A Look Back at the Soviet Army

10.14.10 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

“The Soviet Army is the best prepared force in the world to conduct both offensive and defensive NBC [nuclear, biological and chemical] operations,” according to a 1984 U.S. Army manual (large pdf) that is newly available online.

The three-part manual, based on Soviet military literature and other open sources, provides a dauntingly detailed account of almost every aspect of Soviet military structure and operations.

So, for example: “The Soviets recognize three basic types of smoke screens: blinding, camouflaging, and decoy. Each type is classified as being frontal, oblique, or flank in nature, depending on the placement of the screen.”

Perhaps of equal or greater importance, the manual implicitly documents the U.S. Army’s perception of the Soviet military late in the Cold War.

“In the Soviet view, the correlation of forces has been shifting in favor of the socialist camp since the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Soviet Marxist-Leninist ideology requires the correlation to shift continuously in favor of socialism. The correlation of forces may be advanced by both violent and nonviolent means. When it is advanced by violent means, the military component of the correlation is the dominant factor.”

The first volume of the manual, originally “for official Government use only,” has not previously been published online.  See “The Soviet Army: Operations and Tactics,” Field Manual 100-2-1, July 16, 1984 (203 pages, large pdf).

The second volume is “The Soviet Army: Specialized Warfare and Rear Area Support,” FM 100-2-2, July 16, 1984 (100 pages, pdf).

The third volume is “The Soviet Army: Troops, Organization, and Equipment,” FM 100-2-3, June 1991 (456 pages, large pdf).

In February 1957, the Army produced an extremely detailed “Glossary of Soviet Military and Related Abbreviations” (pdf), Army Technical Manual TM 30-546.