[FPSPACE] Soviet Military Power (was: NOTSNIK)
zirconic1 at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 31 21:44:09 EDT 2005
I replied to this the other day but forgot to hit the "send" button. So sorry for the late reply.
From: Allen Thomson <thomsona at flash.net>
[snipped stuff about downgrading]
>Rarely, but it does happen when the political levels want it to, the
downgrading is all the way from TS/SCI to unclassified -- the Soviet
Military Power publications of the 1980s are an excellent example.
I've been hoping that some enterprising grad student would write his dissertation on SMP, interviewing the people involved in producing it and in deciding that it be produced.
A good place to start would be in the Reagan Library to look for documents on the decision to create that publication. Then one would probably have to talk to the decision makers and then to the people who actually wrote the books.
SMP, for those who do not know, was a series of annual monographs (about 100-page books) published by the Department of Defense starting around 1983. They provided an overview of Soviet military capabilities, breaking the subject down into components such as strategic forces, tactical forces, and space. The space section may have been the first place that much information on Soviet space intentions was publicly revealed. For instance, I think that the first illustrations of the Soviet Buran orbiter were publicshed there, rather than in the pages of Aviation Week. I also think that one of them included an illustration of a Buran atop its M-4 carrier aircraft which had run off the runway upon landing. Someone once told me that the information for this illustration came from a satellite reconnaissance photograph that they had seen.
I believe that the first edition was provided free to anybody who asked for one. After that, you had to pay the Governmeent Printing Office for one.
It was, not to put it mildly, a propaganda document, intended to show that the Soviet Union was building up its military and that they were dangerous. And by extension, this was supposed to justify the defense buildup.
It was wildly influential and when it was first published, it got a lot of coverage in the media. Newspapers and news magazines published lengthy excerpts. Of course, they explained that it was being used to support the defense buildup, but the fact was that there was a substantial amount of information contained in there that had not been released before.
I don't know the history of the publication. I don't know if it was an unclassified version of a classified publication that existed for some years, or if it was the brainchild of some young turk in the White House.
The Soviet Union produced its own version, which I think was titled "Whence the Threat to Peace." It was published in English, and I think that it was not very good--poor English and things like that, so that it was not a successful propaganda tool.
And around 1985 or so there was an American publication that was intended to respond to SMP by demonstrating that the numbers of tanks, ships, planes, etc. were wrong or exaggerated or things like that. They pointed out, for instance, that although the Warsaw Pact had many more tanks than NATO, it was unfair to make a 1 to 1 comparison, because the NATO countries had substantial anti-tank weapons on helicopters and other vehicles. I remember seeing a lengthy magazine article once that explained how both SMP _and_ the response were flawed.
I believe that the last one was published around 1990 or so, and that by then it had taken a much softer tone, focusing on disarmament and treaty verification and things like that. (I have a bunch of these on my shelf and should take them down to look at them.)
There is an important story to be told about this publication on so many levels. Why was it created? How was it produced? Who produced it? How was it accepted? How effective was it? And then the tougher issue of how accurately did it reflect a) the intelligence information that was used to produce it, and b) the truth?
On the latter point, this is an area of Cold War history that can only now be addressed. People can compare the intelligence information to what was publicly reported. And they can also compare the intelligence information to what was actually happening inside the Soviet Union. Myself and Dr. Siddiqi did this a few years ago with regards to the Soviet lunar program. But it would be difficult to cover the 1980s in this manner.
A related publication was Nick Johnson's "Soviet Year in Space," which was intended to be an unclassified reference that Air Force cadets could use, but which also had a propaganda value as well.
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