for effective international control of atomic energy, while seeming to make increasing concessions to the idea. In this area advocate measures that will confuse public opinion in the Democracies.
- Once Russia has achieved nuclear parity, press Communism forward fairly rapidly under the protection of Russian arms, threatening the world with a general atomic catastrophe if any attempt is made to frustrate Soviet maneuvers.
- If, after Russia achieves nuclear parity, the West should intervene to prevent progressive communization by force of Russian arms, in spite of the Soviet threat of general atomic war, then (perhaps without warning, and after a short period of the warmest conciliation) unloose a full atomic catastrophe on the world, in the belief that, even if Russia is among the victims, nevertheless only the “new order”—a permanent, totalitarian, world-wide sovietization—can emerge from the disaster.
It would be folly to ignore the logic implicit in Wentworth’s analysis. Nevertheless, it can almost be taken as axiomatic that the Russians will not deliberately resort to the use of atomic weapons unless they believe that the possibility of final victory is made probable only by using them. They recognize by now, whatever their public invective, that the United States will not resort to “preventive war.”
In short, the initiative regarding war is in their hands. Worse yet, the chances of a police state launching a surprise blow from within its frontiers are infinitely more likely than that a democracy do so, should democratic processes ever permit the attempt.
The speech made by Foreign Minister Molotov at the occasion of Malenkov’s resignation February, 1955, is particularly noteworthy for the boastfulness with which Molotov alluded to Soviet achievements in developing hydrogen weapons. The current Soviet leaders believe they lead from strength. Marshal Voroshilov, “president” of the Soviet Union, can declaim: “We cannot be intimidated by fables that in the event of a new world war civilization will perish,” but Soviet planners’ enthusiasm for a sneak attack must inevitably be tempered by the realization that “a knockout blow must be one that prevents the opponent from knocking back.”
Notably aloof from the list of Douhet’s devotees, Kremlin policy makers have, by their actions, denied his dictum “aerial warfare admits of no defense.” Even less attractive, especially in the fission-fusion age, would be Douhet’s proposal: “resign ourselves to the offensives the enemy inflicts upon us, while striving . . . to inflict even heavier ones upon him. This basic principle must govern aerial warfare.”
The Soviet Union cannot build the perfect defense and the irresistible atomic offense at the same time. The USSR too must take into account its vulnerability to the hydrogen bomb before making the decision to employ it against us. If the area of destruction of the H-bomb is of the order of the unmanageable, the Soviet vulnerability to this type of weapon must be as serious as is ours. Unless we neglect our defenses, only a technological breakthrough in the delivery systems would seem likely to disturb the turbulent stability of the “hydrogen stalemate.”
Creeping Expansion—Strategy No. 2
Whether or not a total nuclear war ever takes place, the possibility of one occurring does have a significant influence on political alignments during the cold war. The leaders of every free country must frequently make assessments of the political implications of the changing global military situation. In a very real sense, the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union is a battle for the allegiance of the committed and uncommitted nations located along the periphery of the Soviet heartland in Europe and Asia. The American effort to maintain these nations within the Free World has been extremely costly and difficult. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has been able to exploit the difficulties, discontents, and fears of those people with relatively little expense.
There is some evidence that the Soviet Union now leans, more than in the past few years, toward achieving its aims primarily through political and psychological means backed, as always, by military intimidation.
The Soviet pattern of conflict calls for appropriate, not maximum, violence. It does not eschew violence as such, but gives greater emphasis to the role of psychological-political operations. Communist doctrine—asserting time is on their side—applies brakes to its own fanaticism. It sanctions war, limited or otherwise, to operations which seem, at the time, certain of success at minimum cost. It bluntly halts a misadventure by stratagem ranging from the “truce talks,” such as halted our Korean offensive in 1951, to quick retreat and denial that fighting had occurred, as after the undeclared 1938 war with Japan in Manchuria.
The Soviets are developing and are increasing their military strength as a backstop for stepped-up political warfare. As the Soviet atomic stock-piles grow, their potential for atomic blackmail will also grow. Retaining their present preponderance in conventional military forces, they might also resort to tactics designed to bring all of Eurasia under their domination without venturing war with the United States. We face an equally real danger that the security of the United States can be undermined by the piecemeal progression, short of war, of Communist domination over the Free World and the alienation of our allies through accordion moves of relaxation and fear.
The existence of the thermonuclear weapon may discourage, in the future, flagrantly overt aggression by the Communist Powers, such as occurred in Korea, which might develop into war unlimited by geography. But the same factor probably will encourage the indirect approach through limited actions astutely designed to present a seeming risk of general war to the Free World coalition, should we react in kind.
Throughout Asia, in particular, there is a close connection between the Communists’ employment of military force and their skillful use of diplomacy, subversion, and guerrilla warfare to erode and destroy the weak governments situated along the Communist periphery. The Communist campaign of expansion is from its inception based on a combination of military force integrated with subversion. No political leader, confronted by a combination of active internal subversion plus threatened Communist military force, will attempt to suppress the lesser Communists within lest they be struck down by the greater Communists from without.
No political leader can risk stamping out internal rebellion when he realizes that it is directly supported by an outside military power far beyond the capacity of his country to withstand. Unless a military shield against external aggression can be erected, the will to counter the sources of internal insurrection will not be generated.
Asia will be a primary area for creeping Communist aggression. The basic program for Communist expansion in this area envisions step by step isolation and subversion of individual countries, utilizing established “base areas” in the USSR, China, North Korea, and North Vietnam. A “Thai Liberation Government” and growing army thrives in Southwest China; Burmese hill tribes receive arms and agents to foment their traditional enmity for centralized authority; a powerful indigenous Communist party in Indonesia draws funds and supplies from the mainland; while even militantly neutral India constantly contends with rioting Reds in her cities and nervously scans Communist maneuvers on her borders in Nephal, Bhutan, and Assam. Growing Chinese Communist power stands forth as the proximate agency but the guiding policy emanates as always from Moscow.
Any backward underdeveloped country situated adjacent to the Communist bloc is a likely target of future Communist aggressors posing as anti-colonial “liberators.” In such a country there will exist an active Communist Party. There will be political incapacity to take vigorous action against subversion. A trumped up excuse for a “liberation-insurrection” will be devised. “Volunteer support” will be offered by the Communists. Unless the Communist combination of insurrectionists-volunteers can be checked before they seize the instrumentalities of government as well as control of the main population centers, it may be impossible to prevent the loss of another country.
As this strategy is pursued, the absence of a sharp line of demarcation between war and “peace” will continue. The terms “hot” and “cold” war, by their sense of mutual exclusiveness, obscure the fact that we are now involved in war. According to Soviet military authority, “If war is a continuation of politics, only by other means, so also peace is a continuation of struggle only by other means.” In Soviet strategy the distinction between peace and war is obliterated, except for the difference in the degree of armed force used in the perpetual conflict. If this concept is pursued, the Soviets will prefer to gain their objectives by forcing appeasement through a whole range of pressures including the threat of nuclear war.
“Peaceful” Conquest—Strategy No. 3
The Soviets have shown a remarkable capacity for waging an unconventional offensive behind their armor of military power. Their campaign of aggression has thus far confused and baffled their opponents. As long as they can advance against soft spots, there seems to be no particular reason why they should attempt to reduce bastions of resistance by the outright use of military force, particularly their own.
The USSR has almost achieved a position of hegemony over the Eurasian land mass. It would be wishful thinking of the most naive sort to believe that they would fail to reach out for the whole prize so nearly within their grasp. This reaching, however, need not assume the form of either global or limited war. Because of the advantageous position that the USSR now possesses in Europe and Asia, the Soviets may be approaching a point from which they can expand on the basis of “peaceful competition.”
A tenable interpretation of the 1955 Summit meeting assumes the Soviets prefer to avoid the risks inherent in mutually suicidal nuclear warfare and in peripheral wars which could explode into total conflict. In this light the Kremlin might thoughtfully view factors which favor “peaceful conquest.”
Among them the prime one is the breakdown of social and political orders over most of the old world, especially in the underdeveloped areas, under the impact of contacts with the new technology. Most of the world is in the throes of a revolution. In these areas the American hope that this revolution will develop along lines consistent with individual freedom is being challenged.
Ideological pronouncements emanating from Moscow since the 1955 Summit meeting all point to a vigorous campaign to put a new face on Communism. The Soviets now see a chance to make an open bid to capture the surging social and political revolutions of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The Russians will offer to these people an attractive package—industrialization and improved living standards—by following the same route which transformed backward Imperial Russia into one of the two great powers of the world in two generations.
Through programs of industrial development, the Soviet Union may be able to exploit the world revolution in aspirations and install Communist governments subservient to them in areas now outside the Soviet bloc. An extension of Soviet power to a few strategically located countries would expose to bloodless conquest much larger areas vital to our security. This kind of advance in Soviet influence, shrinking the Free World and adding to the resources of the Communist bloc would threaten us with ultimate isolation no less than would Red victories in a series of peripheral wars. By this method, in fact, the Soviet-Communists would hope to destroy or neutralize the power and the free institutions of the United States. No known evidence suggests any basic change in this ultimate intent, despite recurrent attempts by the Soviets at camouflaging their designs with “peace offensives” and spurious appeals for “co-existence.”
Presidium member Kaganovich’s speech celebrating the 1955 October Revolution anniversary explicitly proclaimed that the cold war would end only if “reactionary imperialist forces were forced to retreat much further.” In a similar vein was Nikita Kruschev’s “Thanksgiving Day” speech to a cheering Indian audience in Bombay: “Russia will fight, not beg, for co-existence,” he affirmed. Allowing “de facto recognition to capitalism” he declared, “I don’t like the capitalistic system. When I speak of co-existence, it is not for the purpose of continuing that system.”
“Peaceful” conquest under the cloak of coexistence would be abetted by Soviet advances in all areas of technology, particularly in the nuclear and jet aircraft field. Likewise it would be enhanced by the widespread acceptance of the belief that the USSR had achieved the military neutralization of the United States.
It is not comforting to realize that Communist actions for the past several years could mark a phase in the implementation of any of these three basic strategies or, more confusingly, a combination of them. Communist intentions always point toward the “higher synthesis” which history will produce out of opposites. Thus the Kremlin can actively espouse peaceful co-existence while simultaneously fostering subversive movements abroad and building up its armed forces at home. Through this three-pronged approach the USSR will be prepared to capitalize in one of several ways from the new historical situation which will exist once nuclear parity is achieved.
Implications to the U. S.
Since the end of World War II, the U. S. defense policy has been based on the assumption that American security rests on the fullest exploitation of nuclear weapons. As long as the United States retained its monopoly in nuclear weapons, this assumption was valid. Today the monopoly has long since been broken. A period of nuclear parity between Russia and the United States seems inevitable as megaton weapons explode over Siberian tundras.
The near advent of nuclear parity necessitates an objective evaluation of the net significance of atomic weapons in the world power struggle. Such an analysis may indicate that we are asking atomic weapons to carry more than their proper share of the U. S. security load. It may even reveal that the hydrogen bomb, the yet unborn intercontinental guided missile, and the atomic powered, nuclear-armed submarine may, unless we take other measures as well, eventually prove detrimental rather than beneficial to the strategic position of the United States.
A capability impregnable to sneak attack for immediate and effective use of thermonuclear weapons does comprise an indispensable element of U. S. national strategy and a major deterrent to general war. It cannot be the sole answer to Communism’s avowed threat of world conquest by force and subversion; Communist policies for “peaceful” aggrandizement are not being adequately countered—or even “contained”—by the nuclear powers of our Strategic Air Command and its partner, the Continental Air Defense Command.
We must steel our inexorable determination to use these weapons the instant it becomes necessary. Our human instincts recoil at mere contemplation of nuclear warfare, but can any thoughtful person discover any less horror in the prospect of a Communized world? We need not yet face a choice so bleak. Before the Soviets reach the nuclear sufficiency they are so rapidly approaching, we have time to turn our efforts toward the whole range of Communist strategies.
Conflict hot and cold has taken on new dimensions and range. In effective political and psychological pressures we face peripheral wars fought under the threat of nuclear destruction as the consequences of any major slip by either side.
The Free World needs some more tangible shield than the threat of reprisal. We need a political-military solution capable of blocking all forms of aggression. The military, thinking through the implications of the new weapons and reformulating their doctrines on an entirely different plane of magnitude, confront Clausewitzian verities of limited objectives. Total war’s absolute destruction is the negation of strategy which exists only to further national policy. Mutual suicide is not policy but an act of ultimate desperation.
Thus the military planners revert—with the end of our nuclear monopoly—to their traditional role of supporters, not makers by default, of national policy.
Continued co-existence with the Soviet bloc must rest on terms which are consistent with our national well-being and dignity. To this end U. S. national policy should provide the political and economic framework for the development of unprecedented non-military programs and sound military strategies capable of coping both with the threat of thermonuclear war and the whole range of subversive, psychological, and para-military actions open to the Soviets. Twin aspects of this policy are development of adequate means to assure the military defense of the United States and its alliance system, and an ideological offensive designed to wean the Soviet people, in time, from amoral Communism. National policy must be accommodated to military capabilities, clearly specifying what these capabilities should be.
We must develop an antidote to what may become the paralyzing fear of thermonuclear war. This requires a determined effort to convince the Kremlin that we can and will fight if attacked, plus an equal endeavor to formulate policies which promise success in recurring crises short of war. This latter U. S. task requires the formulation and implementation of an integrated cold war strategy designed to reduce the dimensions of the Soviet threat, while increasing the power of the U. S. military posture to deter war.
World peace in the sense of no outright global conflict has thus far depended, according to Sir Winston Churchill and many lesser commentators, on American superiority in atomic weapons. Consequently, Soviet atomic achievements must be regarded as introducing a decisive alteration in the world’s military power balance. Unless we also become strong in forces capable of fighting a possible non-nuclear war (quite a different establishment from World War II or Korean models), the USSR’s superiority in standard military establishment may be beyond our ability to overcome.
For the first time in our history, inescapable geography is working against the U. S. nuclear weapons. Ever-improving delivery agencies have shrunk formidable ocean barriers to the value of perhaps a few hours’ warning time—if we retain our overseas bases! Yet retention of these bases and access to them via command of the seas is vital to the integrity of our alliance system. The whole world has become our neighbors, not all of them friendly. Existing delivery means for nuclear weapons have already made the United States, as well as the USSR, vulnerable to the other’s direct attack. Worse still, our compact city-studded geography looms more vulnerable before megaton weapons fall out than sprawling Communist Russia.
It is clear that we cannot voluntarily surrender our right to use the hydrogen bomb without abandoning the field to the Soviets. Only the certainty that in extremis it will be used will make the hydrogen bomb a real deterrent to general war and a bulwark against Soviet atomic blackmail. Anticipating this situation, Secretary of the Navy, Robert B. Anderson, suggested in September, 1953: “Should the superweapons thus cancel themselves out—and I suggest to you that that eventuality is entirely possible—then the emphasis would immediately be restored to the capabilities of conventional weapons as the basis for the military decision . . .”
But even the term conventional has an entirely new meaning. Many novel nonatomic weapons and tactics have already or will soon become a part of modern forces.
Our preparations to deter—or in extremis—to meet, total war, will not materially strengthen our hand in peripheral campaigns—or vice versa. Both forms of aggression must be stopped. Additionally our ideological superiority over Communism—the sanctity of religion, freedom of the individual, the right to private property, opposing Party absolutism—must, joined to enlightened political and economic policies, defeat the Red “peaceful” surge.
Thus the minimum structure for security demands four unshakable military pillars for its support.
- Retaliatory force of strategic air.
- Air defense (military and civil).
- Command of the seas.
- Local ground defense supported at key locations by highly mobile, atomic armed, joint task forces capable of swift intervention at any trouble spot.
The present strength of each of these pillars varies. The strongest is the U. S. retaliatory capability but, in a period of dynamic technological change, this force cannot be maintained in a static manner.
A major effort is now underway to create an air defense system for North America. Building an air defense system, including its civil defense component, will be a huge task but is one that is technologically feasible provided sufficient funds and time are available.
U. S. capability for exercising command of the seas probably stands at as high a level as our retaliatory capacity. New ships and weapons must be provided the Navy to keep it that way. The Free World alliance is bound together by ocean highways. If these highways are severed there is little chance that divided and exposed segments can survive. The scope of the necessary U. S. naval effort is dictated by the fact that an attacker, seeking to disrupt sea communications, can achieve his purposes with fewer forces than the defender who must assure their use.
The development of mobile task forces to meet hostile actions lesser than general war lies considerably behind the efforts that have gone into the other pillars of the U. S. defense program. The creation of such forces is a challenging task involving all the armed services.
With such forces we need not aim at an indefinite stalemate, but rather at a margin of safety which would permit us to cause the Communist bloc increasing difficulties in its pursuit of expansionist policies.
Until the Communist bloc has changed its basic tenets, has shown by tangible actions its willingness to live with the free nations of the world on a basis of genuine give and take, we cannot afford ever to let down our guard.
Whether the next several decades will bring the defeat, or alteration, of Communism will depend largely on the relative power and influence of the United States. A national determination to preserve human freedom at whatever cost, America’s proudest inheritance, is a test the United States can meet squarely.
1. "Structure and Properties of the Nucleus," Lieutenant Colonel V. Mikhailov, Engr. Assistant Professor, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, in Red Star, January 14, 1954.
2. Large Soviet Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, Vol. 31, Passed for publication, February 5, 1955, Page 243.
3. "Time and the Bomb."