The Collapse of the Soviet Military

Odom, Gen. William E.

Published by Yale University Press, 1998
ISBN 10: 0300074697 / ISBN 13: 9780300074697
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Synopsis: In this text, a United States Army officer and scholar traces the rise and fall of the Soviet military, arguing that it had a far greater impact on Soviet politics and economic development than was perceived in the West. The author asserts that Gorbachev saw that shrinking the military and the military-industrial sector of the economy was essential for fully implementing perestroika and that his efforts to do this led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Odom enhances his account with interviews with key factors in the Soviet Union before, during and after the collapse. He describes the condition of the Soviet military during the mid-1980s and explains how it became what it was - its organizational structures, manpower policies, and military-industrial arrangements. He then moves to the events that led to its destruction, taking us to the most secret circles of Soviet policy making, as well as describing the public debates, factional struggles in the new parliament, and street combat as army units tried to repress the political forces unleashed by glasnost. Odom shows that just as the military was the ultimate source for the multinational Soviet state, the communist ideology justified the military's priority claim on the economy. When Gorbachev tried to shift resources from the military to the civilian sector to overcome economic stagnation, he had to revise the official ideology in order to justify removing the military from its central place. Paralyzed by corruption, mistrust, and public disillusionment, the military was unable and unwilling to intervene against either Gorbachev's perestroika or Yeltsin's dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Review: William E. Odom, a retired Lt. General with a Ph.D. from Columbia, served as a top advisor in both the Carter and Reagan administrations (including a stint director of the National Security Agency). He writes surprisingly well about the quiet disintegration of the Soviet armed forces: "In a mere six years, the world's largest and arguably most powerful military melted like the spring ice in Russia's arctic rivers as it breaks up, drifts in floes, and slowly disappears." He also offers key insights, particularly in his analysis of Soviet war philosophy, including the reasons Marxist theory made a huge military almost inevitable and why Gorbachev's attempt to reduce its size posed a threat to the whole Communist system; he also traces the influence of von Clausewitz's thinking on Lenin. But this is all by way of introduction to Odom's discussion of what happened when Mikhail Gorbachev foisted perestroika on the Soviet Union and its armed forces. Odom personally interviewed many of the participants, lending considerable detail to his chronicle of Russia's 1991 August Crisis and the rise of Boris Yeltsin. --John J. Miller

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Title: The Collapse of the Soviet Military
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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