Was the Soviet military overrated during the Cold War

Nov 2014
459
ph
I recall a discussion about Soviet submarines, and how the people crewing them were not really happy to be there at all, and as a result Soviet submarines bno matter advanced were basically falling apart after a few years, in contrast to American crews being the cream of the crop, and then you have Soviet advisers being crap in the Middle East vs. the Israelis, and also th fact that your typical Red Army conscript had very poor morale as seen in Afghanistan, although I do not know if is the case for category A divisions in East Germany
 
Last edited:
Sep 2012
1,218
Tarkington, Texas
Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact were over rated. The American Generals were able to use scare tactics for years to get new equipment.

The tanks for example. Soviet Tanks were usually progressive designs that dated back to WWII designs. Every few years they would modify them and make new vehicles. The JSIII and T- series were scaring NATO Tankers for years. Not mentioned was the flip sides of the designs.
A. The T-34 did not have a turret basket and the turret seats were welded to the hull. Imagine trying to move around inside a tank which is moving the turret from side to side and the shell casings were on the floor and the tank is moving through terrain.
B. The low design meant the tank could not raise or lower the main gun much. This means your tank can not get "hull down" easily. In the Arab Israeli wars, the Western Tank designs of the Israeli Army meant they had an advantage in getting "hull down".

The Soviet Reserve system could call out a lot of badly trained divisions that had to draw their equipment from the depot and get it to the train station. Sure the equipment was older, but it was the same equipment the Reservists had trained on as conscripts.

If you can find the old "Viktor Suvorov" books you will be entertained!

Pruitt
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,999
Dispargum
I was just reading last night about how claims of personnel problems in the Soviet Army tended to be exagerated in the Western media. For instance, there were many stories of Soviet soldiers being frequently drunk, but American soldiers probably got drunk more often (in their off duty time). Soviet soldiers rarely had money or access to alcohol. Punishments for drunkeness in the Soviet Army were severe.

Another western claim was the inability of Soviet Slavs to get along with non-Slavs. There were problems, but they were exagerated in Western media.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,171
US
This is very difficult to assess, in my estimation. To start, the Cold War spanned 45 years. Let’s look at the early years. How different was the Soviet military in 1950 than that which captured Berlin in 1945? Probably not much. The Soviets may have lacked the equipment and technology of the West, especially as the Cold War years transpired, but they always had a vast pool of men to fight.
 

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
There certainly were advantages to both the Warsaw Pact and even moreso for NATO to overestimate the danger of the opposition. The more supposedly dangerous the enemy is, the more money, better equipment and increases in men you will get.
 

Guaporense

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
5,050
Brazil
Actually NATO never had the capability of facing the Red Army directly in conventional warfare. NATO had a doctrine that used large numbers of nukes as a way to compensate their lack of conventional forces. So essentially, in the Cold War, it was strategically irrelevant whether the Red Army was strong or not: it was a situation that revolved around MAD using nukes.
 

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
Actually NATO never had the capability of facing the Red Army directly in conventional warfare. NATO had a doctrine that used large numbers of nukes as a way to compensate their lack of conventional forces. So essentially, in the Cold War, it was strategically irrelevant whether the Red Army was strong or not: it was a situation that revolved around MAD using nukes.
In theory yes, but why have significant conventional forces in Berlin when all they are is a sitting duck for a Russian nuke? Personally I don't think NATO would have used nukes on or near German soil. They more likely would have targetted (or threatened to target) munitions dumps etc in my opinion.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Actually NATO never had the capability of facing the Red Army directly in conventional warfare. NATO had a doctrine that used large numbers of nukes as a way to compensate their lack of conventional forces. So essentially, in the Cold War, it was strategically irrelevant whether the Red Army was strong or not: it was a situation that revolved around MAD using nukes.
Nukes were always going to be used from both sides. Yes, the US Army intended to use tactical nukes to stop Soviet mechanized thrusts, but the Soviets were planning to use them too against us.

The 1980s was the closest it could have happened, the US Army was very well equipped, prepared, and motivated, with new tech, better and stronger weapons, training and reforming, while the USSR were at their worst. Not that it would have mattered, any WW3 scenario in W. Germany would have included nuclear, bio, chemical weapons.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
In theory yes, but why have significant conventional forces in Berlin when all they are is a sitting duck for a Russian nuke? Personally I don't think NATO would have used nukes on or near German soil. They more likely would have targetted (or threatened to target) munitions dumps etc in my opinion.
Nope, NATO was planning on using them. Suggesting otherwise is wishful thinking and nothing else. Declassified war plans and accounts from those who read them are a historical record to show we were going to use them. We couldn't otherwise.

And NATO and Warsaw Pact weren't even the only ones, if the Warsaw Pact made headway into W. Germany then France was going to essentially slag the west to central region of W. Germany to halt the WP before they reached the French border.
 

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
Nope, NATO was planning on using them. Suggesting otherwise is wishful thinking and nothing else. Declassified war plans and accounts from those who read them are a historical record to show we were going to use them. We couldn't otherwise.

And NATO and Warsaw Pact weren't even the only ones, if the Warsaw Pact made headway into W. Germany then France was going to essentially slag the west to central region of W. Germany to halt the WP before they reached the French border.
I get that was the intention, but actually launching nukes and killing your own people (if the blast doesn't get you, the radiation will) is basically doing the job for the enemy. And targetting troops (rather than stockpiles of munitions) is a sure fire way of getting all your major cities turned to ash.

I absolutely agree that nukes would be used, I just can't ever envisage either side starting with conventional forces. All that does is give lots of prior warning to the opposition to get everything okayed to use nukes if necessary. In my opinion, if either side decided to start a war with the other, the only way to 'win' is an all out nuclear strike on all of your opponent's known missile sites, and hope that you wipe out enough to make the inevitable reply a survivable one. If nukes are going to be used (and they always would be in any conventional start to a war) you might as well use them when they had the most impact.