Previously Classified Interviews with Former Soviet Officials Reveal U.S. Strategic Intelligence Failure Over Decades

1995 Contractor Study Finds that U.S. Analysts Exaggerated Soviet Aggressiveness and Understated Moscow's Fears of a U.S. First Strike

Edited by William Burr and Svetlana Savranskaya

Marshall Sergei Fyodorovich Akhromeev (1923-1991), Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, photo taken during 1988 visit to the United States. (Photo from

Washington, DC, September 11, 2009 - During a 1972 command post exercise, leaders of the Kremlin listened to a briefing on the results of a hypothetical war with the United States. A U.S. attack would kill 80 million Soviet citizens and destroy 85 percent of the country's industrial capacity. According to the recollections of a Soviet general who was present, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev "trembled" when he was asked to push a button, asking Soviet defense minister Grechko "this is definitely an exercise?" This story appears in a recently released two-volume study on Soviet Intentions, 1965-1985, prepared in 1995 by the Pentagon contractor BDM Corporation, and published today for the first time by the National Security Archive. Based on an extraordinarily revealing series of interviews with former senior Soviet defense officials--"unhappy Cold Warriors"--during the final days of the Soviet Union, the BDM study puts Soviet nuclear policy in a fresh light by highlighting Soviet leaders' recognition of the catastrophe of nuclear conflict, even while they supported preparations for fighting an unsurvivable war. 

BDM's unique interview evidence with former Soviet military officers, military analysts, and industrial specialists, reproduced in volume 2 of the study, covers a wide range of strategic issues, including force levels and postures, targeting and war planning, weapons effects, and the role of defense industries. Using this new evidence, the BDM staffers compared it with mainly official and semi-official U.S. interpretations designed to explain Soviet strategic policy and decision-making during the Cold War. While the BDM analysts found that some interpretations of Soviet policy were consistent with the interview evidence (e.g., the Soviet interest in avoiding nuclear war and Moscow's quest for superiority), they identified what they believed to be important failures of analysis, including:

  • "[Erring] on the side of overestimating Soviet aggressiveness" and underestimated "the extent to which the Soviet leadership was deterred from using nuclear weapons." [I: iv, 35]. Recent evidence from oral history sources supports this finding.  The Soviet leadership of the 1960s and 19702 suffered from a strategic inferiority complex that supports its drive for parity with (or even superiority over) the United States. All of the strategic models developed by Soviet military experts had a defensive character and assumed a first strike by NATO (See Document 3 at pages 26-27, Oral History Roundtable, Stockholm, p. 61)
  • "Seriously misjudg[ing] Soviet military intentions, which had the potential [to] mislead…U.S. decision makers in the event of an extreme crisis." For example, the authors observed that the Soviet leadership did not rule out a preemptive strike option, even though U.S. officials came to downplay the "probability" of Soviet preemption.  This misperception left open the possibility of U.S. action during a crisis that could invite a Soviet preemptive response and a nuclear catastrophe. [I: iv, 35, 68, 70-71]
  • "Serious[ly] misunderstanding … the Soviet decision-making process" by underestimating the "decisive influence exercised by the defense industry." That the defense industrial complex, not the Soviet high command, played a key role in driving the quantitative arms buildup "led U.S. analysts to … exaggerate the aggressive intentions of the Soviets." [I:7] 

Some of these criticisms may generate controversy among Cold War historians. The sponsor of the study, Andrew Marshall, former director of the Office of Net Evaluation at the Defense Department, was not entirely persuaded by the statements about the role of the defense industrialists in determining strategic force levels (see Document 1 below). In any event, the numerous fascinating disclosures in the interviews--the most significant of which the BDM analysts highlighted in Volume I--provide a rare glimpse behind the veil of Soviet secrecy. For example:

  • The Soviets strove for nuclear superiority, especially in terms of numbers of ICBMs, because they believed that the United States was seeking to maintain the lead and that a failure to overtake Washington would "result in a serious negative gap in capabilities." [I: 2-13, II: 33 (Danilevich)] The asymmetry between the U.S. and Soviet strategic triad was a special source of concern to the Soviets. They understood the U.S. insistence on crisis stability but they felt they had to keep developing the heavy land-based ICBMs that Washington considered destabilizing because they were cheaper to make and because the Soviet Union's geography did not allow for easy deployment of submarines. (See Document 3 at page 34)
  • Even when Moscow had more ICBMs than Washington, the Soviets did not feel secure because "they perceive[d] U.S. intentions to be aggressive and did not believe the superpower nuclear balance to be stable." For example, "virtually all interview subjects stressed that they perceived the U.S. to be preparing for a first strike." From satellite photography, the Soviets observed that U.S. missile silos were "relatively poorly protected by overhed cover and grouped rather close to each other and to the cluster's launch control center." The vulnerability of U.S. ICBM deployments convinced the high command that the ICBM "fields were first-strike weapons." [I: 1-2, 31; II: 100 (Kataev), 151 (Tsygichko)]
  • By the late 1960s, the Soviets accepted the concept that nuclear forces had a deterrence role. This meant that U.S. leaders would "not be allowed" to think that they could attack the Soviet Union without facing terrible consequences or to "feel such a sense of security that they would try to exercise their will in Europe with impunity." [I: 15-16]
  • Test of Soviet SS-18 (R-36) ICBM. (Kosmotras Web site)
    The Soviet military high command "understood the devastating consequences of nuclear war" and believed that nuclear weapons use had to be avoided at "all costs." In 1968, a Defense Ministry study showed that Moscow could not win a nuclear war, even if it launched a first strike. Although Soviet ideology had insisted that survival was possible, no one in the leadership believed it. In 1981, the General Staff concluded that "nuclear use would be catastrophic." [I: 23-24, 26; II: 24 (Danilevich), 124 (Mozzhorin)] This does not support arguments made by Richard Pipes in the late 1970s that the Soviets did not believe that a nuclear war would result in "mutual suicide" and that the "country better prepared for it and in possession of a superior strategy could win and emerge a viable society." (Note 1)
  • Before the 1970s, Soviet military officials paid no attention to the environmental impact of nuclear war, but they began to recognize that "drastic effects on climate" would be among the catastrophic effects of nuclear war (See document 5, "Stockholm Roundtable," p. 65). According to Dr. Vitalii Nikolaevich Tsygichko, a Senior Analyst at the Academy of Sciences, the author of the study, Mathematical Model of Soviet Strategic Operations on the Continental Theater (see document 4, with summary attached), and a former member of the General Staff, military analysts discussed the idea of a "nuclear winter" (although they did not use that term) years before U.S. scientists wrote about it in the 1980s. (Note 2) [II: 39 (Danilevich), 137, 139, 142 (Tsygichko).
  • During the early 1980s, according to the interviews, Fidel Castro recommended to the Kremlin a harder line against Washington, even suggesting the possibility of nuclear strikes. The pressure stopped after Soviet officials gave Castro a briefing on the ecological impact on Cuba of nuclear strikes on the United States. [I: 24; II: 28 (Danilevich)]
  • Questions raised over whether the Soviet "Dead Hand" automatic missile launch mechanism--the "doomsday machine"--ever became fully operational. It would have included mechanisms to launch automatically command missiles which would transmit launch orders to clusters of ICBMs. A manually activated system could launch the command missiles, but the Soviets also considered an automatic system where "triggering sensors were to launch the command missiles when excited by the light, or seismic shock, or radiation, or atmospheric density resulting from an incoming nuclear strike."  General-Colonel Andran Danilevich declared that the Soviets "explored the possibility of such … systems, [but they] considered them too dangerous and unreliable and halted their development." Nevertheless, several of the interviewees stated that the automatic trigger system was deployed, but would be activated only during crises. [I: 19-21; II: 62-63 (Danilevich), 100-101 (Kataev), 107 (Korobushin); 134-135 (Surikov). (Note 3)
  • Believing that a U.S. surprise attack was possible, and that Soviet vulnerabilities made a retaliatory strike nearly impossible, during the 1960s Defense Minister Grechko and other military leaders sought capabilities to preempt an attack.  Nevertheless, preemption was never a part of official Soviet military doctrine. Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin was a strong opponent of preemption and even the launch-on-warning strategy. According to testimony of Soviet witnesses, he "very categorically prohibited to even discuss that question." (See document 3 at page 26). Nevertheless, later in the decade, better understanding of the danger of nuclear war led political leaders to insist that the high command and defense industries make retaliation an option by hardening missile silos and improving warning and command and control systems (e.g. command missiles). Moreover, defense leaders put greater emphasis on launch-on-warning of attack, although preemption remained an option until Brezhnev renounced it in 1980.  [I: 28-29, 34]
  • During the late 1970s and the 1980s, the Pentagon began to adopt strategies for limited nuclear options to make it possible to control escalation and reduce the risk of all-out nuclear war. The Soviets, however, were skeptical of limited options or the possibility of controlling escalation. While Soviet deterrence doctrine posited massive responses to any nuclear use ("all against any"), military officials considered the possibility of proportionate responses to a limited U.S. attack, although they "doubted that nuclear war could remain limited for long." [I: 37-39; II: 42 (Danilevich)]
  • Beginning in the mid-1970s, the Soviets followed a "no-first-use" policy; according to the interviews, "the Soviet Union never intended to initiate the employment of nuclear weapons." [I: 41; II: 5-6 [Akhromeev]
  • During the early 1990s, some analysts interpreted newly-available East German documents on Warsaw Pact military exercises as evidence that the Pact had a nuclear first-strike policy. The BDM analysts saw this interpretation as confusion between first-strike and "preemption"; the latter meant "attempting to strike an enemy that is preparing to a launch a nuclear strike before he is able to launch." Warsaw Pact and Soviet strategy consistently assumed that the United States would "be the first to prepare for nuclear use, and Soviet preemption would then occur in response to observations of NATO preparations." [I: 42; II: 74 (Gareev)] In fact, as also confirmed by the testimony of Soviet decision-makers and military experts, first strike was never part of Soviet military doctrine (See document 3, at pages 33-35, 39, Document 4, "Stockholm Roundtable," at p. 65)
  • Soviet models of a nuclear battlefield in Central Europe predicted that using 20 percent of the weapons deployed in the region would "throw millions of tons of toxic material into the atmosphere, causing an ecological disaster." (Note 4) Military operations would become impossible. "Nuclear strikes on all of NATO's airfields would contaminate Eastern Europe and parts of the Soviet Union." While the General Staff believed that nuclear weapons had little utility for combat operations, the Kremlin ordered the officers to make war plans using tactical weapons, although they never produced detailed plans. [I: 43-44] The reason for this inconsistency is the disconnect between the result of military studies and official Soviet doctrine, which postulated the historic inevitability of U.S.-Soviet confrontation, despite the desirability of peaceful co-existence, and the possibility of Soviet victory in a nuclear war. The assumption of the imperialist camp's inherent aggressiveness led to a situation where the Soviet leadership was trying to avoid war at all costs, but in the event of an actual U.S./NATO attack was willing to use any weapons in their possession. This scenario would turn any European conflict involving the use of tactical nuclear weapons into a full-blown nuclear exchange. Ironically, in the minds of the Soviet leaders this created a stronger deterrence because they were aware that their Western counterparts thought along the same lines.
  • Rather than making extensive preparations for battlefield nuclear combat in Central Europe, the General Staff emphasized conventional military operations believing that they had an advantage there. "The military leadership believed that conventional superiority provided the Warsaw Pact with the means to approximate the effects of nuclear weapons and achieve victory in Europe without resort to those weapons." [I: 44-45]
  • In the event of a conflict and NATO forces were about to overrun Soviet nuclear weapons sites and delivery systems, according to "standard operating procedure," the Soviets would "destroy them" with special devices and mines "rather than use them." [I: 44; II: 108 (Korobushin)]
  • The BDM analysts draw a startling picture of the decline of the Soviet leadership during the Brezhnev period, where the top people were "largely incompetent, indecisive, self-indulgent, and lazy." Beginning in the early 1970s Brezhnev's health was failing and after a massive stroke in January 1976 he fell into a state of total "inactivity." The vacuum at the top produced a situation where decisions on strategic forces devolved to the missile-building industry. (Note 5) According to the authors' sources, for guidance on strategic policy Brezhnev came to rely heavily on Professor Mstislav Keldysh, President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, who opposed major investments in ABMs and supported arms control and more survivable ICBMs. [I: 50-52, 53; II: 82 (Illarionov)]
  • During the Brezhnev era, the top-level organizations for making decisions on defense policy, such as the Defense Ministry and the Defense Council, were mechanisms that rubber-stamped the preferences of the chiefs of military industries, who dominated the Military-Industrial Commission (VPK).  Former officials "complained that [the VPK kept in production] obsolete weapons systems" and retarded "the development of advanced systems." Moreover, when defense industrial leader Dmitri Ustinov became Defense Minister, General Makhmut A. Gareev later observed, that meant that the armed forces had "been taken over by the enemy." [I: 57-60; II: 75 (Gareev)]
  • "The defense-industrial sector used its clout to deliver more weapons than the armed services asked for and even to build new weapons systems that the operational military did not want." An "internal arms race" developed in which design bureaus produced a variety of ICBMs with the same missions.  When some called for a reduction of missiles, defense industry officials objected, because it would cause unemployment problems. [I: 61-63; II: 92 (Kalashnikov)]
Lt. General William Y. Smith, Dr. Vitaly Tsygichko and Colonel General Vyacheslav Vasenin (Photo taken by Svetlana Savranskaya during the Stockholm military oral history roundtable, April 2006)

Besides interviewing former Soviet officials, the authors put questions to several former Secretaries of Defense, including James Schlesinger and Harold Brown, and other senior officials at the Pentagon and the White House. Statements from those interviews when compared with the Soviet evidence could be used to assess the perspicacity of U.S. official thinking about Soviet nuclear policy. For example, the U.S. interviewees generally agreed that the Soviets believed in deterrence, were risk averse, and did not see nuclear war as winnable. [II: e.g., Komer, McDaniel, Schlesinger].  For example, according to former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, because the "Soviets refused to believe that a nuclear war could be limited," U.S. plans for limited nuclear options would deter them because they believed that a "limited U.S. strike would lead to an all-out nuclear war." [II: 129]

The BDM analysts recognized the limitations of oral history interviews, such as the distortions caused by the passage of time and the selective nature of recall.  Nonetheless, they argued that the interviews with Soviet defense officials produced "unique research material" which is "in many respects superior to open source and classified written records." For example, unlike interviews, the archival record can "rarely" answer questions about "why" a decision was made. Moreover, information produced by interviews can help researchers better understand "which factors in the written record are more or less important." Historians might dispute some of these assertions, but the BDM interview material is an important source that should encourage more research, add to pressure for access to primary sources, and raise questions for more interviews with surviving higher-level officials. For example, it would be worth asking former Soviet defense officials whether they considered how the Soviet posture looked to the U.S. government or if they wondered what top U.S. officials may have thought Soviet nuclear strategy actually was?  Did the Soviets consider the possibility of a "decapitation" strike against the U.S. command and control systems? Moreover, how did the Soviets see a war in Europe actually coming about? (Note 6)

The BDM study bears no classification markings, but the Pentagon's FOIA reviewers have treated it as a classified document excising a few portions.  The excisions are relatively light, mainly concerning technical issues about nuclear tests and weapons effects. In light of the Pentagon's predisposition to overclassify, whether declassification would actually compromise national security as the FOIA release letter suggests is open to question.


Read the Documents

What the Soviets Feared
More Evidence on the Origins of "Overkill"

Interagency Panel Releases More Information from Excised Histories of U.S. Nuclear War Plans

The Soviet generals and defense officials interviewed for the BDM study reported that they consistently feared a U.S. first strike during a crisis or confrontation, hence, for years they believed a preemptive option was necessary in the event they detected signs of U.S. military preparations. Had they had inside knowledge of U.S. nuclear war plans, Soviet generals may have remained worried because the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) consistently included a preemptive option. That is, if intelligence warning information indicated Soviet preparations for a nuclear strike on the United States, the Pentagon wanted a capability to launch a preemptive first strike attacking Soviet military targets. Thus, each side feared the other's strategy and believed that a preemptive option was essential for nuclear planning, even if it was difficult to implement successfully and highly dangerous, for example, the risk of a false warning leading to an accidental and horrific nuclear exchange.

Earlier postings by the National Security Archive of early SIOP histories highlighted the role of the preemptive option in U.S. nuclear planning.  Recently the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) declassified more information from the histories of SIOP-62 and 63 in response to mandatory review appeals by the National security Archive. Two years ago, the Defense Department released significant information in those histories in response to a mandatory review appeal by the National Security Archive. Those releases included much new information, but enough remained classified to merit a final appeal to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel [ISCAP]. That appeal persuaded ISCAP to direct the Defense Department to release more content from the SIOP histories.

In the SIOP-62 history, new details include:

▪ Radiation produced by the SIOP strikes would have exceeded the "dosage limits set by JCS." This spoke to the worries of government insiders that the plan was so destructive that it would endanger civilian populations on the periphery of the Sino-Soviet "bloc."

▪ Assurance of delivery (of weapons to target) averaged 85 percent, greater than the 75 percent minimum set by the U.S. high command, which raised weapons requirements and the level of "overkill."

▪ The first SIOP targeted 1043 DZGs [designated ground zeroes], of which 706 were in the former Soviet Union.  The exact numbers of ground zeroes for China, Eastern European, and other Communist countries—totaling 337—remain classified.  P. 20.

▪ As a plan to launch all available nuclear forces, SIOP-62 included this much flexibility: 16 options depending on the amount of  warning time: option 1 provided for immediate launch of the alert force, while option 16 assumed 28 hours to launch "all forces."  P. 25

▪ To reduce radioactive fall-out hazards to civilians in some of the target countries and nearby allied nations, the SIOP included a constraints policy of minimizing surface bursts in satellite areas.  Nevertheless, nuclear planners were to "reduce civil destruction [to the] minimum demanded by military necessity when primary undertakings apply."  P. 21.
For the history of SIOP-63, which shaped U.S. nuclear war plans until the mid-1970s, new information added by ISCAP includes:

▪ More details on the "elements of flexibility" developed to make the SIOP more responsive to presidential direction, for example, to hit fewer targets, one option was to execute the plan with SAC and Polaris only (without naval air or NATO forces). (Page 26.

▪ With more flexibility in the plan, as many as "4,000 different courses of action" were possible. (Page 28)

▪ The definition of a pre-emptive attack: "launching of strike forces in response to unequivocal strategic warning of impending Sino-Soviet attack upon the U.S. or its allies." (Page 41)
While ISCAP significantly more information from the histories, some important details remain classified.  For example, from page 19 of the SIOP-63 history, the total number of designated ground-zeroes (DGZs), and probably other information on target numbers was withheld, as was the total number of targets of "strategic significance." As these decades-old numbers aggregate targets in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, China, and North Korea, releasing them now would be unlikely to cause any harm to U.S. national defense.  Why they are still so sensitive that they must be withheld is a puzzle.


Document 1: Memo for Distribution by Andrew W. Marshall, director of Net Assessment, Office of Secretary of Defense, "John Hines' Report- Soviet Intentions, 1965-1985," 22 September 1995

In this memorandum, Marshall wrote that study director John Hines left BDM before finishing the report and that he (Marshall) was not entirely satisfied with the findings.  Marshall did not specify which aspect of the report was incomplete, but it is evident that that he was not persuaded by the argument about the role of the defense industrial complex in establishing force levels.  

Document 2:

Soviet Intentions 1965-1985, Volume I: An Analytical Comparison of U.S.-Soviet Assessments During the Cold War by John Hines, Ellis M. Mishulovich, and John F. Shulle
BDM Federal, Inc., September 22, 1995, Unclassified, excised copy.

Front Matter: Acknowledgements, Introduction/Preface, The Research Process-Debriefing Unhappy Cold Warriors … i-vi

Chapter I  Macro Trends in Soviet Strategy 1965 –1985 ... 1-8

Chapter II  Soviet View of the Strategic Relationship … 9-21
Parity … 9
Deterrence … 13

Chapter III. Evolution of Soviet Strategy … 22-47
Utility of Nuclear Weapons … 22
Outcome of Nuclear War … 25
Preemption … 27
Limited Nuclear Options … 35
Escalation … 40

Chapter IV Factors in Soviet Force Building and Strategic Decision Making ... 48-67
Ineffectual Leadership at the Top … 50
Struggles Among the Princes … 52
Rule of the Industrialists … 59
Strategic Consequences … 65

Chapter V Conclusions, with Appendix A: A Chronology of Soviet Strategy and Bibliography … 68-77

Soviet Intentions 1965-1985 Volume II: Soviet Post-Cold War Testimonial Evidence
, Unclassified, excised copy.

Front Matter: Comments on Interview Process and Table of Contents … i

Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeev, Advisor to the President of the USSR … 3-6

Gen.-Lt. Gelii Viktorovich Batenin, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff  … 7-10

Sergei Blagovolin, Head of Department for Military-Economic and Military-Political Research, Institute of the World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) …. 11-12

Harold Brown, Secretary of Defense ... 13-15

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs ... 16-17

Dmitrii S. Chereshkin, Head of a Department in the All-Union Scientific-Research Institute for Systems Studies (VNIISI) … 18

Gen.-Col. (Ret.) Adrian A. Danilevich, Special Advisor for military doctrine to the Chief of the General Staff ... 19-71

Gen. Makhmut A. Gareev, Special Representative of the Soviet Ministry of Defense in Afghanistan ...72-76

Fred C. Iklé, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy... 77-78

Gen.-Col. Igor' V. Illarionov, Assistant to Ustinov for special assignments …79-85

A. S. Kalashnikov, Chairman of the State Commission on Nuclear Testing at Semipalatinsk … 86-95

Vitalii Leonidovich Kataev, Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Defense Industrial Department of the Communist Party Central Committee … 96-101

Gen.-Maj. (Ret.) Iurii A. Kirshin, Deputy Director, Institute of Military History… 102-104

Robert W. Komer, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy … 105

Gen.-Col. (Ret.) Varfolomei Vladimirovich Korobushin, Director of the General Staff's Center For Operational and Strategic Research (TsOSI) ... 106-108

Gen.-Lt. (Ret.) Nikolai Vasil'evich Kravets, SRF officer … 109-110

Gen.-Col. Gegorii Fedorovich Krivosheev, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the Main Directorate for Organization and Mobilization … 111-114

Colonel Petr M. Lapunov, director of department for force analysis, TsOSI General Staff ... 115-117

Andrew W. Marshall, Director, OSD Net Assessment … 118-119

Rod McDaniel, NSC Staffer … 120-121

Iu. A. Mozzhorin, General Director of TsNIIMash, the main research and design institute of the Ministry of General Machine Building (MOM) ... 122-126

Vladimir Rubanov, former official in the Soviet Ministry of Aviation ... 127

James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense … 128-130

Vitalii V. Shlykov, Deputy Chairman, Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic State Committee on Defense … 131        

Boris Aleksandrovich Strogonov, Defense Industrial Department of Central Committee … 132

Viktor M. Surikov, President of the Institute for Defense Studies (INOBIS) ... 134-135

Dr. Vitalii Nikolaevich Tsygichko, Senior Analyst at VNIISI … 136-157

Gen.-Col. Dmitrii Volkogonov, Director, Institute of Military History ... 158

APPENDIX A: Partial List of Decision Makers and Analysts … 159-160

APPENDIX B: Research Questions for Soviet Interview Respondents … 161-164

APPENDIX C: Research Questions for U.S. Interview Respondents ... 165

APPENDIX D: List of Acronyms and Abbreviations ... 166-167

APPENDIX E: Tsygichko's Kommentarii k interv'iu v 1990-1991 godu … 168 [Detailed summary/translation prepared by Svetlana Savranskaya]

Index … 178

Document 3: SALT II and the Growth of Mistrust: Conference # 2 of the Carter-Brezhnev Project: A Conference of U.S. and Russian Policymakers and Scholars Held at Musgrove Plantation, St. Simons Island, Georgia 6-9 May 1994, Excerpt (May 7, Morning Session)

Document 4: Vitalii Nikolaevich Tsygichko, Models in the System of Military-Strategic Decision Making in the USSR (Moscow, 2005), with English-language summary prepared by Svetlana Savranskaya attached

Document 5: Jan Hoffenaar and Christopher Findlay, editors, Military Planning for European Theater Conflict during the Cold War: An Oral History Roundtable Stockholm, 24-25 April 2006 (Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, 2006)



1. Richard Pipes, U.S.-Soviet Relations in the Era of Détente: A Tragedy of Errors (Boulder: Westview, 1981), 136.

2. For the origins of an explicit nuclear winter concept in the United States during the early 1980s, see Lynn Eden, Whole World on Fire: Organization, Knowledge & Nuclear Weapons Devastation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), 238-242.  Tsygichko did not mention the fire effects of nuclear weapons, but nuclear winter thinking presupposed that detonation of nuclear weapons in urban areas would cause mass fires.

3. For the view that the Dead Hand or "Perimetr" system became operational with an automatic trigger feature, see Steven J. Zaloga, The Kremlin's Nuclear Sword: The Rise and Fall of Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces, 1945-2000 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002), 197-198, and Bruce Blair, "We Keep Building Nukes For All the Wrong Reasons," Washington Post, 25 May 2003.

4. See discussion of Soviet mathematical modeling of strategic operations in Europe in the "Stockholm roundtable" (document 5), and the summary of Vitaly Tsygichko's book,Models in the System of Military-Strategic Decision Making in the USS (document 4).

5. For more on Brezhnev's background, leadership, and decline, see Vladislav Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 201-215 and 241-247.

6. Thanks to Daniel Ellsberg for raising these questions in a discussion of the BDM study.