In 1980 the NVA hosted the Warsaw Pact’s “Comrades-in-Arms-80” maneuvers. Documents obtained by NATO after the collapse of East Germany in 1990 shed light on these multi-national Warsaw Pact military exercises.
The objectives of these exercises was documented in the following way by the WP High Command:

1. Conduct of operations at the outset of a war:
Breaking through a prepared defense by overwhelming a security sector.
Prevention of a counter-attack.

2. Conduct of operations in the depth of the enemy’s defense, in conjunction with naval and amphibious forces.

3. Completion of the subsequent duties of the first-echelon armies.

Corresponding to each of these points were training exercises that convincingly showed how NATO’s defense-in-depth could be ruptured. The penetration was to occur in three stages at the operational and tactical levels (Army, Division), as can be seen in the briefing materials prepared for high-ranking political and military visitors:

Stage One: Breaking through the defense,

Stage Two: Overcoming the defensive sector, deployment of the second echelon

Stage Three: Paratroop landings, deep attacks over water, and offensives in combination with the paratroopers.

The aims and conduct of the exercise are but one example among many of how the Warsaw Pact was poised for offensive operations from the very beginning of a military conflict with NATO. Except for a few exercises in the late 1980s, defense against a NATO attack was not practiced because such an attack obviously was considered
implausible.Planning for military operations at the operational and strategic levels of the Front (known in the West as army groups) also reflected this general set of aims. After the WP exercise “Soyuz-83,” the GDR defense minister at the time presented the whole concept in the following way, according to the sealed minutes of the National Defense Council:

The strategic groupings of troops and naval forces of the armed forces of the USSR, the Poland People’s Republic, the GDR, and
the CSSR have the following mission:

The principal aim of the first strategic operation with troops on four Fronts is a rapid advance, reaching the frontiers of France by
the 13th or 15th day, and thereby:

taking the territories of Denmark, the FRG, the Netherlands, and Belgium;

forcing the withdrawal of these West European countries from the war; and

continuing the strategic operation by establishing two additional Fronts inside France, shattering the strategic reserves on French territory, and reaching Vizcaya and the Spanish
border by day 30 or 35, thus accomplishing the final aims of the first strategic operation by removing France from the war.

These examples and the above-mentioned documents clearly show how dominant the offensive was in the operational and strategic thinking of both the NVA and the WP. This offensive
orientation persisted until the end of the 1980s despite the intervening political changes in the Soviet Union. Even in 1988-89 there was an advanced course for the senior officer corps of the NVA in which the “instructions of the Commander-in-Chief of the Pact’s Joint Armed Forces regarding the operational mission of
troops and naval forces” set forth the following aims:

The goal of the operation is to liberate the territories of the GDR and CSSR, to occupy the economically important regions of the
FRG east of the Rhine, and to create the right circumstances for a transition to a general offensive aimed at bringing about the
withdrawal of the European NATO states from the war.

Formulated in this way, the goals of the exercise remained in a long tradition of earlier exercises. As a general justification for the
Warsaw Pact’s attack plans and as a way of quelling any possible criticism, the scenario for the exercise was based on the assumption
that NATO had committed prior aggression. This assumption was a standard one within the ideological framework of the WP. From the
documents, however, it is clear that the prospect of an attack by NATO could not possibly have been taken seriously. A sure sign of the hypothetical character of the assumptions in this and other exercises is that the supposed starting conditions were not actually reflected in the course of the exercise. Normally, only
mobilization and counterattacks were practiced. The preparation and conduct of a defense against an attack, which was the principal aim and central feature of all NATO exercises, was certainly not of comparable importance as an exercise topic for the NVA and WP.
In 1984, when Czechoslovakia was hosting the Warsaw Pact’s “Shield” exercise, one of the five parts of the exercise was, for the first time, devoted to the practice of defensive operations. The remaining parts of the exercise were then dominated, as in the past, by rehearsals for a massive offensive against the West. In the
treatment of this new exercise goal, and in the subsequent discussions that Gorbachev obviously inspired among military specialists about a defensive military doctrine, the Czechoslovak
People’s Army played a distinct leadership role within the Warsaw Pact, while the NVA acted as a braking force.

The changes in security policy that followed Gorbachev’s rise to power were accompanied, albeit hesitantly, by similar revisions in
military-strategic thinking. The first serious proposals for the development of joint defensive options for the Warsaw Pact came in 1985 when, for the first time, a joint staff training exercise was held at the highest levels of the WP on the theme of “Strategic Deployments and Preparations to Defend Against Aggression.”5
The basic principles laid down in that exercise were tested in subsequent staff exercises; and in September 1989 they were incorporated into revised orders on defense, as the chronicle of the NVA reveals. The offensive components of planning and exercises clearly remained, but they came only after the initial defensive
phases of operational and strategic counterattack.


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