Chapter 14 - NATO-Warsaw Pact Conventional and CBW Forces and Arms Control

We pledge to increase substantially our intra-and inter-theater airlift capability and to increase our aerial tanker fleet through procurement and speedy modernization.

Of all of the services, the Navy and Marines have suffered most from Mr. Carter’s cuts. . . . Mr. Carter slashed President Ford’s 157 ship, five year construction program to 83. . . . He vetoed the Fiscal Year 1979 Defense Authorization Bill because it included an aircraft carrier which a year later Congress forced him to accept. For the fourth straight year he has requested fewer than half of the 325 aircraft needed annually to stay even with peacetime attrition and modernization requirements . . . and he has opposed Marine tactical aircraft and helicopter modernization. . . . We will restore our fleet to 600 ships at a rate equal to or exceeding that planned by President Ford. We will build more aircraft carriers, submarines, and amphibious ships. We will restore naval and Marine aircraft procurement. (headings added)2

Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s Proposed U.S. Defense Budget Supplemental—March 1981. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger’s Statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 4, 1981 and an accompanying Department of Defense news release on FY 1981 and FY 1982 Department of Defense Budget Revisions are detailed in Chapter 10. Weinberger describes specifics of the Soviet build-up and U.S. defense shortfalls and seeks a 17% supplemental funding increase to build capabilities designed to end the perception that “the Soviets and their proxies can act with impunity.” Weinberger calls out regional areas subject to both Soviet subversion and potential attacks accentuated by force asymmetries. His testimony and associated fact sheet focus on a broad range of enhancements required in U.S. capabilities, notably including readiness (e.g., maintenance, munitions, training, mobility), personnel (e.g., pay, manpower), modernization/procurement (e.g., helicopters, air defenses, tanks, combat aircraft, cruisers, frigates, carrier forces), and the reactivation of two modernized battleships.

3. Soviet Military Power and NATO-Warsaw Pact Force Asymmetries: Early Reagan Administration and NATO Reports—1981 to 1983

Reagan Administration depictions of the realities of the largely unilateral Soviet military buildup in Europe during the 1970s “détente” period are extensive, as were his requests for classified intelligence assessments and for detailed public reports on the data and its security implications for Western nuclear and conventional force modernization and arms control.

National Intelligence Estimate—Summer 1981. A U.S. National Intelligence estimate NIE 11–14–81—Warsaw Pact Forces Opposite NATO, based on information cited as available as of June 30, 1981 and issued on July 7, 1981, reviews data on “general purpose forces of the Warsaw Pact nations that are available for use against NATO. It assesses the present and future capabilities of these forces for conventional, chemical, and theater nuclear warfare . . . for five . . . [to] ten years. . . . It does not deal with Soviet forces along the China-USSR border, the Soviet Pacific Fleet, or other forces in the Soviet Far East.” Key NIE judgments include the following on Soviet forces, doctrine, qualitative improvements, and other key issues:

[Soviet Doctrine] With respect to the general purpose forces that the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies deploy opposite NATO, we estimate that:

  • The Soviet goal is clear-cut force superiority—conventional, nuclear, and chemical—with which to fight and win a short war; one in which NATO would be overwhelmed by the scale and violence of the Pact’s offensive before the Allies could bring their strength to bear.
  • Because of the lessened vulnerability of their theater nuclear forces and their improved tactical nuclear capability, the Soviets show a continuing interest in a more flexible nuclear doctrine, but they remain profoundly skeptical that nuclear conflict can be controlled. . . .
  • . . . Qualitative advances will be made primarily by the introduction of more sophisticated equipment and by reorganization of combat elements and improvements of command and control—particularly in the Soviet Ground and Air Forces. . . .

[Soviet Objectives] If a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict occurred, we would expect the Soviets within the European theater to:

  • Concentrate their initial efforts in Central Europe, attacking with ground forces organized into five fronts (80 to 90 divisions).
  • Accompany the ground attack with a massive air assault intended to decimate NATO’s theater nuclear capability and to gain air superiority

[Book pg. 324]