NATO-Warsaw Pact:

Assessment of the Conventional Force Balance

NSIAD-89-23: Published: Dec 13, 1988. Publicly Released: Dec 13, 1988.

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GAO reviewed the Conventional Defense Study Group's report to Congress on the balance of conventional forces between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact.

GAO reviewed experts' views of U.S. perspectives on the balance of conventional forces in Central Europe and found that: (1) experts believe that NATO conventional capabilities have improved over the last decade, and its peacetime deterrent position is good; (2) participants generally believed that Warsaw Pact forces might not have a substantial manpower advantage in a short-preparation or medium-warning attack due to a lack of sufficient forward-based forces; and (3) participants expressed concern about NATO ability to sustain a protracted conventional conflict because of inadequate logistics and limited stock levels. In addition, GAO reviewed experts' views of Soviet Union perspectives and found that: (1) although the Soviets probably believed that they had a marginal advantage in the conventional balance, the Soviets expressed concern over the effect of NATO technological and systems development; (2) Soviet analyses emphasized defense-offense and system-to-system comparisons, rather than weapon-for-weapon comparisons; (3) the Soviets believed that NATO lacked effective strategic leadership with respect to reinforcement and resupply, and opportunity to exercise operational command; and (4) the Soviets probably believed that they could achieve military success even given overall force parity because of the superiority of certain aspects of Soviet military doctrine. GAO also found that experts believe that: (1) NATO needs to improve its conventional capabilities; and (2) European nations need to assume greater responsibility for their defense.

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