En su artículo "El cambiante equilibrio militar en el centro de Europa", dentro de la monumental obra colectiva Los Estados Unidos y Alemania en la era de la guerra fria, vol. 2 1968-1990, Frederick Zilian Jr. efectua un análisis cuantitativo de las fuerzas de la OTAN y el Pacto de Varsovia en los 70´s y 80´s. En el centro de Europa el bloque liderado por la URSS contaba con una consideraba ventaja numérica, tanto en armas convencionales como nucleares. Aquí va lo destacable:
By the mid-1970s the military balance in the central region reflected the many large quantitative advantages that the Warsaw Pact, especially the Soviet Union, had won through its persistent efforts to multiply its conventional capabilities while striving to redress the NATO advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. In the central and northern regions NATO had twenty-five combat divisions (armored,mechanized, infantry, and airborne) available in peacetime, not including the five French divisions.
This compared to the Warsaw Pact’s seventy divisions, forty-three of which were Soviet. Overall NATO combat and direct support manpower in the combined regions was 620,000 against 910,000 for the Warsaw Pact, 610,000 of which were Soviet. The main battle-tank fleet of the Warsaw Pact numbered 20,000, including 12,400 Soviet tanks, whereas NATO’s amounted to only 7,000. In conventional artillery the Pact outnumbered NATO approximately two to one. Concerning tactical aircraft in operational service, NATO had approximately 2,040 light bombers, groundattack fighters, interceptors, and reconnaissance aircraft, whereas theWarsaw Pact had 4,350, including 2,750 Soviet aircraft. The greatest disparity was in interceptors designed to meet an incoming bomber threat: NATO had a mere 350, whereas the Pact had 2,100, reflecting the contrasting doctrines. In the theater-nuclear dimension NATO possessed about 7,000 nuclear warheads with about 2,000 delivery systems, including aircraft, missiles, and artillery, whereas the Soviets controlled some 3,500 warheads.
The military balance in 1980 continued to reflect the great disparity in forces between the Warsaw Pact and NATO in the northern and central regions and, more ominously, revealed persistent negative trends. NATO counted a total of twenty-seven divisions available without mobilization, whereas the Pact possessed fortysix, twenty-six of which were Soviet divisions.
The Pact held its marked advantage from 1974 in main battle tanks, with 19,500 compared to NATO’s 7,000. NATO tanks were considered to be generally superior, but that soon changed with the deployment of the new T-72 tank.
In conventional artillery the Pact continued to widen the gap with NATO forces, increasing its advantage from 2 to 1 in 1974 to nearly 4 to 1 in 1980. The Soviet logistical system had been greatly improved, suggesting that the former NATO superiority in forward-area logistics had evaporated. In tactical aircraft, both sides had made improvements to their forces. The Soviets
were producing new fighters specifically designed for deep strike and interdiction, whereas the West had introduced the airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and the Nimrod (airborne early warning) aircraft. Although NATO forces had the advantage in groundattack fighters, the Pact maintained its dramatic dominance in interceptors as well as reconnaissance
aircraft, with 3,950 total tactical aircraft to NATO’s 2,251.
On the theater-nuclear level, NATO forces continued to hold their large advantage in warheads; however, because of the Warsaw Pact’s tremendous emphasis on the development of IRBMs in the 1970s, it enjoyed a marked advantage at the intermediate level. By 1980 it had deployed some 160 SS-20s (range of 5,000 km) in the European theater – fielding about one system every five days – with a total of 285 warheads (150 kilotons). These were counted in addition to its older missiles: sixty SS-5s with a range of 4,100 km and 380 SS-4s with a range of 1,000 km. The nuclear-capable Backfire bomber force had been growing by about twenty-five annually. Including air-delivered systems, the Pact had 5,330 intermediate-range systems with a total of 1,995 warheads. Moreover, the Soviets also were introducing at a vigorous rate new and more accurate shortrange nuclear missiles (SS-21, SS-22, SS-23). The meager NATO forces at this level hardly compared. They comprised a total of 196 older French and American missiles (not including sea-based Poseidon systems), most of which had ranges of 720 km.
Despite the efforts of the West to bolster the conventional defense, at mid-decade the balance still did not inspire confidence. NATO had twenty-eight divisions deployed in northern and Central Europe compared to the Pact’s sixty-one. The West had thirty-five divisions manned and available for immediate reinforcement to those regions, whereas the Pact had sixteen.
NATO possessed 13,716 main battle tanks and 5,525 artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers against the Pact’s 32,100 tanks and 10,500 artillery pieces and launchers. Concerning fixed-wing aircraft, the West held a total of 3,029 bombers, fighters, and interceptors compared
to the Pact’s 7,400. NATO also was at a disadvantage in armed helicopters, having 935 against the Pact’s 3,150.
On the theater-nuclear level NATO’s initial deployment of intermediate-range weapons helped redress the stark imbalance of the previous years. However, unsettling disparities persisted.
As of July 1984, NATO had 98 French and American ballistic and cruise missiles, compared with 467 Soviet SS-4 and SS-20 missiles.
NATO possessed 268 short-range ballistic missiles, compared with 1,370 held by the Pact. The West controlled 2,622 nuclear-capable artillery pieces, whereas the East had 3,500. One other significant military development further complicated the balance in the central region: In 1984 the United States deployed sea-launched cruise missiles, which, with a range of 2,500 km, were capable of reaching the central front.
From December 1987 through summer 1989, when the revolutions throughout Eastern Europe began, international political events rendered the question of dominance in the central region obsolete. In December 1987 the United States and the Soviet Union signed the INF Agreement, eliminating two classes of intermediate-range nuclear forces. In December 1988 Gorbachev announced plans to reduce total Soviet military forces by 500,000 men and reduce Soviet forces in Europe by 10,000 tanks, 8,500 artillery pieces, and 800 combat aircraft, adding that Soviet military doctrine would be transformed to a defensive orientation.
In March 1989 the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) talks began with Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze offering deep cuts in Soviet forces. Soviet leaders continued to announce unilateral cuts in both conventional and nuclear forces. Finally, in July 1990, as part of an agreement on a range of issues relating to German unification, Gorbachev agreed to withdraw all Soviet forces from East Germany by the end of 1994.
Ironically, as the military balance moved inexorably in favor of the East during these two decades, it was the East that in the end collapsed. Amid revolutions throughout Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany, both theWarsaw Pact and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. These momentous political developments happily made the question of the military balance largely irrelevant, confined now, it is hoped, to a chapter in the history of the Cold War.