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5 Feb, 2010 14:37

Russia’s new military doctrine approved

Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of any types of weapons of mass destruction against it or any of its allies. President Medvedev has approved Russia’s new military doctrine.

Along with the policy for nuclear deterrence the two documents outline Moscow’s approach to military conflicts and use of nuclear weapons through 2020.

The news came following a session of the National Security Council, where the Russian president announced his approval to other members. The texts of the documents were published on the Russian president's official website, Kremlin.ru, on Friday. The date of its publication, February 5, appeared to be quite symbolic – it coincided with the start of the 46th Munich Security Conference, which is focused on the future of global and European security.

"Today, on February 5, President Medvedev approved the Military Doctrine. First of all, I would like to say that in May of last year the president adopted the national security strategy up to 2020, where the national defense is determined as one of the strategic national priorities. We should continue to work on the strategy, and the Military Doctrine is one of the results of this work," Nikolay Patrushev, Security Council Secretary said.

"It is not fundamentally new. It developed on the Military Doctrine of 1993 and 2000. Besides, they also used new data concerning the situation in the country and in the world.

In order to objectively consider all the information, an interdepartmental group at the Security Council administration was formed. It was made up of the representatives of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, the Military Academy of Sciences, and other agencies. Then the first version of the Doctrine was drafted. Later, it was discussed and presented to federal authorities. As a result, after discussions in the Security Council administration and in the Security Council a new Military Doctrine was born, which the President approved today.

First of all, it was necessary to estimate the current situation in our country and in the world. The document had to be successive, not something absolutely new. It is obvious that we had to respect the UN charter, international law, and our international agreements on defense and security that are still in force. After the year 2000, significant changes have taken place. There should not be any contradictions to the current document and other basic documents. All these documents have been analyzed and finally we worked out this version of the Doctrine.

I am reading you the document which you have on your site: “Russia reserves the right to use nuclear arms in retaliation for any use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or it allies and in cases of using conventional weapons which pose a direct threat to the state.

We must say that we are not going to attack anyone, if there is a direct threat to the existence of our state – naturally, we have no other choice left. We will pursue a peaceful policy, but at the same time we will stand up for our national interests and defend ourselves using the means we have.

I have already said that we are not going to attack anyone, but we are not going to wait until we are attacked either. Given the kind of weapons some countries now possess, we simply will not have a chance to retaliate. Therefore, we will work to get information about the existing programs and we will work to ensure these attacks do not take place against Russia. The existence of nuclear weapons serves as a guarantor to deter our potential foes.

Our ultimate goal is that nuclear weapons are not spread, and would be better if they ceased to exist at all. But we have to take into account the current reality. Have other countries given up on nuclear weapons? No, they have not. Do they possess them? Yes, they do. Can they use them theoretically, if they possess them? Yes, they can. Therefore, I believe we shouldn’t be running in front of everybody to say no and pose a threat to the state, national interests and our citizens.

First of all, we have allied relations with Belarus. Moreover, we have certain duties in the CSTO.

We have taken into consideration the changes which took place in the world. These changes are really dramatic. In 1993, we had a certain state of affairs in the world. In 2000, that state of affairs was absolutely different, and today we are in another situation. Therefore, we need to bear in mind the changes we have passed through.

The Doctrine is not a dogma, it can be amended if necessary, and such amendments will be required in the future."

Use of nuclear weapons

Earlier, several officials involved in the creation of Russia’s new military doctrine said it would provide more liberties in terms of the use of nuclear weapons. Stronger reliance on nuclear deterrence is to compensate for the downsizing of the Russian armed forces. The military reduction, however, is part of a major military reform, which is aimed at making the army better equipped to meet modern challenges.

Experts’ opinion:

Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies:

“In fact the new doctrine – especially in terms of use of nuclear weapons – is even milder than the previous one approved back in 1993. Back then Russia abandoned the Soviet principle not to use nuclear weapons first and stated it could be the first to use it in case of some critical threat to its national security. Now the new doctrine says “in response to the use of any types of weapons of mass destruction,” which is already a precondition that hadn’t existed before. We also understand that both chemical and biological types of weapons are almost never used nowadays, so it’s practically about nuclear attack only. I would even regard that softened wording as a concession to the international community.”

Sergey Utkin, Research Fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations:

“I think the doctrine itself is partly a PR stand. People issue these sorts of documents for the general public to read them. It’s obviously not for the military staff and I hope it won’t affect relations with the West, because it is anti-Western to a certain extent. I also hope that most of the Western countries, NATO countries, will perceive it more as rhetoric.”

Russia’s biggest military threats

“Despite the decrease in the possibility of unleashing a large-scale aggression using conventional arms and nuclear weapons against the Russian Federation, military threats to the Russian Federation have increased in a number of areas,” reads the document.

According to the new doctrine, Russia views the expansion of NATO as a primary threat to its security, as well as part of a tendency to give NATO global security functions.

Another threat mentioned is the deployment of the strategic missile defense system that undermines international stability and violates the established balance of forces.

Arms deployment in space and the creation of new high-precision conventional weapons are also listed as threats in the doctrine.

Experts’ opinion:

Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies:

“First of all, we never know how the world will look like in 10 years. Secondly, even now there are several states that claim part of Russia’s territory to be their national territory – for instance, Japan. Also, the border hasn’t been demarked with some of Russia’s neighbors, so we cannot exclude that some international alliance can use armed forces against Russia and it will have to defend itself.”

Alexander Nikitin, Director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Security of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations:

“There are indeed at least a few areas where the potential dangers for Russia have increased. First of all it’s clearly the territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the past few years the control of the Kabul government over the regions of the country dramatically decreased. So there are probabilities of expansion of various military threats from those uncontrolled provinces toward the north of Central Asia, where Russia created a military alliance with five former Soviet states. No wonder that the last exercises of the Collective Security Treaty Organization were focused on prevention of interference by unauthorized armed groups and gangs from the territories of nearby Islamic states into the territory of Central Asia.

We should also understand that the appearance of nuclear weapons in the hands of such states as Pakistan and North Korea, with their unpredictable policies, creates new type of threat in comparison to the times of the Cold War.”

Russia’s possible response

The new doctrine stipulates Russia's right to use its armed forces beyond its borders “for the purpose of the protection of the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens, as well as the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Threats to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and to its constitutional order are also mentioned as potential tasks for the military to deal with.

Experts’ opinion:

Political analyst Vladimir Kozin:

“The updated Russian doctrine, enacted on February 5, lacks the clause on first use of nuclear weapons. There are no clauses concerning preemptive strike and preventive strike in the Russian doctrine. And there are no linkages with using weapons in space and there are no clauses on expanding ballistic missile defense. It’s a striking difference between the US and Russian military doctrines.”

Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies:

“I believe nobody should be surprised about those response measures. The US and France openly reserve their right to protect their citizens abroad, so why shouldn’t Russia do the same? I believe it’s a good sign anyway that we act honestly and publicly, openly stating our rights before we need to implement them, and not when it comes to action.”

Alexander Nikitin, Director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Security of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations:

“Actually, most countries, including most former Soviet states, as well as most European and Asian states – all of them follow the regular practice of the UN, that military forces can be used abroad under certain conditions. Even the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force outside national borders, has two exceptions. The first exception is Article 51, which allows for the use of military forces for self-defense – that was exactly how Americans explained the start of their operation in Afghanistan back in 2001; the second case is Chapter 7 of the UN charter, where the use of force can be used collectively by a group of nations in the case of clear and present danger to international security caused by any state or any political regime. That was the case with Iraq, which Russia had supported. So the principle is not new at all, and even loyal to the UN Charter, as you can see. Besides, there is a common principle in international law that a country can use all means, including military ones, in case its citizens are attacked somewhere abroad. This is exactly the case with the American operation in Grenada in 1983, with numerous operations to free diplomats taken hostage in various embassies, and finally with Russia’s military involvement in South Ossetia in August last year.