10. Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Acting Special Assistant for Intelligence (Howe) to the Under Secretary of State (Hoover)1

SUBJECT

  • Intelligence Note: Position of The Military in The Soviet Ruling Group

Soviet military leaders undoubtedly have gained in prestige since STALIN’s death. There is no indication, however, that the power position of the Military within the ruling group has been notably strengthened or that the Soviet armed forces are playing a more independent role than in the past.

In allowing the military increased public prominence, the present regime was probably motivated by a desire to take advantage of the popularity of the armed forces among the population. Thus, there occurred such developments as the assignment of a leading role to army generals in the Beriya trial; the appointment of Marshal Zhukov, the USSR’s leading war hero, as Minister of Defense; Zhukov’s interview with the Hearst delegation and his letter to [Page 31]President Eisenhower; and the recent promotion of ten generals to the rank of marshal.

These actions have not impinged on the supremacy of the Party. Zhukov, for example, is a member of the Party Central Committee and is not the first military careerist to serve as Minister of Defense. His lack of top-level influence is clearly implied in the failure to include him among the new deputies to Prime Minister Bulganin. Certain of the actions, such as the recent promotions, may indicate the growing concern of the regime with problems of national defense. Nevertheless, there is no professional military leader in either the Presidium of the Party or the Presidium of the Council of Ministers. The Party safeguards itself against possible rivals through the maintenance of units in all institutions. Recently there have been indications that such units within lower military echelons have been strengthened, and Molotov stated in February that 77 percent of all Soviet soldiers are either Party or Komsomol members.

Under these circumstances there appears to be little likelihood that the army can supplant the Party as the center of power; nor is there reason to believe that the Party has been impelled to enter into a concordat with the military in order to continue the dictatorship. It is probable, however, that relations between the army and the Party are somewhat more amicable than under STALIN.

A similar memorandum has been addressed to the Secretary.2

Fisher Howe
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 761.00/5–555. Confidential.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.