The Soviet Union is certainly one of the player's most favorite factions, because is it centered around the focus of superior firepower. The Soviets, by the late 1980s, were failing behind NATO in some aspects of advanced equipment, but they were still able to keep up or even surpass the opponents in many fields. Brezhnev's "era of stagnation" affected every aspect of the Soviet state, and the military was no exception. While the appearance of modern Soviet MBTs, self-propelled artillery, improved ATGMs and other weapon systems gave NATO cause for grave concern, in the 1980s the situation was reversed. Modern NATO MBTs, such as the M1 Abrams, Leopard 2, and the Challenger were superior to their Soviet counterparts in firepower, protection, and mobility. Older MBTs were made more competitive through advances in fire control systems and ammunition. NATO tanks increasingly sported thermal imagers, while Soviet ones had to make do with inferior active infrared systems. Soviet equipment lacks the advanced technology used by the West, but makes up for in raw firepower and versatility as well as in large numbers. Player main worry will be to possibly outweigh the American advantage of thermal imaging when playing as the Soviet Union.
Soviet firepower is embedded within units like the T-80U, Mi-24V, BMP-2 and the Shilka. Soviet units are capable of matching up against their NATO counterparts, proving to be deadly in combat. Older units such as the T-62, are good enough and reliable so that they can even match up with the latest MBTs.
The 1970s arguably represented the high tide mark for the power of the Soviet armed forces relative to their NATO counterparts. It was undoubtedly a difficult decade for NATO countries. The US military was struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the Vietnam War, which rendered military service extremely unpopular. The draft was abolished and the US military was making a painful transition to an all-volunteer force. Other NATO countries, although their militaries had not suffered the same level of deterioration, nevertheless were affected by the general crisis of confidence that affected the West. The oil crisis, the economic stagnation were accompanied by street demonstrations which often resulted in clashes with the police. Nearly every Western European country had to cope with a terrorist organization or organizations of some sort, be it in the form of the IRA, the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof group, or a number of less well known groups.
By comparison, the Soviet Union was riding high in those days. The high oil prices that dragged down Western economic performance buoyed the Soviet economy and without a doubt prolonged the duration of the Soviet regime. In spite of detente, USSR continued to support a number of "proxy wars" in the Third World, including insurgencies in various parts of Africa and Central America (usually through its Cuban ally). The Soviet military was fielding hardware that was at least a match, and often superior, to their NATO counterparts. Another reason to bolster Soviet confidence was its attainment of parity with the United States in nuclear armaments, which led to the signing of the SALT and ABM treaties in the early 1970s.
However, in spite of these advantages the seeds of USSR's destruction were already germinating. The debilitating effects of Leonid Brezhnev's inept and crony-ridden rule were already making themselves felt. The military itself, while acquiring new weapons and testing new operational concepts, was suffering from growing politicization of its officer corps and increasing lawlessness among the enlisted ranks. After the failure of the detente in the 1970s, the 1980s saw a brief flare-up in the intensity of the Cold War. United States responded harshly to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, boycotting the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and providing military assistance to the mujahedeen. After the trials and tribulations of the '60s and '70s, the '80s saw a reinvigorated West pouring new resources into its effort to thwart Soviet efforts to gain military supremacy. The 1980s therefore set the stage for what would have been a clash between the most powerful armed forces the world has ever seen. Each side in this conflict had its strengths and weaknesses.
Best use should be made of covered terrain in order to close combat ranges to less than 1000m on average, where even the BMP-1 can be a deadly tank killer, and dismounted infantry can boost the firepower with their AT-7 ATGM fire. Dismounted scouts (or IFVs with dismounts) are a vital part of the reconnaissance task, and using tanks and BMPs as a combat reconnaissance platoon gives a bit more teeth than a pure BRDM-2 screen. Using terrain to screen from one threat direction, while observing in other limited directions will preserve the forces for longer.
March-columns should be used to advance en-mass rapidly and along covered routes. Trade off "quickest" and shortest/covered according to terrain topography and cover.
Artillery on TRP and mortars should be used to blind enemy anti-armour systems. HE and/or HE/Smoke for most fire missions will temporarily suppress/obscure most targets if fired in battalion level concentrations.
Fire should be practiced from short halts, rather than on the move, to increase hull-down protection (offering reduced target profile to enemy) especially when covered terrain increases the enfilade opportunities, particularly true for broken terrain. This is particularly useful for BMP or BTR vehicles when they are coming under fire, as their turret profiles are far smaller than the hull profile.
Soviet modern tanks are practically as good as western tanks except for the absence of thermal-imaging systems, and somewhat inferior fire control in certain models; thermal sights issue is fairly significant during the night combat (however there mortars or artillery can shape the long-range battle using Illumination rounds). Player should use multiple firing units over a wide front and close range positions (with hide positions on reverse slopes) to counter the better NATO MBTs if those are encountered. While often you cannot beat them in firing tempo, accuracy or penetration/protection, you are more than adequate to deal with flank armour at ~1000m-1500m if firing in company strength. Even if you are facing them with obsolete tanks, exchanging losses can be achieved at 1:1 or better ratio.
Soviet strategic formations tend to be larger than those assigned by NATO: a Soviet Regiment would be committed to a task NATO would use a reduced strength battalion on, and a fresh regiment would follow-on to in depth objectives while NATO has very limited operational reserves. On the other hand, Soviet tactical formations are smaller than their NATO counterparts and therefore they are actually more manageable. The Soviet military theoreticians were cognizant of the lack of combat agility of Soviet divisions, and during the 1980s experimented with a new set of unit organizations that would replace the "regiment-division-army" hierarchy with a "brigade-corps" one, in the hopes of fielding forces capable of competing on a more equal footing with NATO forces. The new organization, which bore a striking similarity to the 1980s-era French Armee de Terre, consisted of relatively large battalions operating semi-autonomously as part of large, self-sufficient brigades, which in turn were loosely controlled by the new corps headquarters. However, the new organizations were still in the experimental stage when Soviet Union collapsed.