The current ferment in Soviet military doctrine has led to uncertainty and debate over its implications. On one hand, Gorbachev's peaceful rhetoric, backed by force reductions, is competing with the Bolshoi's ballerinas for favorable Western press reviews. Public opinion-and many public officials-perceive a reduced military threat from the Soviet army. On the other hand, skeptics believe that recent doctrinal changes are compatible with a modernized, more efficient Soviet military machine. In their view, the Soviet army is definitely changing, but the threat will not. A review of the operational implications of the new Soviet security themes indicates that neither the optimist nor pessimist is wholly justified. The effect on the military situation in Europe will be mixed: some changes appear to benefit NATO's position, while others suggest new challenges. Understanding the specifics of this evolution is crucial for determining how the West should respond.

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Copyright © 1999 United States Army War College. This article first appeared in Parameters 19 (1989), 80-92.

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