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Doc Type: 
Intelligence Report
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SNIE 11-16-88: Soviet Policy During the Next Phase of Arms Control in Europe
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This Top Secret SNIE, produced just two weeks before Gorbachev's speech at the U.N., demonstrates how much the Soviet leader took the US government by surprise with the unilateral cuts in Soviet ground forces (by 500,000 out of a total force of 5 million)) and the withdrawals from Eastern Europe (50,000 troops, 10,000 tanks, 8,500 artillery systems, and 800 combat aircraft).  The intelligence community consensus reflected here posits that the Soviets "prefer to negotiate with NATO to achieve mutual reductions of conventional forces" because "it makes more sense to trade force reductions, thereby retaining a balance in the correlation of forces."  The SNIE goes on to suggest that "the Warsaw Pact probably realizes that negotiating an agreement with NATO that is acceptable to the Soviets could take years – and might not even be possible" – a judgment that would become obsolete within days, yet would live on into the new Bush administration as the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, Robert Gates, would move to the White House as deputy national security advisor.  Just in case, however, the authors of the SNIE mention that "for political effect, the Soviets may also take unilateral initiatives" such as withdrawing some troops from Hungary.  But they completely misjudge the troops cuts, claiming that the "Soviets may attempt to portray force restructuring as a unilateral force reduction" but really this is "intended primarily to make units more effective for prolonged conventional combat operations against NATO."   

From National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book 261