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The New Soviet Defensive Policy: Khalkhin Gol 1939 As Case Study

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Journal article

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Mikhail Gorbachevs dramatic changes in the Soviet political and military scene often raise more questions than they answer. One such problematic change to Soviet strategy and operational techniques is the new emphasis on defense. Discussion centers on whether defense in this context means defensive defense or offensive defense. Soviet analysts have identified four models for a defensive strategy, and in every case historical analogies are used in their discussion. These are 1 an immediate counteroffensive following an enemy attack the forces for the counteroffensive would in practice be indistinguishable from offensive forces 2 an initial defensive phase to draw in the enemy and weaken him prior to a counteroffensive into enemy territory e.g., the Battle of Kursk 3 a counteroffensive that does not enter enemy-held territory and 4 a highly defensive model, renouncing all offensive action above the tactical level, using fortifications, strong points, and small local counterattacks. There are reliable indications that option three is the front-runner, and the Soviets have claimed that the outstanding example of this option is the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, involving Soviet and Mongolian forces against Japanese and Manchukuoan troops, which was fought in August 1939. There is certainly much to commend this battle for an important place in Soviet and general military history. It produced a key Japanese defeat which protected the Soviet Union from a two-front war after the German invasion. At Khalkhin Gol the Soviet Union tested many of the operational precepts that matured successfully in the later periods of World War II. It is recognized as an important formative experience for Marshal Georgi Zhukov, arguably the preeminent Soviet commander in World War II.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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