Key West, February 10 – In a marked departure from Soviet precedents, Russia’s newly approved military doctrine specifies that Russia’s “opponent is not NATO or the United States in general” but rather the extension of the activities of the two into the region around Russia and the “adjoining seas,” according to a leading Moscow military commentator.
In an article in today’s “Novaya gazeta,” Pavel Felgengauer says that the new document, required by the 1993 Constitution and replacing the military doctrine Vladimir Putin approved in 2000, represents not only a major change in Moscow’s thinking but is “better” in other ways as well (www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2010/014/18.html).
Not only is it 20 percent shorter and thus easier to read than the 2000 version, Felgengauer notes, but it is far clearer. The Putin document was a “transitional” one and thus was not nearly as specific. Thus it talked about “the broadening of military blocs and unions” in ways that would “harm the military security of the Russian Federation and its allies.”
While everyone understood that these words referred to NATO “and not, let us say, to the United Arab Emirates,” the lack of specificity was “impermissible” in a document that was supposed to guide the country’s military planning. The new doctrinal statement in contrast is very clear about who the “opponent” is – and that “honesty” is its “main achievement.”
According to the new doctrine, Felgengauer writes, “the chief foreign danger” to Russia is clear. It consists of “the striving to give the force potential of NATO global functions, which are being realized in violation of the norms of international law and to extent the military infrastructure of the NATO countries to the borders of Russia, including by expanding the bloc.”
Such expansion of NATO, the doctrine says, also includes the placement of military contingents in states neighboring Russia, the development of anti-ballistic missile systems which affect Russia’s forces, and “territorial claims against the Russian Federation and its allies, [including] interference in their internal affairs.”
“Of course,” Felgengauer concedes, what the doctrine is talking about concerns “not only the US and NATO but also let us say the poor Georgians who have pretentions and attempt to interfere in the internal affairs ‘of Russia and its allies.’” But what matters are “not Georgian peasants,” but NATO and the US.
But not NATO and the US “in general” as was the case in Soviet times, when the Soviet generals “seriously prepared a strategic defense operation to block potential aggression by means of the preventive occupation of all of Western Europe up to the English Channel.” Instead, the opponents of Russia now are NATO and the US to the extent they approach Russia’s borders.
Under the new doctrine, “Moscow can cooperate fully with Brussels – and that very point is included in the remarkable [new] doctrine,” Felgengauer points out. That is because “Russia today is interested only in its own region” where it has “vitally important interests for which it is prepared to fight as with Georgia.”
This shift from the worldwide focus of Soviet times to a more limited regional one is partially concealed, Felgengauer argues, by comments in the new doctrine about the need “to be prepared not only for local or regional wars but also for ‘broader ones.’” But, he continues, such comments are “only a bow to tradition” rather than the core of what Moscow is now about.
Indeed, Felgengauer suggests, the new doctrine clearly suggests that “Russia will act in the post-Soviet space just in the same way that Iran wants to become – as a street hooligan in a bad neighborhood (as a regional superpower) with nuclear weapons so that guys from other regions will be afraid of it and not get involved.”
That is the real reason for the references in the new doctrine to maintaining Russia’s nuclear capacity and to opposing American anti-ballistic missile plans rather than something else, the Moscow analyst concludes. And he notes as well, that “there is nothing about ‘preventive nuclear strikes’” in the document, despite reporting to the contrary.
No one in Russia is interested in using nuclear weapons in a preventive or any other fashion, Felgengauer suggests. And that raises a point that the Iranian government might want to consider: maintaining a nuclear arsenal is extraordinarily expensive and does not gain those who possess it nearly as much as many might think.