Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare, is a military strategy that advocates attempting to defeat the enemy by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption. Methods of war are held to stand on a continuum between maneuver warfare and attrition warfare, the focus on achieving victory through killing or capturing the enemy. Maneuver warfare advocates recognize that all warfare involves both attrition. Maneuver warfare concepts have been stressed by militaries that are smaller, more cohesive, better trained or more technically able than attrition warfare counterparts; the term "tactical maneuver" is used by maneuver warfare theorists to refer to movement by forces to gain "advantageous position relative to the enemy" as opposed to its use in the phrase "maneuver warfare". The idea of using rapid movement to keep an enemy off balance is as old as war itself. However, changing technology, such as the development of cavalry and mechanized vehicles, has led to increased interest in the concepts of maneuver warfare and its role on modern battlefields.
Military orthodoxy believes that with some exceptions, most battles between established armies have been fought based on an attrition warfare strategy. Closer examination, reveals that the view is not universally held, many military doctrines and cultures are based on replete historical examples of maneuver warfare; the attritionalists' view of warfare involves moving masses of men and material against enemy strongpoints, with the emphasis on the destruction of the enemy's physical assets, success as measured by enemy combatants killed and infrastructure destroyed, territory taken and/or occupied. Attrition warfare tends to use rigidly centralized command structures that require little or no creativity or initiative from lower-level leadership. Maneuver warfare doctrine sees styles of warfare as a spectrum with attrition warfare and maneuver warfare on opposite ends. In attrition warfare, the enemy is seen as a collection of targets to be destroyed. Attrition warfare exploits maneuver to bring to bear firepower to destroy enemy forces.
Maneuver warfare, on the other hand, exploits firepower and attrition on key elements of opposing forces. Maneuver warfare advocates that strategic movement can bring about the defeat of an opposing force more efficiently than by contacting and destroying enemy forces until they can no longer fight. Instead, in maneuver warfare, the destruction of certain enemy targets is combined with isolation of enemy forces and the exploitation by movement of enemy weaknesses. Bypassing and cutting off enemy strongpoints results in the collapse of that strongpoint where the physical damage is minimal. Firepower, used to destroy as many enemy forces as possible in attrition warfare, is used to suppress or destroy enemy positions at breakthrough points during maneuver warfare. Infiltration tactics by conventional or special forces may be used extensively to cause chaos and confusion behind enemy lines. Leonhard summarizes maneuver warfare theory as preempt and disrupt the enemy as alternatives to destruction of enemy mass through attrition warfare.
Clarification of the Clausewitzian center of gravity concept in maneuver warfare terms suggests the question: is a COG the source of strength or the critical vulnerability? The issue can be resolved using the game of chess as a model: is the Queen or the King the opposing player's COG? Once the opposing player's King is knocked off, it does not matter how many other chess pieces are taken. Since tempo and initiative are so critical to the success of maneuver warfare, command structures tend to be more decentralized, with more tactical freedom given to lower-level unit leaders; the decentralized command structure allows "on the ground" unit leaders, while still working within the guidelines of commander's overall vision, to exploit enemy weaknesses as they become evident. War theorist Martin van Creveld identifies six main elements of maneuver warfare: Tempo: as illustrated by John Boyd's OODA loop. Schwerpunkt: the center of effort, or striking the enemy at the right place at the right time.
According to van Creveld, ideally, a spot, both vital and weakly defended. Surprise: based on deception. Combined arms Flexibility: a military must be well rounded, self-contained and redundant. Decentralized command: changing situations may out pace communications. Lower levels must understand overall intent. For the majority of history, armies were limited in their speed to that of the marching soldier, about equal for everyone involved; that meant that it was possible for opposing armies to march around each other as long as they wished, with supply conditions deciding where and when the battle would be fought. In prehistoric times, that began to change with the domestication of the horse, the invention of chariots and the increasing military use of cavalry. Cavalry had two major uses: to attack and use its momentum to break infantry formations and, using the advantage of speed, to cut communications and isolate formations for defeat in detail. One of the most famous early maneuver tactics was the double envelopment, used by Hannibal against the Romans, at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC, by Khalid ibn al-Walid against the Persian Empire at the Battle of Walaja in 633 AD.
The retreat of the center of the Athenian and Platean Hoplites at the battle of Marathon against the forces of Datis in 490 BC and the subsequent pincer movement b
Special forces and special operations forces are military units trained to conduct special operations. NATO has defined special operations as "military activities conducted by specially designated, organized and equipped forces, manned with selected personnel, using unconventional tactics and modes of employment". Special forces emerged in the early 20th century, with a significant growth in the field during the Second World War, when "every major army involved in the fighting" created formations devoted to special operations behind enemy lines. Depending on the country, special forces may perform functions including airborne operations, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, covert ops, direct action, hostage rescue, high-value targets/manhunting, intelligence operations, mobility operations, unconventional warfare. In Russian-speaking countries special forces of any country are called spetsnaz, an acronym for "special purpose". In the United States the term special forces refers to the US Army's Special Forces, while the term special operations forces is used more broadly for these types of unit.
Special forces capabilities include the following: Special reconnaissance and surveillance in hostile environments Foreign internal defense:Training and development of other states' military and security forces Offensive action Support to counter-insurgency through population engagement and support Counter-terrorism operations Sabotage and demolition Hostage rescueOther capabilities can include bodyguarding. Special forces have played an important role throughout the history of warfare, whenever the aim was to achieve disruption by "hit and run" and sabotage, rather than more traditional conventional combat. Other significant roles lay in reconnaissance, providing essential intelligence from near or among the enemy and in combating irregular forces, their infrastructure and activities. Chinese strategist Jiang Ziya, in his Six Secret Teachings, described recruiting talented and motivated men into specialized elite units with functions such as commanding heights and making rapid long-distance advances.
Hamilcar Barca in Sicily had specialized troops trained to launch several offensives per day. In the late Roman or early Byzantine period, Roman fleets used small, camouflaged ships crewed by selected men for scouting and commando missions. Muslim forces had naval special operations units, including one that used camouflaged ships to gather intelligence and launch raids and another of soldiers who could pass for Crusaders who would use ruses to board enemy ships and capture and destroy them. In Japan, ninjas were used for reconnaissance, espionage and as assassins, bodyguards or fortress guards, or otherwise fought alongside conventional soldiers. During the Napoleonic wars and sapper units were formed that held specialised roles in reconnaissance and skirmishing and were not committed to the formal battle lines; the British Indian Army deployed two special forces during their border wars: the Corps of Guides formed in 1846 and the Gurkha Scouts. During the Second Boer War the British Army felt the need for more specialised units became most apparent.
Scouting units such as the Lovat Scouts, a Scottish Highland regiment made up of exceptional woodsmen outfitted in ghillie suits and well practised in the arts of marksmanship, field craft, military tactics filled this role. This unit was formed in 1900 by Lord Lovat and early on reported to an American, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the Chief of Scouts under Lord Roberts. After the war, Lovat's Scouts went on to formally become the British Army's first sniper unit. Additionally, the Bushveldt Carbineers, formed in 1901, can be seen as an early unconventional warfare unit; the German Stormtroopers and the Italian Arditi were the first modern shock troops. They were both elite assault units trained to a much higher level than that of average troops and tasked to carry out daring attacks and bold raids against enemy defenses. Unlike Stormtroopers, Arditi were not units within infantry divisions, but were considered a separate combat arm. Modern special forces emerged during the Second World War.
In 1940, the British Commandos were formed following Winston Churchill's call for "specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast." A staff officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Clarke, had submitted such a proposal to General Sir John Dill, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Dill, aware of Churchill's intentions, approved Clarke's proposal and on 23 June 1940, the first Commando raid took place. By the autumn of 1940 more than 2,000 men had volunteered and in November 1940 these new units were organised into a Special Service Brigade consisting of four battalions under the command of Brigadier J. C. Haydon; the Special Service Brigade was expanded to 12 units which became known as Commandos. Each Commando numbered around 450 men. In December 1940 a Middle East Commando depot was formed with the responsibility of training and supplying reinforcements for the Commando units in that theatre. In February 1942 the Commando training depot at Achnacarry in the Scottish Highlands was established by Brigadier Charles Haydon.
Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Vaughan, the Commando depot was responsible for training complete units and indivi
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
Russian Armed Forces
The Russian Armed Forces are the military forces of the Russian Federation, established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On 7 May 1992, Boris Yeltsin signed a presidential decree establishing the Russian Ministry of Defence and placing all Soviet Armed Forces troops on the territory of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic under Russian control; the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is the President of Russia. The Russian Armed Forces were formed in 1992; the Russian Armed Forces is one of the world's largest military forces. It is the world's second most powerful military and the world's second largest arms exporter. Under Russian federal law, the RuAF along with the Federal Security Service's Border Troops, the National Guard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Protective Service, the Foreign Intelligence Service, EMERCOM's civil defence form Russia's military services and are under direct control of the Security Council of Russia. Armed forces under the Ministry of Defence are divided into: the three "branches of Armed Forces": the Ground Forces, Aerospace Forces, the Navy the two "separate troop branches": the Strategic Missile Troops and the Airborne Troops the Logistical Support, which has a separate status of its ownThere are additionally two further "separate troop branches", the National Guard and the Border Service.
These retain the legal status of "Armed Forces", while falling outside of the jurisdiction of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The National Guard is formed on the basis of the former Internal Troops of Russia; the new structure has been detached from the Ministry of Internal Affairs into a separate agency, directly subordinated to the President of Russia. The Border Service is a paramilitary organization of the Federal Security Service - the country's main internal intelligence agency. Both organizations have significant wartime tasks in addition to their main peacetime activities and operate their own land and maritime units; the number of personnel is specified by decree of the President of Russia. On 1 January 2008, a number including military of 1,134,800 units, was set. In 2010 the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that the Russian Armed Forces numbered about 1,027,000 active troops and in the region of 2,035,000 reserves; as opposed to personnel specified by decree, actual personnel numbers on the payroll was reported by the Audit Chamber of Russia as 766,000 in October 2013.
As of December 2016, the armed forces are at 93 percent of the required manpower, up from 82 percent reported in December 2013. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, Russian exports of major weapons increased by 37 percent. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, share of modern weapons in the Armed Forces reached from 26 to 48 percent among different kinds of troops in December 2014; this was raised to 30.5–70.7% as of July 2015. The average was 61.5 per cent over the end of 2018. The Soviet Union dissolved on 25 December 1991, leaving the Soviet military in limbo. For the next year and a half various attempts to keep its unity and to transform it into the military of the Commonwealth of Independent States failed. Over time, some units stationed in the newly independent republics swore loyalty to their new national governments, while a series of treaties between the newly independent states divided up the military's assets. Apart from assuming control of the bulk of the former Soviet Internal Troops and the KGB Border Troops the only independent defence move the new Russian government made before March 1992 involved announcing the establishment of a National Guard.
Until 1995, it was planned to form at least 11 brigades numbering 3,000 to 5,000 each, with a total of no more than 100,000. National Guard military units were to be deployed in 10 regions, including in Moscow, a number of other important cities and regions. By the end of September 1991 in Moscow the National Guard was about 15,000 strong consisting of former Soviet Armed Forces servicemen. In the end, President Yeltsin tabled a decree "On the temporary position of the Russian Guard", but it was not put into practice. After signing the Belavezha Accords on 21 December 1991, the countries of the newly formed CIS signed a protocol on the temporary appointment of Marshal of Aviation Yevgeny Shaposhnikov as Minister of Defence and commander of the armed forces in their territory, including strategic nuclear forces. On 14 February 1992 Shaposhnikov formally became Supreme Commander of the CIS Armed Forces. On 16 March 1992 a decree by Boris Yeltsin created The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation the operational control of Allied High Command and the Ministry of Defence, headed by President.
On 7 May 1992, Yeltsin signed a decree establishing the armed forces and Yeltsin assumed the duties of the Supreme Commander. In May 1992, General Colonel Pavel Grachev became the Minister of Defence, was made Russia's first Army General on assuming the post. By August or December 1993 CIS military structures had become CIS military cooperation structures with all real influence lost. In the next few years, Russian forces withdrew from central and eastern Europe, as well as from some newly-independent post-Soviet republics. While in most places the withdrawal took place without any problems, the Russian Armed Forces remained in some di
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty, signed on 4 April 1949. NATO constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. NATO's Headquarters are located in Haren, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium. Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 29; the most recent member state to be added to NATO is Montenegro on 5 June 2017. NATO recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Ukraine as aspiring members. An additional 21 countries participate in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs; the combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the global total.
Members have committed to reach or maintain defense spending of at least 2% of GDP by 2024. On 4 March 1947 the Treaty of Dunkirk was signed by France and the United Kingdom as a Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance in the event of a possible attack by Germany or the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. In 1948, this alliance was expanded to include the Benelux countries, in the form of the Western Union referred to as the Brussels Treaty Organization, established by the Treaty of Brussels. Talks for a new military alliance which could include North America resulted in the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949 by the member states of the Western Union plus the United States, Portugal, Norway and Iceland; the North Atlantic Treaty was dormant until the Korean War initiated the establishment of NATO to implement it, by means of an integrated military structure: This included the formation of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in 1951, which adopted the Western Union's military structures and plans.
In 1952 the post of Secretary General of NATO was established as the organization's chief civilian. That year saw the first major NATO maritime exercises, Exercise Mainbrace and the accession of Greece and Turkey to the organization. Following the London and Paris Conferences, West Germany was permitted to rearm militarily, as they joined NATO in May 1955, in turn a major factor in the creation of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact, delineating the two opposing sides of the Cold War. Doubts over the strength of the relationship between the European states and the United States ebbed and flowed, along with doubts over the credibility of the NATO defense against a prospective Soviet invasion – doubts that led to the development of the independent French nuclear deterrent and the withdrawal of France from NATO's military structure in 1966. In 1982 the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance; the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989–1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO and caused a strategic re-evaluation of NATO's purpose, nature and focus on the continent of Europe.
This shift started with the 1990 signing in Paris of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe between NATO and the Soviet Union, which mandated specific military reductions across the continent that continued after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. At that time, European countries accounted for 34 percent of NATO's military spending. NATO began a gradual expansion to include newly autonomous Central and Eastern European nations, extended its activities into political and humanitarian situations that had not been NATO concerns. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany in 1989, the organization conducted its first military interventions in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 and Yugoslavia in 1999 during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Politically, the organization sought better relations with former Warsaw Pact countries, most of which joined the alliance in 1999 and 2004. Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty, requiring member states to come to the aid of any member state subject to an armed attack, was invoked for the first and only time after the September 11 attacks, after which troops were deployed to Afghanistan under the NATO-led ISAF.
The organization has operated a range of additional roles since including sending trainers to Iraq, assisting in counter-piracy operations and in 2011 enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The less potent Article 4, which invokes consultation among NATO members, has been invoked five times following incidents in the Iraq War, Syrian Civil War, annexation of Crimea; the first post-Cold War expansion of NATO came with German reunification on 3 October 1990, when the former East Germany became part of the Federal Republic of Germany and the alliance. As part of post-Cold War restructuring, NATO's military structure was cut back and reorganized, with new forces such as the Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps established; the changes brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union on the military balance in Europe were recognized in the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, signed in 1999. The policies of French President Nicolas Sarkozy resulted in a major reform of France's military position, culminating with the return to full membership on 4 April 2009, which included France rejoining the NATO Military Command Structure, while maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent.
Between 1994 and 1997, wider forums for regional co
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe, Southeast Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties; the battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War constituted the largest military confrontation in history. They were characterized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, immense loss of life due to combat, exposure and massacres; the Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches and the majority of pogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Of the estimated 70-85 million deaths attributed to World War II, over 30 million, the majority of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern Front.
The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome in the European theatre of operations in World War II serving as the main reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis nations. The two principal belligerent powers were Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. Though never engaged in military action in the Eastern Front, the United States and the United Kingdom both provided substantial material aid in the form of the Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union; the joint German–Finnish operations across the northernmost Finnish–Soviet border and in the Murmansk region are considered part of the Eastern Front. In addition, the Soviet–Finnish Continuation War may be considered the northern flank of the Eastern Front. Germany and the Soviet Union remained unsatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Soviet Russia had lost substantial territory in Eastern Europe as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where the Bolsheviks in Petrograd conceded to German demands and ceded control of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and other areas, to the Central Powers.
Subsequently, when Germany in its turn surrendered to the Allies and these territories were liberated under the terms of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 at Versailles, Soviet Russia was in the midst of a civil war and the Allies did not recognize the Bolshevik government, so no Soviet Russian representation attended. Adolf Hitler had declared his intention to invade the Soviet Union on 11 August 1939 to Carl Jacob Burckhardt, League of Nations Commissioner, by saying: Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine as happened in the last war; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939 was a non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union. It contained a secret protocol aiming to return Central Europe to the pre–World War I status quo by dividing it between Germany and the Soviet Union.
Finland, Estonia and Lithuania would return to the Soviet control, while Poland and Romania would be divided. The Eastern Front was made possible by the German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement in which the Soviet Union gave Germany the resources necessary to launch military operations in Eastern Europe. On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. On 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland, and, as a result, Poland was partitioned among Germany, the Soviet Union and Lithuania. Soon after that, the Soviet Union demanded significant territorial concessions from Finland, after Finland rejected Soviet demands, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing its eastern parts in Karelia. In June 1940 the Soviet Union illegally annexed the three Baltic states; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ostensibly provided security to the Soviets in the occupation both of the Baltics and of the north and northeastern regions of Romania, although Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union, cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germany's understanding of the Pact.
Moscow partitioned the annexed Romanian territory between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics. Adolf Hitler had argued in his autobiography Mein Kampf for the necessity of Lebensraum: acquiring new territory for Germans in Eastern Europe, in particular in Russia, he envisaged settling Germans there, as according to Nazi ideology the Germanic people constituted the "master race", while exterminating or deporting most of the existing inhabitants to Siberia and using the remainder as slave labour. Hitler as early as 1917 had referred to the Russians as inferior, believing that the Bolshevik Revolution had put the Jews in power over the mass of Slavs, who were, in Hitler's opinion, incapable of ruling themselves but instead being ruled by Jewish masters; the Nazi leadership, saw the war against the Soviet Union as a struggle between the ideologies of Nazism and Jewish Bolshevism, ensuring territorial expansion for the Germanic Übermensch, who according to Nazi ideology were the Aryan Herrenvolk, at the expense of
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main land-based branch of the Soviet Armed Forces between February 1946 and December 1991, when it was replaced with the Russian Ground Forces, although it was not abolished until 25 December 1993. Until 25 February 1946, it was known as the Red Army, established by decree on 15 January 1918 "to protect the population, territorial integrity and civil liberties in the territory of the Soviet state." The Strategic Missile Troops, Air Defense Forces and Air Forces were part of the Soviet Army in addition to the Ground Forces. At the end of World War II the Red Army had over 500 rifle divisions and about a tenth that number of tank formations, their experience of war gave the Soviets such faith in tank forces that the infantry force was cut by two-thirds. The Tank Corps of the late war period were converted to tank divisions, from 1957 the rifle divisions were converted to motor rifle divisions. MRDs had three motorized rifle regiments and a tank regiment, for a total of ten motor rifle battalions and six tank battalions.
The Land Forces Chief Command was created for the first time in March 1946. Four years it was disbanded, only to be formed again in 1955. In March 1964 the Chief Command was again disbanded but recreated in November 1967. Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgi Zhukov became Chief of the Soviet Ground Forces in March 1946, but was succeeded by Ivan Konev in July, who remained as such until 1950, when the position of Chief of the Soviet Ground Forces was abolished for five years, an organisational gap that "probably was associated in some manner with the Korean War". From 1945 to 1948, the Soviet Armed Forces were reduced from about 11.3 million to about 2.8 million men, a demobilisation controlled first, by increasing the number of military districts to 33 reduced to 21 in 1946. The personnel strength of the Ground Forces was reduced from 9.8 million to 2.4 million. To establish and secure the USSR's eastern European geopolitical interests, Red Army troops who liberated eastern Europe from Nazi rule, in 1945 remained in place to secure pro-Soviet régimes in Eastern Europe and to protect against attack from Europe.
Elsewhere, they may have assisted the NKVD in suppressing anti-Soviet resistance in Western Ukraine and the Baltic states. Soviet troops, including the 39th Army, remained at Port Arthur and Dalian on the northeast Chinese coast until 1955. Control was handed over to the new Chinese communist government. Soviet Army forces on USSR territory were apportioned among military districts. There were 32 of them in 1945. Sixteen districts remained from the mid-1970s to the end of the USSR. Yet, the greatest Soviet Army concentration was in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, which suppressed the anti-Soviet Uprising of 1953 in East Germany. East European Groups of Forces were the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary, which put down the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1958, Soviet troops were withdrawn from Romania; the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia was established after Warsaw Pact intervention against the Prague Spring of 1968. In 1969, at the east end of the Soviet Union, the Sino-Soviet border conflict, prompted establishment of a 16th military district, the Central Asian Military District, at Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan.
In 1979, the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan, to support its Communist government, provoking a 10-year Afghan mujahideen guerrilla resistance. Throughout the Cold War, Western intelligence estimates calculated that the Soviet strength remained ca. 2.8 million to ca. 5.3 million men. To maintain said strength range, Soviet law minimally required a three-year military service obligation from every able man of military age, until 1967, when the Ground Forces reduced it to a two-year draft obligation. By the middle of the 1980s, the Ground Forces contained about 210 divisions. About three-quarters were the remainder tank divisions. There were a large number of artillery divisions, separate artillery brigades, engineer formations, other combat support formations. However, only few formations were war ready. Three readiness categories, A, B, V, after the first three letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, were in force; the Category A divisions were certified combat-ready and were equipped. B and V divisions were 50 -- 75 % and 10 -- 33 % respectively.
The internal military districts contained only one or two A divisions, with the remainder B and V series formations. Soviet planning for most of the Cold War period would have seen Armies of four to five divisions operating in Fronts made up of around four armies. In February 1979, the first of the new High Commands in the Strategic Directions were created at Ulan-Ude; these new headquarters controlled multiple Fronts, a Soviet Navy Fleet. In September 1984, three more were established to control multi-Front operations in Europe and at Baku to handle southern operations. In 1955, the Soviet Union signed the Warsaw Pact with its East European socialist allies, establishing military coordination between Soviet forces and their socialist counterparts; the Soviet Army created and directed the Eastern European armies in its image for the remainder of the Cold War, shaping them for a potential confrontation with the North Atlant