UK think tank warning of ‘belligerent, revisionist’ Russia lambasted for bias, warmongering

Servicemen of the Central Military District peace-keeping sniper unit during special tactical training in Roshchinsky, Samara Region. (RIA Novosti/Yuri Streletc)
A UK think tank’s annual report on global military capabilities has its first and biggest chapter devoted to Russia, “challenging the European security order”. Political analysts said the document was biased and could lead to a new Cold War arms race.

The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine is what the bulk of the latest annual Military Balance report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is focused on. The group describes itself as “a world-leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict” and has former US and British government officials among its members.

The Kremlin... appears to desire a fractured Ukraine, unable to move beyond Russia’s orbit and get closer to western institutions,” argue the authors of the Military Balance 2015 report.

Western countries are now having to devise a strategy... to deal with an apparently revisionist Russia,” the report goes on to say, concluding that “Europe is facing a more belligerent Russia” and calling for “dissuasion of Russian adventurism on EU or NATO territory.”

The language of the report is something that betrays a non-impartial approach to some of the report’s readers.

This is a Cold War document, wherein Russia is depicted as a force for bad in the world and the West a force for good,” political analyst John Wight told RT. “Words such as ‘revisionist’, ‘belligerent’, and ‘adventurism’ are liberally deployed in a negative depiction of Russia”.

 Cadets of the Russian Defense Ministry's 242nd Training Center take the oath. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Malgavko)

Journalist Phil Butler says the report “reeks of hyperbole summoning terms like 'hybrid warfare' to describe the Ukraine civil war”. He finds the document to be "totally western-centric in that it’s an unbridled instigation for a new arms race”.

The report describes prospect for peaceful settlement as “unpromising,” while the US considerations over arming Kiev are said to be “a moral obligation and a strategic duty”, or at least an option that must be “‘kept on the table’ in support of the diplomatic process”.

Authors of the Military Balance 2015 note that while the EU spends about 1.5 percent of its GDP on defense, the same figure for Russia stands at 4.2 percent of GDP, though its budget is still far smaller than the EU total.

Military modernisation in Russia is continuing, with investment in new ships, combat aircraft and guided weapons,” the report warns. “Russia continues to test the Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation fighter aircraft, and may be finalising designs of a new long-range bomber. Russia has nuclear weapons very much at the centre of its military strategy, and there is increased emphasis on its rapid-reaction forces, while its air and maritime capabilities are often being deployed provocatively,” claims the report, in reference to multiple Western allegations of sightings Russian planes and submarines in neutral territories just outside their border.

This enumeration of Russia’s military advantages is something that, according to political analyst Dan Glazebrook, makes transparent “the bias in the report”.

The director-general’s opening remarks detail recent Russian military purchases, interpreting them as further evidence of “a more belligerent Russia”, Glazebrook told RT. “Britain’s commitment to a renewed Trident, however, or to £160billion military spending over the current decade – despite a total lack of the border provocations currently being endured by Russia - is not mentioned”.

ISIS and Russia on same list of threats again

The report’s second chapter, on the threat coming from the Islamic State militants, starts with a mention of Russia.

While a revisionist Russia has challenged the European security order, the threat from extreme Islamic terrorists strengthened during the year,” the think tank says.

A Russia clause in an ISIS sentence has raised eyebrows.


[The report] draws a distinct and preposterous parallel between Russia in Eastern Ukraine and ISIS in Syria and Iraq,” Wight told RT. “This is especially offensive when we consider that Russia has done more to combat ISIS and extremism in the region these past few years with its support for the Syrian government as it struggles to prevent Syria descending into the same abyss that both Libya and Iraq find themselves in, both as a direct consequence of Western intervention”.

It’s not the first time the West puts Russia on one list of threats with ISIS though. It was first done by President Obama last year. The latest incident was the National Security Strategy issued by the White House earlier in February.

READ MORE: Wars and foes: White House lists key threats in NSS

Meanwhile, Glazebrook believes the West could have been more self-critical, when it comes to speaking of the Islamic State threat.

Whilst we learn that “Military successes on the part of ISIS galvanised a US-led coalition into launching airstrikes against the jihadi movement”, there is no mention of the fact that it was precisely a Western-backed military insurgency that “galvanised” ISIS success in the first place,” he says.

China mentioned, Africa and Middle East left out

The choice of countries included in the report have raised questions. While Asia’s “militarisation” has been placed into spotlight, Africa and the Middle East, where the situation is far more tense, have not been mentioned.

Yes, parts of Africa and of course Israel/Palestine are areas where the West has exacerbated rather than alleviated conflict and instability,” Wight said.

The failure to arbitrate a viable peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians has been a particular failing of Western policy, adding to the region’s instability. For too long Israel has been allowed to flout international law and engage in human rights abuses against the Palestinians,” he added.

The report’s focusing on Russia’s and China’s “belligerence” can hardly contribute to dialogue with these countries.

The picture painted by this report is a distorted one in which the West is under threat from Russia and China. The reality is that it is Russia and China that are under threat with the increasing belligerence of NATO, the West, and the EU,” Wight said. “Until the West and its ideologues in Europe view and treat Russia as an equal partner with the same rights and respect that they assert for themselves, the prospects for a lessening in tensions are likely to remain bleak”.