131. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–4–66


The Problem

To review significant developments in Soviet military thinking, policy, and programs, and to estimate main trends in Soviet military policies over the next five years or so.


This estimate assesses broad trends in Soviet military policy and doctrine. It does not attempt to recapitulate existing NIEs on Soviet strategic attack, strategic air and missile defense, and general purpose forces. Our most recent detailed estimates on the size, composition, and capabilities of these principal components and the supporting elements of the Soviet military forces are as follows:

  • NIE 11–8–65: “Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Attack,” dated 7 October 1965, Top Secret, Restricted Data (Limited Distribution).
  • NIE 11–14–65: “Capabilities of Soviet General Purpose Forces,” dated 21 October 1965, Secret.
  • NIE 11–3–65: “Soviet Strategic Air and Missile Defenses,” dated 18 November 1965, Top Secret.2

Summary and Conclusions

There has been no basic change in established Soviet military doctrine or force structure, but recent trends point to adjustments in Soviet defense policy. The present political leaders seem more attentive than was Khrushchev to professional military advice, and they have been willing to authorize increases in both defense expenditures and military manpower. Current military writings reveal a search for ways to broaden the options available to the USSR in the application of its military power. (Paras. l-5)
The Soviets retain their belief in the primacy of strategic attack and defense forces, both for deterrence and for foreign policy support. [Page 407] In addition, however, they now show increasing interest in improving the capabilities of their general purpose forces to meet contingencies short of general nuclear war. We believe this interest is in part responsive to past developments in US and NATO capabilities and to US advocacy of flexible response. Additional factors include the tensions arising from the Vietnam war and the resulting US military buildup, as well as Chinese hostility towards the USSR. (Paras. 6, 7, 12–14)
A sharp increase in Soviet defense expenditures is evidently to occur this year. We attribute it primarily to planned expansion in military R and D and to the cost of long lead-time deployment programs for strategic systems which were authorized in previous years. It probably also stems in part from some recent increase in operating costs, including military manpower. The Soviet leaders have probably authorized further growth in military and space expenditures during the 1966–1970 Five Year Plan period. We believe, however, that in the interests of their ambitious economic programs they will seek to limit the growth in defense spending to no more than the average rate of growth in GNP. (Paras. 3, 4, 17–22)

The Soviet leaders probably expect to achieve a substantial improvement in their strategic position vis-à-vis the US during the next several years. Chief among their current strategic attack programs is the rapid deployment of ICBMs in dispersed and hardened silos, which will add substantially to the survivability and retaliatory capability of the force. Major current air and missile defense programs include improved means of warning and control, better defenses against aircraft and aerodynamic missiles, and what we believe to be ABM defenses under construction. Through these and other programs, we think the Soviets are working to alleviate their present strategic inferiority, and to gain greater assurance of deterring the US in the various crises and confrontations they must allow for as they contemplate possible developments in the world situation.3 (Paras. 26, 30, 31, 36)

The intensity with which the USSR is pursuing a massive military research and development program—the specific content and progress of which are not clearly known to the US—could portend far more than an intent merely to strengthen Soviet deterrent posture and could well be aimed at attainment of a strategic military position which the US would recognize as providing the USSR with a credible first strike damage limiting capability as well as an assured destruction force. [Footnote in the source text.]

The past restructuring of Soviet theater forces for general nuclear war has resulted in certain characteristics which could be serious handicaps in non-nuclear warfare, particularly if at all prolonged. We estimate that the Soviets will undertake gradual improvements in their general purpose forces which will make them somewhat better suited [Page 408] than at present for conventional operations. Ground units will probably be provided with greater tactical mobility and improved combat and logistic support, becoming more quickly responsive and better able to engage in sustained combat. The Soviets will also maintain a large and versatile tactical air component. They will continue to expand their naval presence in the open oceans, and will acquire greater capabilities to move unopposed military forces to distant areas. The Soviets may regard improved general purpose forces as having increased relevance as their strategic capabilities grow, but we do not think they expect alterations in the strategic situation so great as to permit them to undertake substantially more aggressive courses of action.4 (Paras. 32–35, 37)
Soviet military policy will continue to be heavily influenced by external developments. In recent years Soviet forces in the Sino-Soviet border area have been strengthened in minor ways, and we expect a gradual increase in Soviet military strength confronting China. In Eastern Europe the USSR continues to develop the forces of its Warsaw Pact allies, despite their increasing tendency to assert their independence. The USSR is thus far disposed toward caution with respect to the present weakening of NATO, perhaps because of concern over the possible loosening of constraints on a revival of independent German power. But the Soviets weigh the adequacy of their military programs primarily against US capabilities, and they will continue to be sensitive to major new developments in US military policy and forces. (Paras. 8–11, 14)
Within the USSR, a high level of effort in military R and D will almost certainly be continued, despite resource allocation problems. The Soviets probably regard such an effort as imperative in order to prevent the US from gaining a technological advantage and also to gain, if possible, some advantage for themselves, but in deciding to deploy any new weapon system they would have to weigh the prospective gain against the economic costs and the capabilities of the US to counter it. (Paras. 15, 23)
We do not expect that Soviet military forces will come to be structured according to some quite new and clear-cut strategic doctrine. This will almost certainly be prevented by such factors as the momentum of existing programs, the multiplicity of claims on resources, and the differing views of various groups as to priorities. (Para. 5)

[Here follows the Discussion section (pages 5–16).]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates 11–65, USSR, Box 3. Secret; Controlled Dissem. A title page, prefatory note, and table of contents are not printed. According to the prefatory note, the CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. Representatives of CIA, State Department, DIA, and NSA concurred; the AEC and FBI representatives abstained, the subject being outside their jurisdiction.
  2. Documents 97, 98, and 106.
  3. Colonel Harry O. Patteson, for the Assistant Chief of Staff Intelligence, USAF, would add the following sentence to this paragraph:
  4. Colonel Harry O. Patteson, for the Assistant Chief of Staff Intelligence, USAF, believes the Soviet longer term goal is a combination of capabilities which would yield a credible first strike capability against US forces and thus permit substantially more aggressive courses of action. [Footnote in the source text.]