183. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–4–67


The Problem

To review significant developments in Soviet military policy and programs, and to estimate main trends in Soviet military policies over the next 5 to 10 years.


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 11–8–66, “Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Attack,” dated 20 October 1966, Top Secret, Restricted Data (Limited Distribution).2

[Page 559]

NIE 11–14–66, “Capabilities of Soviet General Purpose Forces,” dated 3 November 1966, Secret.3

NIE 11–3–66, “Soviet Strategic Air and Missile Defenses,” dated 17 November 1966, Top Secret.4



In the past year, there has been no major change in the broad Soviet military policy, which continues to place primary emphasis on strategic weapons. Outlays for defense have accelerated with the continuation of large–scale deployment of strategic missiles, both offensive and defensive, and continued research and development (R&D) on new strategic weapon systems. The Soviets are building forces which we believe will give them, in the next year or two, greatly increased confidence that they have a retaliatory capability sufficient to assure the destruction of a significant portion of US industrial resources and population. They will probably also seek, through both strategic attack and defense programs, to improve their ability to reduce the damage the US can inflict on the USSR should deterrence fail and war in fact occur. We believe that the Soviets would not consider it feasible to achieve by the mid–1970’s strategic capabilities which would permit them to launch a first strike against the US without receiving unacceptable damage in return.5

The most important issues of military policy at present center upon the strategic relationship with the US. Certain major deployment programs are either slowing or nearing completion. The Soviet leaders are probably now considering further development and deployment of strategic systems for the 1970’s. For the present, we rate the chances as less than even that they would agree to any extensive program of arms control or disarmament.
The Soviets almost certainly believe that their strategic position relative to that of the US has improved markedly. In the next year or so [Page 560]they will approach numerical parity in ICBM launchers, which we believe to be their present goal. They are aware, however, of planned improvements in US strategic offensive missile forces which in their view would threaten to erode their strategic position. Possible Soviet responses could take the form of a considerable increase in the numbers of ICBM launchers, development of mobile ICBMs, a greater emphasis on ballistic missile submarines, or qualitative improvements such as the development of very accurate ICBMs, possibly equipped with multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs).
The Soviets have probably concluded that if no arms control agreement is reached a US decision to deploy ABMs will soon be forthcoming, and are probably concerned lest a US ABM deployment seriously degrade their retaliatory capabilities. A US decision to deploy either heavy or light ABM defenses would probably lead the Soviets to develop and deploy penetration aids and possibly MIRVs for their ICBM force, or they might increase the size of that force. Systems designed to elude US ABM defenses, such as aerodynamic vehicles or space weapons, might be given greater emphasis. Whatever their specific responses to developments on the US side, we believe that the Soviets will hold it essential to maintain what they would consider to be an assured destruction capability.
We continue to believe that the Soviets will deploy ABMs in defense of areas other than Moscow, but their decision may await the availability of an improved system. In any case, given the lead–times involved, ABM defenses will probably not become operational outside the Moscow area before the early 1970’s. We would expect to detect construction of such additional defenses two to three years before they became operational.6
Developments in the general purpose forces indicate a greater concern with meeting contingencies short of general war and a recognition of the possibility of postponing, limiting, or avoiding the use of nuclear weapons. In part this represents a reaction to the US and NATO [Page 561]strategy of flexible response, but it also represents a more general interest in broadening the range of Soviet military capabilities. Sealift and airlift have been considerably expanded. We do not believe, however, that the Soviets are developing the sea and air combat capabilities required for distant limited military action against opposition. They evidently see advantages in wars fought by proxy with indigenous forces rather than by their own forces, a practice which reduces both military risks and adverse political reactions. In extending their influence abroad they will continue to give economic and military aid on a large–scale, and to use political and diplomatic means.
The Soviets now describe China as a power with a policy “clearly hostile” to the USSR. They have increased their military strength in areas close to the Chinese and Mongolian borders, and are moving to strengthen the defenses of Mongolia. At present they appear to regard the Chinese as posing more of a border security problem than a major military threat, but they almost certainly see the potential threat of China as increasing over the longer term. So long as the Sino–Soviet conflict persists, Soviet military planners will have to take account of the possibility of large–scale war with China and China’s emerging strategic nuclear capabilities.
The internal situation appears generally favorable to the continuation of a strong military effort. The present leaders seem more responsive than was Khrushchev to the opinions of the military hierarchy. Estimated military and space expenditures for 1967 represent an increase of 16 percent over 1965, a marked change from the more stable level of spending during 1962–1965. The adverse effects on the economy of large military and space programs will exert some restraining influence on military spending. We believe that military expenditures will continue to rise, but at a rate generally consonant with the growth of the Soviet economy.
A strong effort in military R&D will 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.
Soviet foreign policy will continue to be based primarily upon political and economic factors, but the military capabilities that the Soviets are developing and the military relationships that are evolving will affect their attitudes and approaches to policy. They will probably seek to gain some political or propaganda advantage from their improving military position, and may take a harder line with the US in various crises than they have in the past. We do not believe, however, that their improved military capabilities will lead them to such aggressive [Page 562]courses of action as would, in their view, provoke direct military confrontation with the US. The Soviet leaders recognize that the USSR as well as the US is deterred from initiating general war, and will continue to avoid serious risk of such a war.7

[Here follows the Discussion section (Parts I–V, pages 6–23).]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates, 11–67, USSR, Box 4. Secret; Controlled Dissem. A cover sheet, prefatory note, title page, 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 NSA participated in the preparation of this estimate. Representatives of the CIA, State Department, DIA, NSA, and AEC concurred; the FBI representative abstained, the subject being out his jurisdiction.
  2. Document 143.
  3. A copy is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates, 11–66, USSR, Box 3.
  4. Document 146.
  5. Major Gen. Jack E. Thomas, the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, would substitute for the last sentence of Conclusion A the following:

    “The Soviets may not consider it feasible to achieve by the mid–1970’s strategic capabilities which would permit them to launch a first strike attack against the US without receiving unacceptable damage in return. On the other hand, the sustained intensity with which the USSR is pursuing its massive military R&D efforts and the pace of its strategic systems deployment suggest the Soviets could be seeking, over the long term, a combination of capabilities which could yield a credible first strike capability against the US. Even if the Soviets considered that this still would not make rational deliberate initiation of nuclear attack against the US, they might well believe that achievement of a credible first strike capability would be worth the cost in view of the strong backup this would provide for aggressive pursuit of objectives in other areas of world.” [Footnote in the source text.]

  6. Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Carroll, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; Brig. Gen. James L. Collins, Jr., Acting Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; and Maj. Gen. Jack E. Thomas, the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, note that this paragraph considers the Moscow ABM system is the only ABM system currently being deployed and does not ascribe an ABM capability for the Tallinn system. They believe that the information available at present is still insufficient to estimate with confidence the full capabilities and mission of the Tallinn system. They agree that the available evidence does support a conclusion that the Tallinn sites have a defensive mission against the aerodynamic threat except against low altitude threats. However, they also believe that the system, where augmented by the Hen House type radar, has a capability against ballistic missiles over a substantial portion of the deployment area; and that the system has considerable growth potential. They therefore would evaluate its continuing development and deployment with this capability in mind. [Footnote in the source text.]
  7. For the longer term, Major Gen. Jack E. Thomas, the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, believes his footnote to Conclusion A is pertinent. [Footnote in the source text.]