Recent Western disillusionment with detente has been partly shaped by vast increases in the quantity and diversity of Soviet weapons. Nevertheless, observers have drawn comfort from a belief that Western technological supremacy can compensate for Soviet numerical superiority. Two assumptions lurk here. The first is that the Soviet threat can be gauged merely by applying quantitative criteria. The second is that the threat is best countered by procuring technologically advanced weapons. Both theses are contentious. The objective of this study is to highlight the weaknesses in this pair of judgments. In pursuit of that goal the key features of the Soviet weapons acquisition system are scrutinized in an analysis which examines institutions, relationships. and conventions. Initially, however, some observations are in order about weapons acquisition systems in general, identifying features common to any weapons policy, in the Soviet Union or elsewhere.