84. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–4–65


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 six years.


This estimate focuses upon broad trends in Soviet military policy and doctrine. It does not attempt to recapitulate existing NIEs on Soviet strategic attack, air 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 11–8–64; “Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Attack,” dated 8 October 1964, Top Secret, Restricted Data (Limited Distribution)2 and Memorandum to Holders of NIE 11–8–64, dated 7 April 1965.3

[Page 231]

NIE 11–3–64; “Soviet Bloc Air and Missile Defense Capabilities Through Mid-1970,” dated 16 December 1964, Top Secret.4

NIE 11–14–64; “Capabilities of the Soviet General Purpose Forces, 1964–1970,” dated 10 December 1964, Secret.5


Soviet decisions since Khrushchev’s fall do not indicate any general alteration in his military policies. During the next six years, we believe that the main aim of the USSR’s military policy and programs will remain that of strengthening the Soviet deterrent.6 In the strategic field, we expect the USSR to increase the numbers and effectiveness of a variety of weapon systems and, in particular, greatly to improve retaliatory capabilities. These programs may include the deployment of anti-missile defenses. But we think it highly unlikely that the Soviets could achieve a combination of offensive and defensive forces so strong as to persuade the leadership that it could launch a strategic attack upon the West and limit to acceptable proportions the subsequent damage to the USSR. (Paras. 18, 46–52)
The Soviets will continue to press their dynamic military and space R&D programs. Soviet security considerations demand vigorous efforts to prevent a Western military technological advantage which might threaten the credibility of their deterrent. Beyond this, we believe that the Soviet R&D effort represents an attempt to achieve major technological advances in the hope of offsetting present Western strategic advantages. Should the Soviets achieve a technological advance which offered the prospect of significant improvement in military capabilities, they would seek to exploit it for political and military advantage, but their decisions as to deployment would involve a weighing of such advantage against economic considerations and US capabilities to counter. (Paras. 29–32)
With respect to theater forces, capabilities for nuclear combat will remain a prime Soviet concern. Certain recent trends, however, point to a growing concern with non-nuclear war, and we expect Soviet [Page 232] military policy to devote increasing attention to this contingency. Further, there is some evidence that the Soviets intend to develop greater capabilities for distant, limited military action, an area in which they are presently at a great disadvantage. (Paras. 40–43, 56–57)
The new Soviet leaders will continue to apply economic restraints to the expansion of military programs. The Soviet economy could support a substantially increased military effort. Nevertheless, the demands of costly military and space programs conflict directly with the requirements of the civil economy, and the newly announced agricultural program does not portend any early easing of economic constraints. Barring important changes in the international situation, we consider major shifts in the level of Soviet defense spending to be unlikely. (Paras. 20, 25–27)
Soviet military policy will also be heavily influenced by external developments. In Eastern Europe, if present trends toward autonomy continue, the Warsaw Pact will evolve toward a conventional military alliance, and the range of contingencies in which the USSR can rely on effective support from its Warsaw Pact allies will narrow. In Asia, the hardening of the Sino-Soviet dispute will probably force the USSR to recognize the military implications of China’s hostility and ambitions, and the USSR will probably strengthen conventional forces in Soviet Asia. In Western Europe, the Soviets would consider their military problem to be sharply altered by any important changes in the political cohesion or military effectiveness of NATO. But the Soviets will continue to weigh the adequacy of military programs primarily against US capabilities, and to judge the desirability of proposed programs against probable US reaction. (Paras. 33–36)
Beyond the general mission of deterrence, we doubt that any single doctrinal design, meeting the tests of comprehensiveness and feasibility, will govern the development of Soviet military forces over the next six years. Old debates which seem certain to outlive Khrushchev’s departure, the momentum of deployment programs, the clash of vested interests, attempts to capitalize on some technological advance, an urge to match or counter various enemy capabilities—these are some of the factors which are likely to inhibit any far-reaching rationalization of military policy around a single doctrine. (Para. 51)

[Here follows the Discussion section (Parts I–IV, pages 4–17).]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates 11–65, USSR, Box 3. 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, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. Representatives of the State Department, DIA, AEC, and NSA concurred; the FBI representative abstained, the subject being outside his jurisdiction.
  2. Document 55.
  3. No April 7 memorandum has been found, but for a May 10 memorandum on this subject, see Document 88.
  4. Document 69.
  5. Not printed. (Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates 11–65, USSR, Box 3)
  6. The Director of the National Security Agency and the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF consider that 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—portends far more than an intent merely to strengthen Soviet deterrent posture. They believe that attainment of strategic superiority continues to be the goal of Soviet political and military leadership and that the USSR is actively searching for ways and means of building toward parity and ultimate superiority. [Footnote in the source text.]