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Miracle on the Vistula: The Red Army's Failure and the Birth of the Deep Operations Theory of Annihilation

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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In 1920, Soviet Russia and the newly independent Polish state fought a brief but intense war, one with immense repercussions for the strategic context of post-World War I Europe, and for the military art. The Red Armys failure to spread the Bolshevik revolution to the heart of the European continent forced a reevaluation of both the politico-strategic outlook and the military theories that would guide the worlds first socialist state. The profound contributions to the military art made by Soviet theorists in the years following the war with Poland include the first discussions regarding the operational level of war and the concept of operational art, as well as the theoretical foundation for the Red Armys victory in World War II the Deep Operations Theory of Annihilation. This monograph seeks to explore the impact of the war with Poland and its influence on the theoretical breakthroughs made by a small group of Red Army officers in the 1920s and 1930s. The Polish-Soviet War will serve as a single case study through which phenomena characteristic of later theoretical developments will be examined. Particular attention will be paid to the presence of elements related to successive operations, rear area operations, and a focus on the annihilation of the enemy through the use of shock armies. These will serve as the principal criteria for establishing a direct link between the experience of the Polish-Soviet War and the later development of Deep Operations theory. Translated works of the Soviet authors of Deep Operations theory provided the majority of the evidence to this claim. These men used their experience against Poland as a primary case study through which they envisioned future warfare in Eastern Europe and the phenomena observed there would form the basis for their work on Deep Operations.

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2016,31 May 2017



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Approved For Public Release;

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