«Военная Литература»
To Andrei Andreevich Vlasov

Part One.

The Higher Military Leadership

Why did the Soviet Tanks not threaten Romania?


It looked as though the soldiers had laid a very large, very heavy carpet at the bottom of the wooded ravine. A group of us, infantry and tank officers, looked at their work from a slope high above them with astonishment, exchanging wild ideas about the function of the dappled, greyish-green carpet, which gleamed dully in the sun.

`It's a container for diesel fuel,' said the commander of a reconnaissance party confidently, putting an end to the argument.

He was right. When the heavy sheeting, as large as the hull of an airship, was finally unfolded, a number of grubby-looking soldiers laid a network of field pipelines through our battalion position.

All night long they poured liquid fuel into the container. Lazily and unwillingly it became fatter, crushing bushes and young fir trees under its tremendous weight. Towards morning the container began to look like a very long, flat, broad hot water bottle, made for some giant child. The resilient surface was carefully draped with camouflage nets. Sappers hung spirals of barbed wire around the ravine and a headquarters company set up field picquets to cover the approaches.

In a neighbouring ravine the filling of another equally large fuel container was in progress. Beyond a stream, in a depression, worn-out reservists were slowly spreading out a second huge canopy. Struggling through bogs and clearings, covered from head to foot in mud, the soldiers pulled and heaved at an endless web of field pipelines. Their faces were black, like photographs negatives, and this made their teeth seem unnaturally white when they showed them, in their enjoyment of obscenities so monstrous that they made their young reserve officer blush.

This whole affair was described, briefly, as «Rear Units Exercise». But we could see what was going on with our own eyes and we realised that this was more than an exercise. It was all too serious. On too large a scale. Too unusual. Too risky. Was it likely that they would amass such enormous stocks of tank fuel and ammunition, or build thousands of underground command posts communications centres, depots and stores on the very borders of the country just for an exercise?

The stifling summer of 1968 had begun. Everyone realised quite clearly that the sultriness and tension in the air could suddenly turn into a summer storm. We could only guess when and where this would happen. It was quite clear that our forces would invade Romania but whether they would also go into Czechoslovakia was a matter for speculation.

The liberation of Romania would be a joy-ride. Her maize fields suited our tanks admirably. Czechoslovakia was another matter. Forests and mountain passes are not good terrain for tanks.

The Romanian army had always been the weakest in Eastern Europe and had the oldest equipment. But in Czechoslovakia things would be more complicated. In 1968 her army was the strongest in Eastern Europe. Romania had not even a theoretical hope of help from the West, for it had no common frontier with the countries of NATO. But in Czechoslovakia, in addition to Czech tank divisions, we risked meeting American, West German, British, Belgian, Dutch and possibly French divisions. A world war might break out in Czechoslovakia but there was no such risk in Romania.

So, although preparations were being made for the liberation of Romania, we clearly would not go into Czechoslovakia. The risk was too great....


For some reason, though, despite all our calculations and in the face of all common sense, they did send us into Czechoslovakia. Never mind, we reassured ourselves-we'll deal with Dubcek and then we'll get around to Ceaucescu. First of all we'll make the Czech people happy and then it'll be the turn of the Romanians.

But for some reason it never was....

Elementary logic suggested that it was essential to liberate Romania and to do so immediately. The reasons for acting with lightning speed were entirely convincing. Ceaucescu had denounced our valiant performance in Czechoslovakia as aggression. Then Romania announced that henceforth no exercises by Warsaw Pact countries might be held on her territory. Next she declared that she was a neutral country and that in the event of a war in Europe she would decide for herself whether to enter the war or not and if so on which side. After this she vetoed a proposal for the construction of a railway line which was to have crossed her territory in order to link the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. Each year, too, Romania would reject suggestions by the Soviet Union that she should increase her involvement in the activities of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation.

Then there was a truly scandalous occurrence. Soviet military intelligence reported that Israel was in great need of spare parts for Soviet-built tanks, which had been captured in Sinai, and that Romania was secretly supplying these spare parts. Hearing of this, the commander of our regiment, without waiting for instructions, ordered that a start should be made with bringing equipment out of mothballing. He assumed that the last hour had struck for the stubborn Romanians. It turned out to be his last hour that had come. He was rapidly relieved of his command, the equipment was put back in storage and the regiment fell back into a deep sleep.

Things became even worse. The Romanians bought some military helicopters from France. These were of great interest to Soviet military intelligence, but our Romanian allies would not allow our experts to examine them, even from a distance. Some of the more hawkish generals and their juniors still believed that the Soviet leadership would change their mind and that Romania would be liberated or at least given a good fright by troop movements of a scale befitting a super-power along her borders. But the majority of officers had already given Romania up as a bad job. We had got used to the idea that Romania was allowed to do anything that she liked, that she could take any liberties she pleased. The Romanians could exchange embraces with our arch-enemies the Chinese, they could hold their own opinions and they could make open criticisms of our own beloved leadership.

We began to wonder why the slightest piece of disobedience or evidence of free thinking was crushed with tanks in East Germany, in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary or inside the Soviet Union itself, but not in Romania. Why was the Soviet Union ready to risk annihilation in a nuclear holocaust in order to save far-off Cuba but not prepared to try to keep Romania under control? Why, although they had given assurances of their loyalty to the Warsaw Treaty, were the Czech leaders immediately dismissed, while the rulers of Romania were allowed to shed their yoke without complications of any sort? What made Romania an exception? Why was she forgiven for everything?


Many explanations are put forward for the behaviour of Soviet Communists in the international arena. The most popular is that the Soviet Union is, essentially, the old Russian Empire-and an empire must grow. A good theory. Simple and easy to understand. But it has one defect-it cannot explain the case of Romania. In fact, none of the popular theories can explain why the Soviet rulers took such radically differing approaches to the problems of independence in Czechoslovakia and in Romania. No single theory can explain both the intolerance which the Soviet leadership showed towards the gentle criticism which came from Czechoslovakia and their astonishing imperviousness to the furious abuse with which Romania showered them.

If the Soviet Union is to be regarded as an empire, it is impossible to understand why it does not try to expand south-eastwards, towards the fertile fields and vineyards of Romania. For a thousand years, possession of the Black Sea straits has been the dream of Russian princes, tsars and emperors. The road to the straits lies through Romania. Why does the Soviet Union leap into wars for Vietnam and Cambodia, risking collision with the greatest powers in the world and yet forget about Romania, which lies right under its nose?

In fact the explanation is very simple. The USSR is not Russia or the Russian Empire; it is not an empire at all. To believe that the Soviet Union conforms to established historical standards is a very dangerous simplification. Every empire has expanded in its quest for new territories, subjects and wealth. The motivating force of the Soviet Union is quite different. The Soviet Union does not need new territory. Soviet Communists have slaughtered scores of millions of their own peasants and have nationalised their land, which they are unable to develop, even if they wished to. The Soviet Union has no need of new slaves. Soviet Communists have shot sixty million of their own subjects, thus demonstrating their complete inability to rule them. They cannot rule or even effectively control those who remain alive. Soviet Communists have no need of greater wealth. They squander their own limitless resources easily and freely. They are ready to build huge dams in the deserts of Africa for next to nothing, to give away their oil at the expense of Soviet Industry, to pay lavishly, in gold, for any adventurous scheme, and to support all sorts of free-booters and anarchists, no matter what the cost, even if this brings ruination to their own people and to the national exchequer.

Different stimuli and other driving forces are at work upon the Soviet Union in the international arena. Herein lies the fundamental difference which distinguishes it from all empires, including the old Russian version, and here too lies the main danger.

The Soviet Communist dictatorship, like any other system, seeks to preserve its own existence. To do this it is forced to stamp out any spark of dissidence which appears, either on its own territory or beyond its borders. A communist regime cannot feel secure so long as an example of another kind of life exists anywhere near it, with which its subjects can draw comparisons. It is for this reason that any form of Communism, not only the Soviet variety, is always at pains to shut itself off from the rest of the world, with a curtain, whether this is made of iron, bamboo or some other material.

The frontiers of a state which has nationalised its heavy industry and collectivised its agriculture-which has, in other words, carried out a «socialist transformation»-are always reminiscent of a concentration camp, with their barbed wire, watch-towers with searchlights and guard-dogs. No Communist state can allow its slaves free movement across its frontiers.

In the world today there are millions of refugees. All of them are in flight from Communism. If the Communists were to open their frontiers, all their slaves would flee. It is for this reason that the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea has set up millions of traps along its borders-solely to prevent anyone from attempting to leave this Communist paradise. The East German Communists are enemies of the Kampuchean regime but they, too, have installed the same sort of traps along their own borders. But neither Asian cunning nor German orderliness can prevent people from fleeing from Communism and the Communist leaders are therefore faced with the immense problem of destroying the societies which might capture the imagination of their people and beckon to them.

Marx was right: the two systems cannot co-exist. And no matter how peace-loving Communists may be, they come unfailingly to the conclusion that world revolution is inescapable. They must either annihilate capitalism or be put to death by their own people.

There are some Communist countries which are considered peace-loving-Albania, Democratic Kampuchea, Yugoslavia. But the love of peace which these countries affect is simply the product of their weakness. They are not yet strong enough to speak of world revolution, because of their internal or external problems. But regimes which can hardly be much more self-confident than these, such as Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea, quickly plunge into the heroic struggle to liberate other countries, of which they know nothing, from the yoke of capitalism.

Communist China has her own very clear belief in the inevitability of world revolution. She has shown her hand in Korea, in Vietnam, in Cambodia and in Africa. She is still weak and therefore peace-loving, as the Soviet Union was during its period of industrialisation. But China, too, faces the fundamental problem of how to keep her billion-strong population from the temptation to flee from the country. Traps along the borders, the jamming of radio broadcasts, almost complete isolation-none of these produces the desired result and when China becomes an industrial and military super-power she, too, will be forced to use more radical measures. She has never ceased to speak of world revolution.

The fact that Communists of different countries fight between themselves for the leading role in the world revolution is unimportant. What is significant is that all have the same goal: if they cease to pursue it they are, in effect, committing suicide.

`Our only salvation lies in world revolution: either we achieve it whatever the sacrifices, or we will be crushed by the petty bourgeoisie,' said Nikolay Bukharin, the most liberal and peace-loving member of Lenin's Politburo. The more radical members of the Communist forum advocated an immediate revolutionary war against bourgeois Europe. One of them, Lev Trotsky, founded the Red Army-the army of World Revolution. In 1920 this army tried to force its way across Poland to revolutionary Germany. This attempt collapsed. The world revolution has not taken place: it has been disastrously delayed but sooner or later the Communists must either bring it about or perish.


To the Soviet Union Romania is an opponent. An enemy. An obstinate and unruly neighbour. To all intents and purposes an ally of China and of Israel. Yet not a single Soviet subject dreams of escaping to Romania or aspires to exchange Soviet life for the Romanian version. Therefore Romania is not a dangerous enemy. Her existence does not threaten the foundations of Soviet Communism, and this is why drastic measures have never been taken against her. However, the first stirrings of democracy in Czechoslovakia represented a potentially dangerous contagion for the peoples of the Soviet Union, just as the change of regime in Hungary represented a very dangerous example for them. The Soviet leaders understood quite clearly that what happened in East Germany might also happen in Esthonia, that what happened in Czechoslovakia might happen in the Ukraine, and it was for this reason that Soviet tanks crushed Hungarian students so pitilessly beneath their tracks.

The existence of Romania, which, while it may be unruly, is nevertheless a typical Communist regime, with its cult of a supreme and infallible leader, with psychiatric prisons, with watch towers along its frontiers, presents no threat to the Soviet Union. By contrast, the existence of Turkey, where peasants cultivate their own land, is like a dangerous plague, an infection which might spread into Soviet territory. This is why the Soviet Union does so much to destabilise the Turkish regime, while doing nothing to unseat the unruly government in Romania.

For the Communists any sort of freedom is dangerous, no matter where it exists-in Sweden or in El Salvador, in Canada or in Taiwan. For Communists any degree of freedom is dangerous-whether it is complete or partial, whether it is economic, political or religious freedom. `We will not spare our forces in fighting for the victory of Communism:' these are the words of Leonid Brezhnev. `To achieve victory for Communism throughout the world, we are prepared for any sacrifice:' these are the words of Mao Tse-Tung. They also sound like the words of fellow-thinkers.... For that is what they are. Their philosophies are identical, although they belong to different branches of the same Mafia. Their philosophies must be identical, for neither can sleep soundly so long as there is, anywhere in the world, a small gleam of freedom which could serve as a guiding light for those who have been enslaved by the Communists.


In the past every empire has been guided by the interests of the State, of its economy, of its people or at least of its ruling class. Empires came to a halt when they saw insuperable obstacles or invincible opposition in their paths. Empires came to a halt when further growth became dangerous or economically undesirable. The Russian Empire, for example, sold Alaska for a million dollars and its colonies in California at a similarly cheap price because there was no justification for retaining these territories. Today the Soviet Communists are squandering millions of dollars each day in order to hang on to Cuba. They cannot give it up, no matter what the cost may be, no matter what economic catastrophe may threaten them.

Cuba is the outpost of the world revolution in the western hemisphere. To give up Cuba would be to give up world revolution and that would be the equivalent of suicide for Communism. The fangs of Communism turn inwards, like those of a python. If the Communists were to set about swallowing the world, they would have to swallow it whole. The tragedy is that, if they should want to stop, this would be impossible because of their physiology. If the world should prove to be too big for it, the python would die, with gaping jaws, having buried its sharp fangs in the soft surface, but lacking the strength to withdraw them. It is not only the Soviet python which is attempting to swallow the world but the other breeds of Communism, for all are tied inescapably to pure Marxism, and thus to the theory of world revolution. The pythons may hiss and bite one another but they are all of one species.

The Soviet Army, or more accurately the Red Army, the Army of World Revolution, represents the teeth of the most dangerous but also the oldest of the pythons, which began to swallow the world by sinking its fangs into the surface and then realised just how big the world is and how dangerous for its stomach. But the python has not the strength to withdraw its fangs.

Why was the Warsaw Treaty Organisation set up later than NATO?


The countries of the West set up NATO in 1949 but the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was created only in 1955. For the Communists, comparison of these two dates makes excellent propaganda for consumption by hundreds of millions of gullible souls. Facts are facts-the West put together a military bloc while the Communists simply took counter-measures-and there was a long delay before they even did that. Not only that, but the Soviet Union and its allies have come forward repeatedly and persistently with proposals for breaking up military blocs both in Europe and throughout the world. The countries of the West have rejected these peace-loving proposals almost unanimously.

Let us take the sincerity of the Communists at face value. Let us assume that they do not want war. But, if that is so, the delay in establishing a military alliance of Communist states contradicts a fundamental tenet of Marxism: `Workers of the World Unite!' is the chief rallying cry of Marxism. Why did the workers of the countries of Eastern Europe not hasten to unite in an alliance against the bourgeoisie? Whence such disrespect for Marx? How did it happen that the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was set up, not in accordance with the Communist Manifesto but solely as a reaction to steps taken by the bourgeois countries-and then so belatedly?

Strange though it may seem, there is no contradiction with pure Marxism in this case. But, in trying to understand the aims and structures of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, the interrelationships within it and the delay in its establishment (which at first sight is inexplicable), we shall not immerse ourselves in theory nor attempt to follow the intricate workings of this unwieldy bureaucratic organisation. If we study the fate of Marshal K. K. Rokossovskiy we shall come to understand, if not everything, at least the essentials.


Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovskiy was born in 1896 in the old Russian town of Velikiye Luki. At eighteen he was called up by the Russian army. He spent the whole of the war at the front, first as a private, then as an NCO. In the very first days of the Revolution he went over to the Communists and joined the Red Army. He distinguished himself fighting against both the Russian and Polish armies. He moved rapidly upwards, ending the war in command of a regiment. After the war he commanded a brigade, then a division and then a corps.

At the time of the Great Purge the Communists tortured or shot those people who had miraculously survived until then despite past connections with the Russian government, army, police, diplomatic service, church or culture. Red Army Corps Commander Rokossovskiy found himself among the millions of victims because of his service with the Russian army.

During the investigations he underwent appalling tortures. Nine of his teeth were knocked out, three of his ribs were broken, his toes were hammered flat. He was sentenced to death and spent more than three months in the condemned cell. There is testimony, including his own, that, twice, at least, he was subjected to mock shootings, being led to the place of execution at night, and made to stand at the edge of a grave as generals on his right and left were shot, while he was `executed' with a blank cartridge fired at the nape of his neck.

On the eve of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union Rokossovskiy was let out of gaol and given the rank of Major-General of Tank Forces and command of a mechanised corps. However, the charge resulting from his service with the Russian army was not dropped and the death sentence was not annulled. `Take command of this mechanised corps, prisoner, and we'll see about your death sentence later....'

On the second day of the war, Rokossovskiy's 9th Mechanised Corps struck an unexpected and powerful blow against German tanks, which were breaking through in the area of Rovno and Lutsk, at a moment when the rest of the Soviet forces were retreating in panic. In a situation of confusion and disorganisation, Rokossovskiy showed calmness and courage in his defence of the Soviet regime. He managed to maintain the fighting efficiency of his corps and to make several successful counter-attacks. On the twentieth day of the war he was promoted, becoming Commander of the 16th Army, which distinguished itself both in the battle of Smolensk and, especially, in the battle for Moscow, when, for the first time in the course of the war, the German army was heavily defeated. During the battle of Stalingrad Rokossovskiy commanded the Don front, which played a decisive role in the encirclement and complete destruction of the strongest German battle group, consisting of twenty-two divisions.

During the battle for Kursk, when weather conditions put the contestants on equal terms, Rokossovskiy commanded the Central Front, which played a major part in smashing Hitler's last attempt to achieve a decisive success. Thereafter Rokossovskiy successfully commanded forces in operations in Byelorussia, East Prussia, Eastern Pomerania and, finally, in Berlin.

Stars rained upon Rokossovskiy. They fell on to his shoulder boards, on to his chest and around his neck. In 1944 he was awarded the diamond Marshal's Star and a gold star to pin on his chest. In 1945 he was awarded both the Victory order, on which sparkle no less than one hundred diamonds, and a second gold star. Stalin conferred the highest honour on Rokossovskiy by giving him command of the Victory Parade on Red Square.

But what has all this to do with the Warsaw Treaty Organisation? The fact that, immediately after the war, Stalin sent his favourite, Rokossovskiy, to Warsaw and gave him the title of Marshal of Poland to add to his existing rank as Marshal of the Soviet Union. In Warsaw Rokossovskiy held the posts of Minister of Defence, Deputy President of the Council of Ministers and Member of the Politburo of the Polish Communist Party. Think for a moment about the full significance of this-a Marshal of the Soviet Union as deputy to the head of the Polish government!

In practice Rokossovskiy acted as military governor of Poland, senior watchdog over the Polish government and supervisor of the Polish Politburo. As all-powerful ruler of Poland, Rokossovskiy remained a favourite of Stalin's, but a favourite who was under sentence of death, a sentence which was lifted only after the death of Stalin in 1953. A favourite of this sort could have been shot at any moment. But, even if the death sentence had been lifted, would it have taken long to impose a new one?

Now let us see the situation from the point of view of the Generalissimo of the Soviet Union, J. V. Stalin. His subordinate in Warsaw is Marshal of the Soviet Union Rokossovskiy. This subordinate carries out all orders unquestioningly, accurately and speedily. Why should Stalin conclude a military alliance with him? Even to contemplate such a step would show a flagrant disregard for the principles of subordination and would be an offence in itself. A sergeant has no right to make an agreement of any kind with the soldiers under him or a general with his officers. In the same way, a Generalissimo is not entitled to conclude alliances with his own Marshal. It is the right and duty of a commander to give orders and a subordinate is bound to obey these orders. Any other kind of relationship between commanders and their subordinates is entirely forbidden. The relationship between Stalin and Rokossovskiy was based upon the fact that Stalin gave the orders and that Rokossovskiy carried them out without question.


The fact that he knew no Polish did not disturb Rokossovskiy in the slightest. In those glorious days not a single general in the Polish army spoke Polish, relying instead on interpreters who were constantly in attendance.

In Russia in 1917 a Polish nobleman, Felix Dzerzhinskiy, established a blood-stained organisation; this was the Cheka, the forerunner of the GPU, NKVD, MGB, and KGB. Between 1939 and 1940 this organisation destroyed the flower of the Polish officer corps. During the war a new Polish army was formed in the Soviet Union. The soldiers and junior officers of this army were Poles, the senior officers and generals were Soviets. When they were transferred to the Polish army the Soviets received joint Polish-Soviet nationality and Polish military ranks, while remaining on the strength of the Soviet military hierarchy. Here is one case history from many thousands:

Fyodor Petrovich Polynin was born in 1906 in the province of Saratov. He joined the Red Army in 1928 and became a pilot. In 1938–39 he fought in China with the forces of Chiang Kai-Shek. He used a Chinese name and was given Chinese nationality. Although thus a Chinese subject, he was nevertheless made a `Hero of the Soviet Union'. He returned to the Soviet Union and reverted to Soviet nationality. During the war he commanded the 13th Bomber Division and then the 6th Air Army. He became a Lieutenant-General in the Soviet Air Force. In 1944 he became a Polish general. He never learned Polish. He was made Commander of the Air Force of sovereign, independent Poland.

In 1946, while still holding this high position in Poland, he received the rank of `Colonel-General of the Air Force'. The Air Force concerned was, of course, the Soviet one, for Polynin was also a Soviet General. The announcement that this rank had been awarded to the officer commanding the Polish Air Force was signed by the President of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Generalissimo of the Soviet Union, J. V. Stalin.

After a further short period in Poland, as if this was an entirely normal development, Fedya Polynin resumed his Soviet rank and was given the post of Deputy to the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Air Forces. During his years in command of the Polish Air Force, he learned not a single word of Polish. Why should he bother to do so? His orders reached him from Moscow in Russian and when he reported that they had been carried out he did so in Russian, too. None of his subordinates at the headquarters of the Polish Air Force spoke Polish either, so that there was no point in learning the language.

Once again, why should Stalin conclude a military alliance with Fedya Polynin, if the latter was no more than a subordinate of Rokossovskiy, who was himself subordinated to Stalin? Why set up a military alliance if a more reliable and simpler line of direct command was already in existence?


The Polish Army, which was set up in 1943 on Soviet territory, was simply a part of the Red Army, headed by Soviet commanders, and it did not, of course, recognise the Polish government-in-exile in London. In 1944 the Communists established a new `people's' government, a large part of which consisted of investigators from the NKVD and from Soviet military counterintelligence (SMERSH). However, even after the `people's' government had been established, the Polish army did not come under its command, remaining a part of the Soviet Army. After the war, the `people's' government of Poland was quite simply not empowered to appoint the generals in the `Polish' army or to promote or demote them. This was understandable, since the generals were also Soviet generals and posting them would amount to interference in the internal affairs of the USSR.

There was no reason why the Soviet government should have had the slightest intention of setting up any kind of Warsaw Treaty, Consultative Committee or other similarly non-functional superstructure. No one needed a treaty, since the Polish army was nothing more than a part of the Soviet army, and the Polish government, brought up to strength with Soviet cut-throats and bully boys, was not allowed to intervene in the affairs of the Polish army.

Nevertheless, after the death of Stalin, the Soviet government, headed by Marshal of the Soviet Union Bulganin, decided to conclude an official military agreement with the countries it was occupying. Communist propaganda proclaimed, at the top of its voice, as it continues to do, that this was a voluntary agreement, made between free countries. But a single example from the time when the official document was signed is an indication of the truth. The signatory for the Soviet Union was Marshal of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov, and for free, independent, popular, socialist Poland Marshal of the Soviet Union Rokossovskiy, assisted by Colonel-General S. G. Poplavskiy-Rokossovskiy's deputy. Marshal of the Soviet Union Bulganin, who was present at the ceremony, took the opportunity to award Colonel-General Poplavskiy the rank of General of the Army. You have, of course, guessed that Poplavskiy, who signed for Poland, was also a Soviet general and the subordinate of Marshals Bulganin, Zhukov and Rokossovskiy. Within two years Poplavskiy had returned to the USSR and become deputy to the Inspector General of the Soviet Army. These were the sort of miracles which took place in Warsaw, irrespective of the existence of the Warsaw Treaty. Rokossovskiy, Poplavskiy, Polynin and the others were compelled by Soviet legislation to carry out the orders which reached them from Moscow. The Treaty neither increased nor lessened Poland's dependence upon the USSR.

However Poland is a special case. With other East European countries it was much easier. In Czechoslovakia there were reliable people like Ludwig Svoboda, who neutralised the Czech army in 1948 and did so again in 1968. He carried out the orders of the USSR promptly and to the letter and it was therefore not necessary to keep a Soviet Marshal in Prague holding a ministerial post in the Czech government. With the other East European countries, too, everything went well. During the war all of them had been enemies of the USSR and it was therefore possible to execute any political figure, general, officer or private soldier, at any given moment and to replace him with someone more cooperative. The system worked perfectly; the Soviet ambassadors to the countries of Eastern Europe kept a close eye on its operation. What sort of ambassadors these were you can judge from the fact that when the Warsaw Treaty was signed the Soviet Ambassador to Hungary, for instance, was Yuriy Andropov, who subsequently became head of the KGB. It was therefore understandable that Hungary should welcome the treaty warmly and sign it with deep pleasure.

Under Stalin, Poland and the other countries of Eastern Europe were governed by a system of open dictatorship, uncamouflaged in any way. The Warsaw Treaty did not exist for one simple reason-it was not needed. All decisions were taken in the Kremlin and monitored by the Kremlin. The Defence Ministers of the East European countries were regarded as equal in status to the Commanders of Soviet Military Districts and they came under the direct command of the Soviet Minister of Defence. All appointments and postings were decided upon by the Kremlin. The Defence Ministers of the `sovereign' states of Eastern Europe were either appointed from the ranks of Soviet generals or were `assisted' by Soviet military advisers. In Romania and Bulgaria, for instance, one such `adviser' was Marshal of the Soviet Union Tolbukhin. In East Germany there was Marshal Zhukov himself, in Hungary Marshal of the Soviet Union Konev. Each adviser had at his disposal at least one tank army, several all-arms armies and special SMERSH punitive detachments. To disregard his `advice' would be a very risky business.

After Stalin's death the Soviet leadership embarked on the process of `liberalisation'. In Eastern Europe everything stayed as it was, for all that happened was that the Soviet government had decided to conceal its wolf's jaws behind the mask of a `voluntary' agreement, after the NATO model.

To some people in Eastern Europe it really seemed as though dictatorship had come to an end and that the time for a voluntary military agreement had arrived. But they were quite wrong. Just one year after the signing of this `voluntary' alliance the actions of Soviet tanks in Poland and Hungary gave clear proof that everything was still as it had been under Stalin, except for some small, cosmetic alterations.

Communist propaganda quite deliberately blends two concepts; that of the military organisation in force in the Communist states of Eastern Europe and that of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. The military organisation of the East European countries was set up immediately the Red Army arrived on their territories, in 1944 and 1945. In some cases, for example Poland and Czechoslovakia, military pro-Communist formations had been established even before the arrival of the Red Army.

The armies of East European countries which were set up by Soviet `military advisers' were fully supervised and controlled from Moscow. The military system which took shape was neither a multilateral organisation nor a series of bilateral defensive treaties, but was imposed, forcibly, on a unilateral basis in the form in which it still exists.

The Warsaw Treaty Organisation is a chimera, called into being to camouflage the tyranny of Soviet Communism in the countries under its occupation in order to create an illusion of free will and corporate spirit. Communist propaganda claims that it was as a result of the establishment of NATO that the countries of Eastern Europe came together in a military alliance. The truth is that, at the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union took full control of the armies of the countries which it had overrun, long before NATO came into existence. It was many years later that the Communists decided to conceal their mailed fist and attempt to present the creation of NATO as the moment when the military framework of Eastern Europe was set up.

But the Communists lacked the imagination to establish this purely ornamental organisation, which exists solely to conceal grim reality, tactfully and with taste. During the Organisation's first thirteen years the Ministers of Defence of the sovereign states, whether they were pro-Soviet puppets or actual Soviet generals and Marshals, were subordinated to the Commander-in-Chief, who was appointed by the Soviet government and who was himself Deputy Minister of Defence of the USSR. Thus, even in a legal sense, the Ministers of these theoretically sovereign states were directly subordinated to a Soviet Minister's deputy. After the Czechoslovak affair the similarly spurious Consultative Committee was set up. In this committee Ministers of Defence and Heads of State gather supposedly to talk as equals and allies. But this is pure play-acting. Everything remains as it was several decades ago. Decisions are still made in the Kremlin. The Consultative Committee takes no decisions for itself.

Any attempt to understand the complex and fanciful structure of committees and staffs which make up the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is a complete waste of time. It is rather like trying to understand how the Supreme Soviet arrives at its decisions or how the President of the Soviet Union governs the country-the nature of his authority and the extent of his responsibilities. You know before you start that, despite its great complexity, the organisation has absolutely no reality. The Supreme Soviet neither formulates policy nor takes decisions. It is purely decorative, like the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, there for show and nothing more. In the same way, the President of the Soviet Union himself does nothing, takes no decisions, and has neither responsibilities nor authority. His post was devised solely to camouflage the absolute power of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The Warsaw Treaty Organisation, then, is a body of the same type as the Supreme Soviet. It is a showpiece whose only function is to conceal the Kremlin's dictatorship. Its Consultative Committee was set up solely to hide the fact that all decisions are taken at the Headquarters of the Soviet Army, on Gogol Boulevard in Moscow. The function of the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is purely decorative. Like the President of the Soviet Union he is without authority. Although he is still listed among the first deputies of the Soviet Minister of Defence, this is a legacy of the past, and is no more than an honour, for he is remote from real power.

During a war, or any such undertaking as `Operation Danube', the `allied' divisions of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation are integrated in the Soviet Armies. None of the East European countries has the right to set up its own Corps, Armies or Fronts. They have only divisions commanded by Soviet generals. In the event of war, their Ministers of Defence would be concerned only with the reinforcement, build-up and technical servicing of their own divisions, which would operate as part of the United (that is the Soviet) Armed Forces.

Lastly, a few words on the ultimate goal of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation: the disbandment of all military blocs, in Europe and throughout the world. This is the real aspiration of our Soviet `doves'. It is based on a very simple calculation. If NATO is disbanded, the West will have been neutralised, once and for all. The system of collective self-defence of the free countries will have ceased to exist. If the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is disbanded at the same time, the USSR loses nothing except a cumbersome publicity machine. It will remain in complete control of the armies of its `allies'. The military organisation will survive, untouched. All that will be lost is the title itself and the organisation's bureaucratic ramifications, which are needed by nobody.

Let us suppose, for example, that France should suddenly return to NATO. Would this be a change? Certainly-one of almost global significance. Next, let us suppose that Cuba drops its `non-alignment' and joins the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. What would this change? Absolutely nothing. Cuba would remain as aggressive a pilot fish of the great shark as she is today.


There are millions of people who regard NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation as identical groupings. But to equate these two is absurd, because the Warsaw Treaty Organisation has no real existence. What does exist Soviet dictatorship and this has no need to consult its allies. If it is able to do so, it seizes them by the throat; if not it bides its time--Communists do not acknowledge any other type of relationship with their associates.

This is a truism, something which is known to everyone, and yet, every year, hundreds of books are published in which the Soviet Army is described as one of the forces making up the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. This is nonsense. The forces of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation are a part of the Soviet Army. The East European countries are equipped with Soviet weapons, instructed in Soviet methods at Soviet military academies and controlled by Soviet `advisers'. It is true that some of the East European divisions would be glad to turn round and use their bayonets on the Moscow leadership. But there are Soviet divisions who would be prepared to do this, too. Mutinies, on Soviet ships and in Soviet divisions are far from rare.

A situation in which Soviet propaganda stands the truth on its head and yet is believed by the whole world is by no means a new one. Before the Second World War the Soviet Communists established an international union of communist parties-the Comintern. In theory, the Soviet Communist Party was simply one of the members of this organisation. In practice, its leader, Stalin, was able to cause the leader of the Comintern, Zinoviev, theoretically his superior, to be removed and shot.... Later, during the Great Purge, he had the leaders of fraternal communist parties executed without trial and without consequences to himself. Officially the Soviet Communist Party was a member of the Comintern, but in fact the Comintern itself was a subsidiary organisation of the Soviet Party. The standing of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is exactly similar. Officially the Soviet Army is a member of this organisation but in practice the organisation is itself a part of the Soviet Army. And the fact that the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is an official deputy of the Soviet Minister of Defence is no coincidence.

In the 1950s it was decided that a building should be erected in Moscow to house the staff of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. But it was never put up because nobody needed it-any more than they need the whole organisation. The Soviet General Staff exists and this is all that is required to direct both the Soviet Army and all its `younger brothers'.

The Bermuda Triangle


A triangle is the strongest and most rigid geometric figure. If the planks of a door which you have knocked together begin to warp, nail another plank diagonally across them. This will divide your rectangular construction into two triangles and the door will then have the necessary stability.

The triangle has been used in engineering for a very long time. Look at the Eiffel tower, at the metal framework of the airship Hindenburg, or just at any railway bridge, and you will see that each of these is an amalgamation of thousands of triangles, which give the structure rigidity and stability.

The triangle is strong and stable, not only in engineering but in politics, too. Political systems based on division of power and on the interplay of three balancing forces have been the most stable throughout history. These are the principles upon which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is built.

Enormous problems and difficulties are said to lie before the Soviet Union. But Soviet leaders have always been confronted by problems of considerable magnitude, from the very beginnings of Soviet power. Then, too, the collapse of the regime was thought to be inevitable. But it survived four years of bloody struggle against the Russian army; it survived the mutiny of the Baltic fleet, which had itself helped to bring about the Revolution; it survived the mass flight of the intelligentsia, the opposition of the peasants, the massive blood-letting of the revolutionary period, the Civil War, the unprecedented slaughter of millions during collectivisation, and endless bloody purges. It also withstood diplomatic isolation and political blockade, the starvation of scores of millions of those it enslaves and an unexpected onslaught by 190 German divisions, despite the unwillingness of many of its own soldiers to fight for its interests.

So one should not be in a hurry to bury the Soviet regime. It is still, fairly firmly, on its feet. There are several reasons for its stability-the scores of millions of corpses within its foundations, disinterested Western help, the reluctance of the free world to defend its own freedom. But there is one other most important factor which gives the Soviet regime its internal stability-the triangular structure of the state.

Only three forces are active in the Soviet political arena-the Party, the Army and the KGB. Each of these possesses enormous power, but this is exceeded by the combined strength of the other two. Each has its own secret organisation, which is capable of reaching into hostile countries and monitoring developments there. The Party has its Control Commission-a secret organisation which has almost as much influence inside the country as the KGB. The KGB is a grouping of many different secret departments, some of which keep an eye on the Party. The Army has its own secret service-the GRU-the most effective military intelligence service in the world.

Each of these three forces is hostile to the others and has certain, not unreasonable pretensions to absolute power but its initiatives will always fail in the face of the combined opposition of the other two.

Of the three, the Party has the smallest resources for self-defence in open conflict. But it has a strong lever at its disposal-the appointment and posting of all officials. Every general in the Army and every colonel in the KGB takes up his post and is promoted or demoted only with the approval of the Administrative Department of the Central Committee of the Party. In addition, the Party controls all propaganda and ideological work and it is always the Party which decides what constitutes true Marxism and what represents a deviation from its general line. Marxism can be used as an additional weapon when it becomes necessary to dismiss an unwanted official from the KGB, the Army or even the Party. The Party's right to nominate and promote individuals is supported by both the Army and the KGB. If the Party were to lose this privilege to the KGB, the Army would be in mortal danger. If the Army took it over, the KGB would be in an equally dangerous situation. For this reason, neither of them objects to the Party's privilege-and it is this privilege which makes the Party the most influential member of the triumvirate.

The KGB is the craftiest member of this troika. It is able, whenever it wishes, to recruit a party or a military leader as its agent: if the official refuses he can be destroyed by a compromise operation devised by the KGB. The Party remembers, only too clearly, how the KGB's predecessor was able to destroy the entire Central Committee during the course of a single year. The Army, for its part, remembers how, within the space of two months, the same organisation was able to annihilate all its generals. However, the secret power of the KGB and its cunning are its weakness as well as its strength. Both the Party and the Army have a deep fear of the KGB and for this reason they keep a very close eye on the behaviour of its leaders, changing them quickly and decisively, if this becomes necessary.

The Army is potentially the most powerful of the three and therefore it has the fewest rights. The Party and the KGB know very well that, if Communism should collapse, they will be shot by their own countrymen, but that this will not happen to the Army. The Party and the KGB acknowledge the might of the Army. Without it their policies could not be carried out, either at home or abroad. The Party and the KGB keep the Army at a careful distance, rather as two hunters might control a captured leopard with chains, from two different sides. The tautness of this chain is felt even at regimental and battalion level. The Party has a political Commissar in every detachment and the KGB a Special Department.


This triangle of power represents a Bermuda Triangle for those who live within it. The trio have long ago adopted the rule that none of the legs of this tripod may extend too far. If this should happen, the other two immediately intervene, and chop off the excess.

Let us look at an example of the way this triangle of power functions. Stalin died in 1953. Observers concluded unanimously that Beriya would take command-Beriya the chief inquisitor and head policeman. Who else was there? Beriya, his gang of ruffians, and the whole of his organisation realised that their chance to lead had arrived. The power in their hands was unbelievable. There was a special file on every senior party functionary and every general and there would be no difficulty in putting any one of them before a firing squad. It was this very power which destroyed Beriya. Both the Army and the Party understood their predicament. This brought them together and together they cut off the head of the chief executioner. The most powerful members of the security apparatus came to unpleasant ends and their whole machine of oppression was held up to public ridicule. The propaganda organisation of the Party worked overtime to explain to the country the crimes of Stalin and of his whole security apparatus.

However, having toppled Beriya from his pedestal, the Party began to feel uncomfortable; here it was, face to face with the captive leopard. The NKVD had released the chain it held around the animal's neck and it sensed freedom. The inevitable outcome was that the Army would gobble up its master. Marshal Zhukov acquired extraordinary power, at home and abroad. He demanded a fourth Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union (Stalin had had only two and Beriya one). Perhaps such outward show was unimportant, but Zhukov also demanded the removal from the Army of all political commissars-he was trying to shake off the remaining chain. The Party realised that this could only end in disaster and that, without help, it was quite unable to resist the Army's pressure. An urgent request for assistance went to the KGB and, with the latter's help, Zhukov was dismissed. The wartime Marshals followed him into the wilderness, and then the ranks of the generals and of military intelligence were methodically thinned. The military budget was drastically reduced and purges and cuts followed thick and fast. These cost the Soviet Army 1,200,000 men, many of them front-line officers during the war.

The KGB was still unable to recover the stature it had lost after the fall of Beriya, and the Party began a new campaign of purges and of ridicule against it. 1962 marked the Party's triumph over both the KGB, defeated at the hands of the Army, and the Army, humiliated with the help of the KGB; with, finally, a second victory over the KGB won by the Party alone. The leg of the tripod represented by the Party began to extend to a dangerous degree.

But the triumph was short-lived. The theoretically impossible happened. The two mortal enemies, the Army and the KGB, each deeply aggrieved, united against the Party. Their great strength brought down the head of the Party, Khrushchev, who fell almost without a sound. How could he have withstood such a combination?

The era which followed his fall provided ample evidence of the remarkable inner stability of the triangular structure even in the most critical situations-Czechoslovakia, internal crises, economic collapse, Vietnam, Africa, Afghanistan. The regime has survived all these.

The Army has not thrown itself upon the KGB, nor has the KGB savaged the Army. Both tolerate the presence of the Party, which they acknowledge as an arbitrator or perhaps rather as a second in a duel, whose help each side tries to secure for itself.

In the centre of the triangle, or more accurately, above the centre, sits the Politburo. This organisation should not be seen as the summit of the Party, for it represents neutral territory, on which the three forces gather to grapple with one another.

Both the Army and the KGB are equally represented in the Politburo. With their agreement, the Party takes the leading role; the Party bosses restrain the others and act as peacemakers in the constant squabbles.

The Politburo plays a decisive part in Soviet society. In effect it has become a substitute for God. Portraits of its members are on display in every street and square. It has the last word in the resolution of any problem, at home or abroad. It has complete power in every field-legislative, executive, judicial, military, political, administrative, even religious.

Representing, as it does, a fusion of three powers, the Politburo is fully aware that it draws its own stability from each of these sources. It can be compared to the seat of a three-legged stool. If one of the legs is longer than the others, the stool will fall over. The same will happen if one of the legs is shorter than the others. For their own safety, therefore, the members of the Politburo, whether they come from the Party, the KGB or the Army, do everything they can to maintain equilibrium. The secret of Brezhnev's survival lies in his skill in keeping the balance between the trio, restraining any two from combining against the third.

Why does the system of higher military control appear complicated?


When Western specialists talk about the organisation of Soviet regiments and divisions, their explanations are simple and comprehensive. The diagrams they draw, too, are simple. At a single glance one can see who is subordinated to whom. But, once the specialists begin talking about the organisational system of control at higher levels, the picture becomes so complicated that no one can understand it. The diagrams explaining the system of higher military control published in the West resemble those showing the defences of a sizeable bank in Zurich or Basle: square boxes, lines, circles, intersections. The uninitiated might gain the impression that there is dual control at the top-or, even worse, that there is no firm hand and therefore complete anarchy.

In fact, the control structure from top to bottom is simple to the point of primitiveness. Why, then, does it seem complicated to foreign observers? Simply because they study the Soviet Union as they would any other foreign country; they try to explain everything which happens there in language their readers can understand, in generally accepted categories-in other words, in the language of common sense. However, the Soviet Union is a unique phenomenon, which cannot be understood by applying a frame of reference based on experience elsewhere. Only 3% of arable land in the Soviet Union is in the hands of private owners, and not a single tractor or a kilogram of fertiliser. This 3% feeds practically the whole country. If the private owners were given another 1/2 % there would be no problem with food production. But the Communists prefer to waste 400 tons of gold each year buying wheat abroad. Just try to explain this in normal common sense language.

Thus, when examining the system of higher military control, the reader must not attempt to draw parallels with human society in other parts of the world. Remember that Communists have their own logic, their own brand of common sense.


Let us take a diagram explaining the system of higher military control, drawn by some Western specialist on Soviet affairs, and try to simplify it. Among the maze of criss-crossing lines we will try to pick out the outlines of a pyramid of granite.

Our specialist has, of course, shown the President at the very top, with the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet next and then the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet. But the Party must not be forgotten. So there, together with the President, are the General Secretary of the Party, the Politburo, and the Central Committee. Here there is disagreement among the experts about who should be shown higher up the page and who lower-the General Secretary or the President.

Let us clarify the picture. Here are the names of past General Secretaries: Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev. Try to remember the names of the Presidents of the Soviet Union during the periods when those three were in power. Even the experts cannot remember. I have put other questions to these experts. Why, when Stalin went to meet the President of the United States, did he not take the Soviet President with him? When the Cuban rocket crisis was at its height and Khrushchev discussed the fate of the world on the hot line with the American President, why was it he who did this rather than the Soviet President? Surely it was the two Presidents who should have talked the matter over? And why, when Brezhnev talks about missiles with the American President, does he not give the Soviet President a seat at the conference table?

In order to decide which of the two-President or General Secretary-should be shown at the top, it is worth recalling the relationship between Stalin and his President, Kalinin. Stalin gave orders that Kalinin's wife and his closest friends should be shot but that it should appear that the President himself had issued the order. One Soviet historian tells us that, as he signed the death sentence on his own wife, the President `wept from grief and powerlessness'.

In order to simplify our diagram, take a red pencil and cross out the Presidency. It is nothing but an unnecessary ornament which leads to confusion. If war breaks out, no future historian will remember that standing by the side of the General Secretary was some President or other now totally forgotten who was weeping from grief and powerlessness.

As well as the Presidency, cross out the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet and both of its chambers. They are not involved in any way with either the government of the country or the control of its armed forces. Judge for yourself-this Soviet `parliament' meets twice a year for four or five days and discusses thirty to forty questions each day. Bearing in mind that the Deputies do not overwork themselves, one can calculate the number of minutes they spend on each question. The Soviet parliament has fifteen or so permanent committees dealing with such questions as the supply of consumer goods (where to buy lavatory paper) or the provision of services (how to get taps mended). But none of these committees concerns itself with the affairs of the armed forces, with the KGB, with military industry (which provides employment for twelve separate ministries), or with prisons. The Soviet parliament has never discussed the reasons why Soviet forces are in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Cuba or Afghanistan. During the Second World War it did not meet once. Why should such an organisation be included among those concerned with questions of higher military control?

An example of Western misunderstanding. But who runs the country?

But this is not the most important point. The Soviet parliament is nothing but a parasite. All its decisions are reached unanimously. The nomination of a new President-unanimous. The removal and ignominious dismissal of his predecessor-also unanimous. In reality, these nominations and dismissals took place many months earlier. Parliament simply ratifies them subsequently-and unanimously. When Parliament does not meet for several years, nobody knows the reason and nothing changes as a result. If all its members were tried as parasites and sent to prison under Soviet law nothing would change: Soviet Presidents would continue to be appointed with great ceremony and chased from office in disgrace. According to Soviet law, the rank of Marshal must be conferred-and removed-by Parliament. But several Marshals have been shot without any reference to Parliament. Just try and work out how many Marshals have been appointed and how many shot without the knowledge or consent of Parliament. And this did not only happen during the Stalinist Terror. It was under Khrushchev that Marshal of the Soviet Union Beriya was shot, that Marshal Bulganin was struck off the pay-roll, that eleven other Marshals were dismissed from their posts. All this was done without the knowledge or consent of the Soviet Parliament.

But, you will say, if neither the President nor Parliament does anything or is responsible for anything and is there only to approve any-absolutely any-decision unanimously, why were their positions in the system ever created? The answer is, as camouflage.

If all power were seen to rest entirely in the hands of the Politburo, this might offend both the Soviet people and the rest of the world. To avoid this, Soviet propaganda compiles extremely complicated diagrams, as complicated as those for a perpetual motion machine, which its inventor purposely makes more and more intricate, so that no one will realise that hidden inside his brainchild there is a dwarf who is turning the wheels.

It is a great pity that many Western specialists, who know that during the war the Soviet President was not allowed to attend the meetings of the military leadership, nevertheless show him at the very top of their diagrams just where he is said to be by Soviet propaganda.

There is one situation in which the Soviet President can become a person of importance, and this has happened only once in Soviet history. A General Secretary decided that he should be President as well. Naturally, this was done without an election of any sort. The name of this President was-and is-Brezhnev. However, it is only abroad that he is honoured as President. Everyone at home knows that `President' is completely meaningless and calls him by his real title-General Secretary-which has, of course, the true ring of power.


We have removed these useless embellishments from the diagram but that is not all we must do. Do not cross out the Council of Ministers, but move them to one side. Why? you may ask. Is the Minister of Defence not subject to the decisions of the Council of Ministers? That is correct. He is not. The Council of Ministers only has control over industry, which in the USSR is almost entirely military. The Soviet Union uses more cloth, of much better quality, for the production of parachutes than for the manufacture of clothes for 260 million people. However, of these 260 million, very many receive military uniforms, of good quality; all that is left, for the remainder, is material of appalling quality, and there is not enough even of that.

In the Soviet Union the number of cars in private ownership is lower, per thousand head of the population, than the total owned by the black inhabitants of South Africa, for whose freedom the United Nations is fighting so fervently. But, against this, the number of tanks in the Soviet Union is greater than in the rest of the whole world put together.

Twelve of the Ministries which the Council controls produce nothing but military equipment. All the remainder (coal, steel production, energy, etc.) work in the interests of those which produce arms.

Thus, the Council of Ministers is, essentially, a single gigantic economic organisation, supporting the Army. It is, therefore, with all its military and auxiliary industry, a sort of subsidiary rear organisation of the Army. It possesses colossal power over those who produce military equipment but, against this, it has not even the authority to send a new doorman to one of the Soviet embassies abroad. This can be done only by the Party or, more accurately, by the Party's Central Committee.

Why is the make-up of the Defence Council kept secret?


By now much of our diagram has been simplified. The summit of power has become visible-the Politburo, in which sit representatives of the Party, the KGB, and the Army. Decisions taken in the Politburo by the most senior representatives of these organisations are also implemented by them. For instance, when Afghanistan was suddenly invaded by the Army on the orders of the Politburo, the KGB removed unsuitable senior personnel, while the Party arranged diversionary operations and worked up propaganda campaigns at home and abroad.

The role of the Council of Ministers is important but not decisive. The Council is responsible for increasing military productivity, for the prompt delivery to the forces of military equipment, ammunition and fuel, for the uninterrupted functioning of the military industries and of the national economy, which works only in support of the military industries and therefore in the interests of the Army. The Chairman of the Council will certainly be present when decisions on these subjects are taken but as one of the members of the Politburo, working for the interests of the Army, rather than as the head of the Council.

What does the highly secret organisation known as the Defence Council do at a time like this? Officially, all that is known about this organisation is that it is headed by Brezhnev. The identities of the other members of the Council are kept secret. What sort of organisation is it? Why is its make-up given no publicity? Soviet propaganda publishes the names of the head of the KGB and of his deputies, those of the heads of ministries, of the heads of all military research institutions, of the Defence Minister and of all his deputies. The names of those responsible for the production of atomic warheads and for missile programmes are officially known, so are those of the head of the GRU and of the head of the disinformation service. Why are the names of those who are responsible for overall decisions, at the highest level of all, kept secret?

Let us examine the Defence Council from two different points of view. Firstly who sits on such a council? Some observers believe that it is made up of the most prominent members of the Politburo and the leading Marshals. They are mistaken. These officials attend the Chief Military Council, which is subordinate to the Defence Council. The Defence Council is something more than a mixture of Marshals and Politburo members. What could be superior to such a group? The answer is-members of the Politburo without any outsiders. Not all the members: only the most influential.

Secondly, what is the position of the Defence Council vis-a-vis the Politburo-higher, the same or lower? If the Defence Council had more power than the Politburo its first act would be to split up this group of geriatrics, so that they would not interfere. If the Defence Council were equal in power to the Politburo we should witness a dramatic battle between these two giants, for there is only room for one such organisation at the top. A dictatorship cannot exist for long when power is shared between two groups. Two dictators cannot co-exist. Perhaps, then, the Defence Council is of slightly lower status than the Politburo? But there would be no place for it in this case, either. Directly below the Politburo is the Chief Military Council, which links the Politburo with the Army, serving to bond the two together. Thus the Defence Council cannot be either inferior or superior to the Politburo; nor can it hold an equal position. The Defence Council exists, in fact, within the Politburo itself. Its membership is kept secret only because it contains no one but members of the Politburo and it is considered undesirable to give unnecessary emphasis to the absolute power enjoyed by this organisation.

Neither the Soviet Union nor its many vassal states contain any power higher than or independent of the Politburo. The Politburo possesses all legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, religious, political, economic and every other power. It is unthinkable that such an organisation should be prepared to allow any other to take decisions on the momentous problems produced by Soviet usurpations and `adventures' throughout the world, problems of war and peace, of life and death. The day when the Politburo releases its hold will be its last. That day has not yet come....


Many Western specialists believe the Defence Council to be something new, created by Brezhnev. But nothing changes in the Soviet Union, especially in the system by which it is governed. The system stabilised itself long ago and it is almost impossible to change it in any way. New, decorative organisations can be devised and added but changes to the basic structure of the Soviet Union are out of the question. Khrushchev tried to introduce some and the system destroyed him. Brezhnev is wiser and he makes no attempts at change. He rules with the help of a system which was established in the early days of Stalin and which has remained unchanged ever since.

Only the labels change in the USSR. The security organisation has been known successively as the VChK, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MGB, and KGB. Some think that these services differed from one another in some way but it was only their labels which did so. The Party has been called the RKP(B), the VKP(B), the KPSS. The Army began as the Red Army, then became the Soviet Army and its highest overall council has been successively labelled KVMD, SNKMVD, NKMVD, NKO, NKVS, MVS, and MO, while remaining one and the same organisation.

Exactly the same has happened with the Defence Council. It changes its name as a snake sheds its skin, painlessly. But it is still the same snake. In Lenin's day it was called the Workers' and Peasants' Defence Council or simply the Defence Council, then the Council for Labour and Defence. Subsequently, since its members all belonged to the Politburo, it became the Military Commission of the Politburo.

Immediately after the outbreak of war with Germany, the State Committee for Defence was established, which, entirely legally and officially, acquired the full powers of the President, the Supreme Soviet, the Government, the Supreme Court, the Central Committee of the Party and of all other authorities and organisations. The decisions of the State Committee for Defence had the force of martial law and were mandatory for all individuals and organisations including the Supreme Commander, and the President. The State Committee for Defence had five members:

Stalin-its President

Molotov-his first deputy

Malenkov-the head of the Party's bureaucracy

Beriya-the head of the security organisation

Voroshilov-the senior officer of the Army

These five were the most influential members of the Politburo, so that the State Committee for Defence consisted not of the whole Politburo, but of its most influential component parts. Take another look at its composition and you will recognise our triangle. There are the Supreme Being, his Right Hand and, below them, the triangle-Party, KGB, Army. Note the absence of the President of the Soviet Union, Kalinin. He is a member of the Politburo, but a purely nominal one. He possesses no power and there is therefore no place for him in an organisation which is omnipotent.

Before the war the same powerful quintet existed inside the Politburo but at that time they called themselves simply the Military Commission of the Politburo. Then, too, these five were all-powerful but they worked discreetly behind the scenes, while the stage was occupied by the President, the Supreme Soviet, the Government, the Central Committee and other decorative but superfluous organisations and individuals. When war began nothing changed, except that the quintet took over the stage and were seen in their true roles, deciding the fate of tens of millions of people.

Naturally, this group did not allow power to slip from their grasp when the war ended; they disappeared back into the shadows, calling themselves the Military Commission of the Politburo once again and pushing to the front of the stage a series of pitiable clowns and cowards who `wept from grief and powerlessness' while this group slaughtered their nearest and dearest.

The Second World War threw up a group of brilliant military leaders-Zhukov, Rokossovskiy, Vasilevskiy, Konev, Yeremenko-but not one of them was allowed by the `big five' to enter the sacred precincts of the State Committee for Defence. The Committee's members knew quite well that in order to retain power they must safeguard their privileges with great care. For this reason, throughout the war, no single individual, however distinguished, who was not a member of the Politburo, was admitted to the Committee. All questions were decided by the Politburo members who belonged to the Committee and they were then discussed with Army representatives at a lower level, in the Stavka, to which both Politburo members and leading Marshals belonged.

Precisely the same organisation exists today. The Defence Council is yesterday's State Committee for Defence under another name. Its membership is drawn exclusively from the Politburo, and then only from those with the greatest power. It is they who take all decisions, which are then discussed at the Chief Military Council (otherwise known as the Stavka) which is attended by members of the Politburo and by the leading Marshals.

Brezhnev is the old wolf of the Politburo. His long period in power has made him the equal of Stalin. One can see why he is disinclined to experiment with the system by which power over the Army is exercised. He follows the road which Stalin built, carefully adhering to the rules laid down by that experienced old tyrant. These are simple: essentially, before you sit down at a table with the Marshals at the Chief Military Council decide everything with the Politburo at the Defence Council. Brezhnev knows that any modification of these rules would mean that he must share his present unlimited powers with the Marshals-and that this is equivalent to suicide. This is why the Defence Council-the highest institution within the Soviet dictatorship-consists of the most influential members of the Politburo and of no one else.

The Organisation of the Soviet Armed Forces


The system by which the Soviet Armed Forces are controlled is simplified to the greatest possible extent. It is deliberately kept simple in design, just like every Soviet tank, fighter aircraft, missile or military plan. Soviet marshals and generals believe, not unreasonably, that, in a war, other things being equal, it is the simpler weapon, plan or organisation which is more likely to succeed.

Western specialists make a careful study of the obscure and intricate lay-out of Soviet military organisation, for they see the Soviet Army as being similar to any other national army. However, to any other army peace represents normality and war an abnormal, temporary situation. The Soviet Army (more accurately the Red Army) is the striking force of world revolution. It was brought into being to serve the world revolution and, although that revolution has not yet come, the Soviet Army is poised and waiting for it, ready to fan into life any spark or ember which appears anywhere in the world, no matter what the consequences might be. Normality, for the Soviet Army, is a revolutionary war; peace is an abnormal and temporary situation.

In order to understand the structure of the military leadership of the Soviet Union, we must examine it as it exists in wartime. The same structure is preserved in peacetime, although a variety of decorative features, which completely distort the true picture, are added as camouflage. Unfortunately, most researchers do not attempt to distinguish the really important parts of the organisation from those which are completely unnecessary and there purely for show.

We already know that in wartime the Soviet Union and the countries which it dominates would be ruled by the Defence Council, an organisation first known as the Workers' and Peasants' Defence Council, next as the Labour and Defence Council and then as the State Committee for Defence.

On this Council are one representative each from the Party, the Army, and the KGB and two others who preside over these organisations-the General Secretary and his closest associate. Until his recent death the latter post was held by Mikhail Suslov.

The Defence Council possesses unrestricted powers. It functioned in wartime and has been preserved in peacetime with the difference that, whereas during wartime it worked openly and in full view, in peacetime it functions from behind the cover offered by the President of the Soviet Union, the Supreme Soviet, elections, deputies, public prosecutors and similar irrelevancies. Their only function is to conceal what is going on behind the scenes.

Directly subordinate to the Defence Council is the Headquarters (Stavka) of the Supreme Commander, which is known in peacetime as the Chief Military Council. To it belong the Supreme Commander and his closest deputies, together with certain members of the Politburo. The Supreme Commander is appointed by the Defence Council. He may be either the Minister of Defence, as was the case with Marshal Timoshenko, or the General Secretary of the Party, as with Stalin, who also headed both the Stavka and the civil administration. If the Minister of Defence is not appointed Supreme Commander he becomes First Deputy to the latter. The organisation working for the Stavka is the General Staff, which prepares proposals, works out the details of the Supreme Commander's instructions and supervises their execution.


In wartime, the armed forces of the USSR and of the countries under its rule are directed by the Stavka along two clearly differentiated lines of control: the operational (fighting) and administrative (rear).

The line of operational subordination:

Directly subordinate to the Supreme Commander are five Commanders-in-Chief and eight Commanders. The Commanders-in-Chief are responsible for:

The Western Strategic Direction

The South-Western Strategic Direction

The Far Eastern Strategic Direction

The Strategic Rocket Forces

The National Air Defence Forces

The Commanders are responsible for:

The Long-Range Air Force

The Airborne Forces

Military Transport Aviation

The Northern Fleet

Individual Front-Northern, Baltic, Trans-Caucasian and Turkestan.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Western Strategic Direction has under his command four Fronts, one Group of Tank Armies and the Baltic Fleet,

The Commander-in-Chief of the South-Western Strategic Direction also commands four Fronts, one Group of Tank Armies and the Black Sea Fleet.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Far Eastern Strategic Direction is responsible for four Fronts and the Pacific Fleet.

The Fronts subordinated to the Strategic Directions and individual Fronts, subordinated directly to the Stavka, consist of All-Arms, Tank and Air Armies. The Armies are made up of Divisions. East European Divisions are included in Armies, which can be commanded only by Soviet generals. The commanders of East European divisions are thus subordinated directly to Soviet command-to Army Commanders, then to Fronts, Strategic Directions and ultimately to the Defence Council-in other words to the Soviet Politburo. East European governments can therefore exert absolutely no influence over the progress of military operations.

The line of administrative subordination:

The First Deputy of the Minister of Defence is subordinated to the Supreme Commander. At present the post is held by Marshal S. L. Sokolov, under whom come four Commanders-in-Chief (Air Forces, Land Forces, Naval Forces, Warsaw Treaty Organisation) and sixteen Commanders of Military Districts.

The Commanders-in-Chief are responsible for the establishment of reserves, for bringing forces up to strength, re-equipment, supply of forces engaged in combat operations, development of new military equipment, study of combat experience, training of personnel, etc. The Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation has precisely these responsibilities but only on behalf of the East European divisions operating as part of the United (i.e. Soviet) forces. He has full control over all the East European Ministries of Defence. His task is to ensure that these Ministries bring their divisions up to strength, and to re-equip and supply them according to schedule. In wartime he has only a modest role. It is now clear why the function of the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation is seen in the USSR as being a purely honorific legacy from the past, remote from real power.

Each of the sixteen Commanders of Military Districts is a territorial functionary, a sort of military governor. In questions concerning the stability of Soviet authority in the territories entrusted to them, they are responsible directly to the Politburo (Defence Council), while on subjects concerning the administration of military industries, transport and mobilisation they are subordinated to the First Deputy of the Minister of Defence, through him to the Stavka and ultimately to the Defence Council.

Troops acting as reserve forces, to be used to bring units up to strength, for re-equipment, etc., may be stationed in the territories of Military Districts. These troops are subordinate, not to operational commanders but to the Military District Commanders, through them to the Commander-in-Chief, to the First Deputy and then to the Stavka. For instance, during war, on the territory of the Urals Military District there would be one Air Division (to replace losses), one Tank Army (Stavka reserve), one Polish tank division (for re-equipment) and three battalions of marine infantry (a new formation). These units will be subordinate to the Commander of the Urals Military District and through him, as regards the Air Division, to the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Forces, while the Tank Army comes under the Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces, the Polish division to the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and the battalions of marine infantry to the Commander-in-Chief of Naval Forces. Each Commander-in-Chief has the right to give orders to the Commander of a Military District, but only in matters concerning sub-units subordinate to him. Because the complement of each Military District always consists mainly of sub-units of the Land Forces some Western observers have the impression that Military Districts are subordinated to the Commanders-in-Chief of Land Forces. But this is not so. The Commander of a Military District has very wide powers, which are not in any way subject to the control of the Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces. As soon as the Stavka decides to transfer one or other sub-unit to an operational army, the sub-unit ceases to be controlled by the line of administrative subordination and comes under the instructions of the operational commander.


In wartime the system for controlling the Soviet Union, the countries which it has occupied and the entire united armed forces is stripped of the whole of its unnecessary decorative superstructure. The division between the operational and administrative lines of subordination then becomes apparent.

In peacetime the operational and administrative structures are blended with one another; this produces a misleading appearance of complexity, duplication and muddle. Despite this, the system which one can see clearly in wartime continues to function in peacetime. One simply needs to look at it carefully, to distinguish one structure from another and to ignore useless embellishments.

But is it possible to spot the summit of the edifice in peacetime-the Defence Council and the Stavka? This is quite simple. Each year on 7 November a military parade takes place on Red Square in Moscow. The whole military and political leadership gathers in the stands on top of Lenin's mausoleum. The position of each person is clearly discernible. For such a position, for each place in the stands, there is a constant, savage but silent struggle, like that which goes on in a pack of wolves for a place closer to the leader, and then for the leader's place itself. This jostling for position has already continued for many decades and each place has cost too much blood for it to be surrendered without a battle.

As is to be expected, the General Secretary and the Minister of Defence stand shoulder to shoulder in the centre of the tribune. To the left of the General Secretary are the members of the Politburo, to the right of the Minister of Defence are the Marshals. The stands on the mausoleum are the only place where the members of the political and military leadership parade, each in the position where he belongs. This is the only place where each individual shows his retinue, his rivals and his enemies, the whole country and the whole world how close he is to the centre of power. You can be sure that if the head of the KGB could take his place by the side of the General Secretary he would do so immediately, but this place is always occupied by a more influential individual-the Chief Ideologist. You can be certain that if the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation could move closer to the centre he would immediately do so, but the place he is after is already occupied by the almighty Chief of the General Staff.

On the day after the parade you can buy a copy of Pravda for three kopeks and on the front page, immediately beneath the masthead, you can see a photograph of the entire political and military leadership.

Take a red pencil and mark the General Secretary and the four other members of the Politburo standing closest to him. These are the members of the Defence Council. They run the country. It is to them that hundreds of millions are enslaved, from Havana to Ulan Bator. It is they who will control the fate of the hundreds of millions in their power when the time comes to `liberate' new peoples and new countries.

Now, mark the General Secretary, the member of the Politburo closest to him and the five Marshals nearest to him. This is the Stavka.

High Commands in the Strategic Directions

A platoon commander has three or four, sometimes five, sections under his command. It is pointless to give him more than this. He would be quite unable to exercise effective control over so large a platoon. If you have another, sixth, section it would be better to form two platoons of three sections each.

A company commander has three, four, or sometimes five platoons under his command. There is no point in giving him more-he just could not control them.

This system, under which each successive commander controls between three and five detachments, is used universally and at all levels. A Front Commander, for instance, directs three or four and sometimes five Armies. And it is at just this level that the system breaks down. The Soviet Army has sixteen Military Districts and four Army Groups. In the event of all-out war each District and each Army Group is able to form one Front from its own resources. How, though, can the Stavka control twenty Fronts simultaneously? Would it not be simpler to interpose a new intermediate link in the chain of command, which would control the operations of three or four and sometimes five Fronts? In this way the Stavka could be in immediate control not of twenty Fronts but of between three and five of the new intermediate units. Such an innovation would complete the whole balanced system of control, in a logical fashion.

In fact, intermediate control links between the Stavka and the Fronts do exist, but they are given no publicity. They are designated as High Commands in the Strategic Directions. The first mention of these command links occurred in the Soviet military press in 1929. They were set up two years later, but their existence was kept secret and was not referred to officially. Immediately after the outbreak of the Second World War they were officially brought into existence.

During the first two weeks of the war, official announcements were made about the formation of North-Western, Western and South-Western Strategic Directions. Each Direction consisted of between three and five Fronts. At the head of each Direction was a Commander-in-Chief, who was subordinated to the Stavka.

Just how important each of these High Commands were can be judged by looking at the composition of the Western Strategic Direction. The Commander-in-Chief was Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko, who held the post of Minister of Defence at the outbreak of war. The Political Commissar was Politburo member N. A. Bulganin, one of those closest to Stalin, who later became a Marshal of the Soviet Union and President of the Council of Ministers. The Chief of Staff was Marshal B. M. Shaposhnikov, the pre-war Chief of the General Staff. The other Strategic Directions also had command personnel of approximately the same calibre-all the posts were occupied by Marshals or members of the Politburo.

In 1942 a further High Command, the North Caucasus Strategic Direction, was established, incorporating two Fronts and the Black Sea Fleet. Its Commander-in-Chief was Marshal S. M. Budenniy.

However it was subsequently decided that no further steps in this direction should be taken for the time being. The High Commands of the Strategic Directions were abolished and the Stavka took over direct control of the Fronts, which totalled fifteen. However the idea of an intermediate link was not abandoned. Frequently throughout the war representatives of the Stavka, usually Marshals Zhukov or Vasilyevskiy, were detached to work with those who were preparing large-scale operations and coordinating the work of several Fronts. Among the most brilliant of many examples of such coordinated efforts are the battles for Stalingrad and Kursk and the advance into Byelorussia. What amounted to a temporary grouping of Fronts, under a single command, was set up for each of these operations. A system of this sort provided greater flexibility and justified itself completely in conditions in which operations were being carried out against a single opponent. As soon as the decision had been taken to go to war with Japan, in 1945, the Far Eastern Strategic Direction was set up, consisting of three Fronts, one Fleet and the armed forces of Mongolia. The Commander-in-Chief of the Direction was Marshal A. M. Vasilyevskiy.

It is interesting to note that the very existence of a Far Eastern Strategic Direction with its own High Command was kept secret. As camouflage, Marshal Vasilyevskiy's headquarters were referred to as `Colonel-General Vasilyev's Group'. Many officers, including some generals, among them all the division and corps commanders, had no idea of Vasilyevskiy's function, supposing that all the Far Eastern Fronts were directed from Moscow, by the Stavka. The fact that he had acted as Commander-in-Chief was only revealed by Vasilyevskiy after the advance into Manchuria at the end of the war.

The High Command of the Far Eastern Strategic Direction was not abolished at the end of the war and no official instructions for its disbandment were ever issued. All that happened was that from 1953 onwards all official mention of it ceased. Does it exist today? Do High Commands exist for other Strategic Directions or would they be set up only in the event of war?

They exist-and they are in operation. They are not mentioned officially, but no particular efforts are made to conceal their existence. Let us identify them. This is quite simple. In the Soviet Army there are sixteen Military Districts and four Army Groups. The senior officer in each District and each Army Group has the designation `Commander'. Only in one case, that of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, is he given the title of `Commander-in-Chief'. In the event of war most Districts would be made into Fronts. But Fronts, too, are headed only by `Commanders'. The title `Commander-in-Chief' is considerably senior to `Commander of a Front'. In a war the number of troops available would increase many times over. Platoon commanders would take over companies, battalion commanders would head regiments and regimental commanders would become divisional commanders. In this situation every officer might receive a higher rank; he would certainly retain the one he already holds. A general who in peacetime commands enough troops to be entitled to the designation `Commander-in-Chief' can hardly have his responsibilities reduced to those of a Front Commander at a time when many more troops are being placed under his command. If during peacetime the importance of his post is so great, how can it diminish when war breaks out? Of course it cannot. And a general whose peacetime title is `Commander-in-Chief of the GSFG' will retain this rank, which is considerably higher than that of Front Commander.

There can be no doubt that the organisation known as the `Headquarters of the GSFG' in peacetime would become, not a Front Headquarters, but the Headquarters of the Western Strategic Direction.

It is significant that, already in peacetime, the Headquarters of the GSFG controls two Tank Armies and one Shock Army (essentially another Tank Army). For each Front can have only a single Tank Army and in many cases it does not have one at all. The presence in GSFG of three Tank Armies indicates that it has been decided to deploy at least three Fronts in the area covered by this Direction. Is this sufficient? Yes, for in a war the Commander-in-Chief of the Western Strategic Direction would have under his command not only all the Soviet troops in East Germany but all those in Czechoslovakia and Poland, together with the entire complement of the German, Czech and Polish armed forces, the Soviet Baltic Fleet and the Byelorussian Military District. This will be discussed in greater detail. For the present it is sufficient to note that the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany is an organisation which is regarded by the Soviet leadership as entirely different from any other Group of forces. No other force-in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Mongolia, Cuba, Afghanistan or, earlier, Austria or China-has ever been headed by a Commander-in-Chief. All these Groups were headed by a Commander.

Let us list the Generals and Marshals who have held the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Group of Forces in Germany:

Marshal G. K. Zhukov, the former Chief of the General Staff, who became First Deputy to the Supreme Commander and subsequently Minister of Defence and a member of the Politburo, the only man in history to have been awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union four times.

Marshal V. D. Sokolovskiy, former Chief of Staff of the Western Strategic Direction and later Chief of the General Staff.

General of the Army V. I. Chuykov, subsequently a Marshal and Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces.

Marshal A. A. Grechko, later Minister of Defence and a member of the Politburo.

Marshal M. V. Zakharov, later Chief of the General Staff.

Marshal P. K. Koshevoy.

General of the Army V. G. Kulikov, later a Marshal, Chief of the General Staff and then Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation.

Only one of this galaxy rose no higher-Marshal Koshevoy, who became seriously ill. But to reach the rank of Marshal is no mean achievement-and it was in Germany that he received the rank of Marshal, at a time when other Groups of forces were commanded only by Lieutenant-Generals and Colonel-Generals. Thus Koshevoy, too, stands out from the crowd.

One rule applied to all-anyone who held the post of Commander-in-Chief of the GSFG was either a Marshal already, was promoted to this rank on appointment or was given it shortly afterwards. Nothing of this sort has occurred with other Groups of forces.

The GSFG is a kind of springboard to the very highest military appointments. Commanders of other groups have never achieved such high standing. Moreover even the Commanders-in-Chief of the Land Forces, of the Air Forces, Fleet, Rocket Troops or Air Defence have never had such glittering careers or such future prospects as those who have been Commanders-in-Chief in Germany.

Surely this is enough to indicate that in wartime something far more powerful will be set up on the foundation represented by the GSFG than in the other, ordinary, Military Districts and Groups of forces?

None of the other Military Districts and Groups of forces have Commanders-in-Chief-only Commanders. Does this mean that in peacetime there are no Strategic Directions? Not at all. The Headquarters of the Western Strategic Direction (HQ, GSFG) is hardly concealed at all while the existence of the other Strategic Directions is only lightly camouflaged, as was `Colonel-General Vasilyev's Group'. But it is easy to see through this camouflage.

It is sufficient to analyse the careers of those commanding Military Districts. One can then see that, for the overwhelming majority, command of a District represents the highest peak they will reach. Those who advance further are rare. In some cases what follows is honourable retirement to posts such as Director of one Military Academy or another or an Inspector's post in the Ministry of Defence. Both these types of appointment are seen as `elephants' graveyards'. They represent, in fact, the end of any real power.

However one of the sixteen Military Districts is a clear exception. None of its former Commanders has ever left for an elephants' graveyard. On the contrary-the Kiev Military District is a kind of doorway to power. Here are the careers of all those who have commanded this District since the war:

Colonel-General A. A. Grechko became Commander-in-Chief of GSFG and a Marshal, Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces, Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, Minister of Defence and a member of the Politburo.

General of the Army V. I. Chuykov-C-in-C GSFG, Commander, Kiev Military District, Marshal, C-in-C of Land Forces and Deputy Minister of Defence.

Colonel-General P. K. Koshevoy-First Deputy to the C-in-C GSFG, Commander, Kiev Military District and General of the Army, C-in-C GSFG, and Marshal.

General of the Army I. I. Yakubovskiy-C-in-C GSFG, Commander, Kiev Military District, C-in-C of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and Marshal.

Colonel-General V. G. Kulikov-Commander Kiev Military District, C-in-C GSFG and General of the Army, Chief of the General Staff, C-in-C of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and Marshal.

Colonel-General G. I. Salmanov-Commander Kiev Military District, Commander of the Trans-Baykal Military District.

Surprisingly, as we have been following the brilliant careers of the Commanders of the Kiev Military District, we have come across some old friends, whom we met previously as C-in-C GSFG. Strangely, there has been an interchange of Generals between Wünsdorf and Kiev. Those who have gone to Kiev have later gone to GSFG. Those who have reached GSFG without going to Kiev have done so later. However, a Commander of the Kiev Military District does not see himself as junior to the C-in-C GSFG. The journey from GSFG to Kiev is not demotion and for many it has represented promotion. Chuykov, for instance, was C-in-C GSFG as a General and was made a Marshal when he moved to Kiev.

But perhaps the Kiev Military District is of greater numerical strength than the others? Not at all-Byelorussia has more troops and the Far Eastern Military District has more than both the Kievan and Byelorussian put together. In territory Kiev is one of the smallest of the Districts. The Siberian District is sixty-seven times as large and Moscow District is far more important. But the Commander of the Moscow, Siberian, Far Eastern, Byelorussian and the other Military Districts cannot even dream of the prospects which stretch before Commanders in Kiev. In the last twenty years not one of the Commanders of Moscow District has become a Marshal, while all but one of those from Kiev have done so, the exception being the most recent who is still young and who will certainly soon be promoted.

Why is there such a sharp contrast between the Kievan and the fifteen other Districts? Simply because the organisation designated Headquarters Kiev Military District is in fact the Headquarters of the South-Western Strategic Direction, which in the event of war would take control not only of the troops already on its territory, but of those in Sub-Carpathia, Hungary (both Soviet and Hungarian) and also the entire armed forces of Romania and Bulgaria, with their fleets, and, finally, the Black Sea Fleet.

While relations with China were good there were only two High Commands of Strategic Directions-the Western and the South-Western-but as soon as the relationship deteriorated the Far Eastern Strategic Direction was reestablished. It encompasses the Central Asian, Siberian, Trans-Baykal and Far Eastern Military Districts, part of the Pacific Fleet and the Mongolian armed forces. In peacetime the Headquarters of this Strategic Direction is merged with that of the Trans-Baykal Military District and is located in Chita. Clearly this is a most convenient location, occupying, as it does, a central position among the Military Districts bordering on China and protected by the buffer state of Mongolia.