The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy Summary

Tom Gervasi

The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy

This work contends that in all categories Soviet strategic and conventional forces have been represented as more numerous and powerful than they actually are. Author Tom Gervasi maintains that this particularly has been the case for nuclear arms, where multiple counts, one-sided comparisons, and exaggerations of the size and accuracy of Soviet weapons have enlarged and distorted Washington’s official perceptions of the Soviet threat. Gervasi argues that similar tendencies, though in a milder form, have inflated official estimates of Soviet bloc force levels in tanks, equipment, and men under arms. By his own calculations, Gervasi shows that the Soviets hold some advantages, notably in the aggregate megatons of nuclear weapons and in tanks; other comparisons actually favor the United States and its allies.

The author marshals an impressive body of data, much of it from official sources, to support his own views of the evolving balance of terror. Gervasi’s research in Western military publications is extensive, and it is revealing that much of his criticism of Washington’s claims suggests that the government has been selective in its use of the available information.

While this work contains elaborate and detailed documentation, some readers may take issue with Gervasi’s overly schematic line of argument. He consistently finds fault with the administration, military-related industries, and major American journalists and news publications, all of which he feels work together in overstating Soviet military strength. On the other hand, there is very little said about patterns in the development of Soviet forces; Soviet policy is considered solely as the object of Washington’s willful misunderstanding. Thus, although this work may serve as a corrective to some of the Reagan Administration’s claims, it goes only that far in advancing our understanding of the dynamics of Soviet-American rivalry during the present stage of the Cold War.