“The Middle East and Soviet Military Strategy,” by Michael MccGwire, Middle East Report, No. 151, Mar.-Apr. 1988, pp 11-17, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0899-2851%28198803%2F04%290%3A151%3C11%3ATMEASM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D.
While working on my literature review, I stumbled on this great article by Michael MccGwire on Soviet military strategy from the late 1980s. If you have access to jstor it’s definitely worth reading, but what struck me are the maps. The boys over at Coming Anarchy have been doing great work with time-series maps of Armenia, Ethiopia, Europe, and other neat places, so here is a series of maps from one moment in time, but of different regions:’
The prospect of regional war with the US in the Persian Gulf region has prompted Soviet planners to take a fresh look at the military doctrine prevailing through the 1970s. At least until recently, it is the contingency of world war that has determined the structure and posture of the Soviet armed forces and shaped their war-related requirements beyond their borders. These requirements are organized in theaters of military action (TVDs), which are constructs for planning in peacetime as well as for conducting operations in war. As the accompanying maps show, TVDs extend from inside the Soviet Union to as far beyond its borders as makes military sense.
In Soviet planning for the contingency of world war (which the Soviets absolutely want to avoid but can not afford to lose), the Western TVD is by far the most important. This encompasses NATO’s central region and the southern part of Scandinavia.
The core of the Middle East lies in Moscow’s Southern TVD, which looks south from the Caucasus and Turkistan out across the eastern half of Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Its western boundary cuts through the middle of Turkey and runs south between Cyprus and the Levantine coast to Egypt. In the east, the boundary is likely to follow the line of the Himalayas flanking Pakistan and then turn south to Cape Comorin at the tip of India.
The Southern TVD is, including the Persian Gulf, becomes important only in the second phase of a general war, once NATO has been defeated in Europe, because of the need for the sea-line of communications with Moscow’s Fat Eastern front. The Southern TVD would have no significant role to play in the first phase of a world war, unless US forces had previously been drawn into the Gulf area, when the requirement would be to prevent them from redeploying to the European front.
The Mediterranean comes mostly within the Southwestern TVD, which includes North Africa.
In the Southwestern TVD, the immediate objective would be to pin down the NATO forces so that they cannot be deployed to reinforce NATO’s central region and to secure the Turkish straights against NATO incursions. Once it was certain that operations in the Western TVD would be successful and some Soviet forces would be available for redeployment, the Soviets would then seek to force Italy out of the war and to gain physical control of both sides of the Turkish Straits. This effort would parallel political attempts to maneuver Greece and Turkey out of the war.