The Soviet Union led by President Mikhail Gorbachev has widely heralded the adoption of a new military doctrine which posits war prevention as its fundamental goal. Yet, as Akhromeyev acknowledges in the above quote, a reliable defence, or preparation for war, is also essential. What is not acknowledged, let alone resolved, is that the two desired goals - prevention and preparation - may come into sharp conflict, especially in a super-power crisis. Prevention of war may make it necessary to defer actions which ready forces for battle or reduce their vulnerability. If war appears likely, however, pressures will arise to initiate military preparations, if not operations. Yet if one side prepares, a spiral may start which could end in an otherwise avoidable conflict or even a nuclear exchange. How will the USSR manage this dilemma?

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Copyright © 1989 Taylor and Francis This article first appeared in Survival 31: 4 (1989), 339-358.

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