An exhaustive but accessible appreciation of the Soviet military that affords as complete a briefing as can probably be found this side of a NATO intelligence file or Kremlin archives. Moynahan, chief European editor for London's Times, argues convincingly that military might alone entitles the USSR to superpower status. Indeed, he concludes, the Red Army has played pivotal roles throughout the nation's history, winning a bloody civil war that created the world's first communist state, surviving Stalin's purge of its officer corps to repulse Nazi Germany's WW II invasion, subsequently engulfing Eastern Europe, and keeping errant satellites in the Warsaw Pact. In a very real sense, the author relates, the sun never sets on this martial juggernaut whose units are stationed in Cuba, Ethiopia, Indochina, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other far-flung outposts; in the USSR alone, garrisons are scattered across 11 time zones and behind 10 borders. All told, the Soviet military has nearly 5.1 million men in uniform, with over 6.2 million more in the active reserves. At their disposal is an awesome arsenal of land, sea, air, and aerospace weapons systems. Moynahan brings the boxcar numbers to life with vivid accounts of how Soviet troops have been employed in postwar campaigns from Hungary through Poland. Even when the military machine stalls, as in Afghanistan, it is resilient enough, he concludes, to take setbacks in stride. Included as well are instructive audits on Soviet nuclear, espionage, naval, and industrial capabilities. Whether the Red Army can prevail in its cold war with Gorbachev, who is pledged to reduced defense budgets and disarmament negotiations with the West, remains an open question for Moynahan. At this stage, though, he's not underestimating the military, one of the few Soviet institutions that actually works. In brief, then, an authoritative and revelatory study of an iron Curtain mainstay. There are 16 pages of photos, plus helpful maps and tabular material.