The truth about Russia’s new military doctrine

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Topol-M ground missile complex launcher.(RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
The new version of Russia’s military doctrine, approved by President Putin on December 26, 2014, has attracted increased attention in the Western media, especially, its provisions for the eventual use of nuclear weapons.

In the run-up to the publication of the text, there were gloomy predictions. Some expected that Russia was to subscribe to the notion of preventive nuclear strike. This provision did not find its way into the published document.

The doctrine does reflect changes that occurred in Russia’s foreign policy and security and defense postures in 2014. However, its core remains unchanged. The Russian military, including nuclear forces, remains a defensive tool which the country pledges to use only as a means of last resort. The doctrine is based on the fact that in the foreseeable future nuclear weapons will remain an important factor in preventing the emergence of nuclear wars and military conflicts with the use of conventional weapons (large-scale war, regional war). Prevention of a nuclear military conflict, as well as any other military conflict, is seen as the most important task. With regard to military scenarios, the Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against itself and (or) its allies, as well as in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons, when there is a threat to the very existence of the nation.

Some complain that the military doctrine, though giving details on the eventual use of weapons of mass destruction, does not contain provisions on nuclear disarmament. The answer is that Russia is ready to continue dialogue on further reductions of the nuclear arsenals. But this dialogue will be impossible without addressing issues such as the unrestrained build-up of global US missile defense, its concept of "global strike,” the stalled process of enforcing the CTBT, the reluctance of the US to abandon the possible deployment of weapons in outer space, and the increase in the quantity and quality of its conventional weapons. One cannot ignore the development of missile and nuclear programs in some countries such, their refusal to join the NPT as non-nuclear states. It is important that the process of nuclear disarmament seamlessly connects all states without exception. Without positive momentum on all these issues further significant progress in nuclear disarmament is unlikely.

However, there is a good background for further steps in this direction. One example is the successful implementation of the Russian-US New START Treaty, to be accomplished in 2018. During the past year, the parties to the Treaty held 18 inspections. The exchange of telemetric information on one Russian and one US launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and exchange of notifications have been carried out. Two sessions of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, which is set up to address practical issues of compliance with the Treaty, took place. This shows that, given political will on the side of our partners, Russia is ready to cooperate on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.