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Identity statement

Reference code(s)
THE SOVIET ESTIMATE: US Analysis of the Soviet Union, 1947- 1991
1946-1991, 1995
Level of description
collection level
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
190 fiche


Name of creator(s)

The National Security Archive, from sources at US national security agencies, principal of which were the US Central Intelligence Agency; the Director of Central Intelligence; the US Defense Intelligence Agency, the armed forces ntelligence organisation;

Administrative / Biographical history

From 1945 to 1991, the Soviet Union represented the primary target for the United States intelligence community. Recruiting agents in the Soviet bloc was the primary task of the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations. Meanwhile, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other technical collection agencies devised and deployed ground stations, aircraft, and satellites with the principal purpose of collecting intelligence to guide US decision makers in dealing with the Soviet Union and to assist the US military prepare for a possible war. Much of the product of those activities was reflected in the huge number of analytical documents produced by the CIA and other intelligence production units over the course of the Cold War. The key production organisations included the CIA (and its predecessor the Central Intelligence Group), the US State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Defense Intelligence Agency (from 1961), and the analytical units of the armed services. The collective focus of the US intelligence community on the Soviet Union was in five areas: foreign policy, military forces and policy, the economy, science and technology, and the domestic situation. Intelligence production in these areas came in a variety of forms. The best known were National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) and Special National Intelligence Estimates (SNIEs). NIEs were regularly scheduled products that covered a number of subjects, the majority of which concerned military matters. SNIEs were commissioned in reaction to specific events or the emergence of specific concerns. As with the NIEs they were co-ordinated among the representatives of the intelligence agencies who served on the Intelligence Advisory Committee (until 1958), the United States Intelligence Board (until 1976), and the National Foreign Intelligence Board. NIEs and SNIEs attempted to estimate how events would develop. Other products, including Interagency Intelligence Memoranda (IIM) have also contributed intelligence based on highly technical matters. In addition to the production of national intelligence documents, each of the intelligence organisations produced studies which were not co- ordinated with other agencies. Thus, the Central Intelligence Group (1946-1948) and then the CIA produced an immense number of intelligence assessments and reports within various offices of the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence. Similarly, the Defense Intelligence Agency produced thousands of studies concerning Soviet matters, including studies of military doctrine, nuclear targeting policy, specific weapons, command, control and communications, and force deployment. Meanwhile, US State Department reports primarily included Soviet foreign policy and economic matters. At the armed service level, Soviet-related intelligence studies focused both on general military developments as well as technical studies of Soviet weapons systems. The former studies were conducted by organisations including the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Army Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center, and the Air Force Intelligence Agency. Organisations including the Naval Intelligence Support Center and the Air Force Technology Division concentrated on issues of design, operation and capabilities of tanks, submarines, and aerospace vehicles.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The National Security Archive, Washington, DC, USA

Content & structure

Scope and content

The Soviet Estimate: US Analysis of the Soviet Union, 1947-1991 is a themed microfilm collection which presents an integrated record of US intelligence estimates and studies relating to Soviet strategic projections, military capabilities, science and technology, economics and internal politics, 1946-1991. The estimates and studies were produced either collectively as national intelligence products or by individual agencies, and include contributions from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the Director of Central Intelligence; the US Defense Intelligence Agency; and, the US State Department. The collection includes CIA and British Secret Intelligence Service debriefing transcripts of former Soviet Gavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye (GRU), Chief Intelligence Directorate, Soviet General Staff, operative Oleg V Penkovskii, relating to Soviet military organisation and plans for nuclear war, Soviet nuclear targets and deployments in Europe, missile technology and launch sites, Soviet military personnel, the capture of Capt Francis Gary Powers, US Air Force U-2 High Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft pilot, 1 May 1960, profiles of Soviet military officers, locations of Soviet nuclear weapons tests, Soviet intelligence organisations and Soviet chemical and biological weapons programs, Soviet development and deployment of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), positions of Soviet divisions in East Germany, and the Berlin Crisis (1958- 1962), 20 Apr-14 Oct 1961; yearly US estimates of Soviet strategic capabilities, 1947- 1983, including the 'missile gap' National Intelligence Estimates, 1957-1961; detailed estimates of the Soviet space program, including National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) relating to lunar exploration, manned space flight, reconnaissance satellites, space exploration, space weapons and weapons development, 1962-1967; US Air Force report entitled 'A History of Strategic Arms Competition: Volume 3, A Handbook of Selected Soviet Weapons and Space Systems', including data relating to Soviet air to surface missiles (AS), Tupolev bomber aircraft, M-4 / Mya-4 / 2M Myasishchev ('Bison') aircraft, space weapons, communication satellites, electronic intelligence capabilities, surface to surface (SS) theatre missiles and ICBMs, Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), Jun 1976; US intelligence community experiment in competitive analysis conducted by the CIA 'B Team' relating to US misperceptions of Soviet strategic objectives and offensive and defensive forces, Dec 1976; report from the US Department of State entitled 'History of the Strategic Arms Competition 1945-1972, parts 1 and 2', including detailed surveys and analyses of Soviet and US decision making on nuclear forces, force deployments, and nuclear strategies, Mar 1981; Special National Intelligence Estimate relating to Soviet support for international terrorism and revolutionary activities, including mention of arms transfers, military training, political violence, and terrorist activities in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, May 1981; reports from the CIA concerning Soviet perspectives on research and development in energy-directed weapons and involvement in space weapons and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research, 1985; National Intelligence Estimates relating to General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev's prospects for reforming the Soviet economic and political system, including mention of his economic agenda and its implications for the Soviet military program, the dynamics of Soviet civil-military relations, the impact of reforms on labour production, health, standards of living and technological development, and the rise of civil unrest and nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1985- 1989; CIA report concerning the probabilities of a coup d'etat in the Soviet Union and the growing influence of Chairman of the Russian Republic Supreme Soviet, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, May 1991.

System of arrangement

Documents are arranged in chronological order.

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be provided for research use only. Enquiries concerning the copyright of the original material should be addressed to The National Security Archive, 1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC, 20036, USA

Language/scripts of material


Finding aids

This Summary Guide, and in hard copy in the Centre's reading room, Thomas S Blanton and Malcolm Byrne, (eds.), The Soviet Estimate: US Analysis of the Soviet Union, 1947-1991 (The National Security Archive and Chadwyck-Healey Inc, Washington, DC, 1995).

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

US National Archives; Central Intelligence Agency; US Defense Intelligence Agency; US State Department; US Pacific Command; Harry S Truman Library, Independence, MO; Dwight D Eisenhower Library, Abilene, TX; John F Kennedy Library, Boston, MA; Lyndon Johnson Library, Austin, TX.



Compiled Jul 1999

Description control

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

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This catalogue may contain links to external data sources as part of the W3C Semantic Web initiative.


  • Aircraft
  • Armed forces
  • Arms race
  • Artificial satellites
  • Berlin Wall
  • Boundaries
  • Central government
  • Chemical actions and uses
  • Collectivism
  • Communism
  • Crime
  • Defence
  • East West relations
  • Government
  • Information
  • International conflicts
  • International law
  • International relations
  • International tensions
  • Management operations
  • Military aircraft
  • Military engineering
  • Military equipment
  • Military organizations
  • Military strategy
  • Missiles
  • Nuclear warfare
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Organizations
  • Pharmaceutic aids
  • Planning
  • Planning methods
  • Political doctrines
  • Political information
  • Public administration
  • Rights of states
  • Scientific facilities
  • Social science information
  • Space exploration
  • Space technology
  • Spacecraft
  • Specialty uses of chemicals
  • State security
  • Strategic planning
  • Territorial rights
  • Terrorism
  • Vehicles
  • Warfare
  • Weapons

Personal names

  • Gorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich, b 1931, President of the Soviet Union
  • Penkovskii, Oleg V, d 1963, Soviet Lieutenant Colonel, spy
  • Powers, Francis Gary, d 1977, US Air Force Captain, alleged spy
  • Yeltsin, Boris Nikoleyavich, b 1931, President of the Russian Federation

Corporate names

  • US Central Intelligence Agency
  • US Government departments


  • Americas
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Caribbean
  • Central America
  • USSR, Eastern Europe

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