General Purpose Forces

The change in the strategic situation in recent years profoundly enhances the importance of our general purpose forces. The Soviet Unionís buildup alters the character of te strategic threat. China also is developing strategic forces, though her current capabilities are still quite limited.

With this shift in strategic realities, our potential adversaries may be tempted by the use or the threat of force below what they consider the level of general nuclear war. General purpose forces, therefore, now play a larger role in deterring attacks than at any time since the nuclear era began.

In last yearís report, I pointed out that after intensive review I had decided to maintain general pupose forces adequate to deter or, if necessary, defend against a major threat to the interests of the U.S. and its allies in Europe or Asia; and simultaneously to cope with a minor contingency elsewhere. This decision reflected our assessment of certain new factors that I outlined in last year's report:

The nuclear capability of our strategic and theater nuclear forces serves as a deterrent to full scale Soviet attack on NATO Europe or Chinese attack on our Asian allies.

The prospects for a coordinated two front attack on our allies by Russia and China are low both because of the risks of nuclear war and the improbability of Sino Soviet cooperation. In any event, we do not believe that such a coordinated attack should be met primarily by U.S. conventional forces.

The desirability of insuring against greater than expected threats by maintaining more than the forces required to meet conventional threats in one theater-such as NATO Europe.

Weakness on our part would be more provocative than continued U.S. strength, for it might encourage others to take dangerous risks, to resort to the illusion that military adventurism could succeed.