Find a Security Clearance Job!


Military Doctrine - 2010

As part of the general updating of the Russian basic documents in the realm of national security and foreign policy, on 05 February 2010 President Dmitry Medvedev approved a new Russian Military Doctrine, actualized with regard for the provisions of the earlier endorsed National Security Strategy and Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation. At the same time President Medvedev also endorsed the unpublished document "Basic Principles of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence Up to 2020."

The new military doctrine, divided into four parts, is similar to the 2000 military doctrine. In the new military doctrine, NATO enlargement and activities around the world are specifically named as military dangers to Russia that could later become military threats. The new military doctrine, however, also calls for greater security cooperation with NATO and other international organizations.

The language on the use of nuclear weapons differs little from the 2000 version, with Russia reserving the right to launch a nuclear first strike "when the very existence of the state is under threat." The new military doctrine, however, recognizes that most military conflicts Russia is likely to face in the future will be small, conventional wars. The doctrine proposed the modernization of Russia's conventional forces and reaffirms Russia's ties to the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The document on nuclear deterrence most likely spells out procedures for Russia to use its nuclear weapons. GOR officials argued that Russia has no plans to attack other states, but Russia nevertheless needed its nuclear deterrent. They also argued NATO should take Russia's concerns into account. Experts emphasized that the new military doctrine contained no ground-breaking provisions, and reflects divisions in the GOR on what Russia's security policy should be.

The content of the document was brought into conformity with the present-day realities of the transitional stage of world development in the process of the formation of a new, polycentric international system and is fully consistent with the basic principles of Russian foreign policy and with our line on reinforcing the collective and legal elements in world affairs.

In the immediate aftermath of President Dmitry Medvedev signing the new Russian military doctrine most attention focused on the fact that a first preemptive nuclear strike was not mentioned in the document and on the attention given to NATO as the chief source of danger to the security of the Russian Federation. Comments by NATOs leadership that the doctrine was not a realistic portrayal of NATO were reported by the press, but there was no strong criticism of that aspect of the doctrine. Instead, Russian authors drew attention to the gap between Russia's conventional military capabilities vis-a-vis NATO and its reliance on nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov drew the attention of NATO secretary-general Rasmussen to the wording of Russia's military doctrine which says that the security risks are caused not by NATO itself but by the "desire to give the military potential of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization global functions carried out in violation of the standards of international law, to move the military infrastructure of NATO member states to Russia's borders including by expanding the bloc". The doctrine also speaks about the risks due to "developing and deploying strategic missile defence systems which undermine global stability and violate the present balance of forces in the nuclear missile sphere, and also the militarization of outer space, the deployment of strategic non-nuclear systems of high precision weapons".

Most notable in the military doctrine is that it explicitly names NATO's enlargement and its "desire to endow (its) force potential with global functions carried out in violation of the norms of international law" as Russia's "main external military danger," which could later become a "military threat." Other military dangers to Russia (and presumably posed by NATO) include the deployment of missile defense (MD) systems, deployment of foreign troops in states neighboring Russia, and territorial claims against Russia and its allies (presumably a reference to Georgia's claims to South Ossetia and Abkhazia).

Contrary to predictions by Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev and others, the new military doctrine does not allow for preemptive nuclear strikes (including in local conflicts). Instead, it downplays and restricts the role of nuclear weapons in Russia's security policy. In contrast to the previous Russian military doctrine, published in 2000, which said Russia could resort to nuclear weapons "in situations critical for national security," the new military doctrine allows their use when "the very existence of the state is under threat," whether the threat is conventional or nuclear. Under the new military doctrine, as in the previous version, Russia reserves the right to conduct the first nuclear strike in a conflict. Russia also intends to modernize its nuclear triad. The Russian President is responsible for deciding when to use nuclear weapons.

Despite all the attention paid to Russia's nuclear deterrent, Sections II.13-15 of the new military doctrine recognized that modern conflicts will be small, localized, hard to predict, and conventional. The new doctrine calls for Russia to have more mobile forces equipped with high-tech conventional weapons. The new military doctrine also states that Russia considers an attack on any of its Collective Security Treat Organization (CSTO) allies an attack on all CSTO members.

The main aim of the GOR's nuclear deterrence strategy are the prevention of aggression against Russia and the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The "Basic Principles of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence Up to 2020" builds upon the military doctrine to define the GOR's position regarding nuclear deterrence and its role in Russia's national security. The document defines the conditions under which Russia may use nuclear weapons.

Editor-In-Chief of the magazine National Defense Colonel Igor Korotchenko commented that, because of the short amount of time Russia would have to react to a nuclear attack, "the options for responses from Russian in each specific instance need to be determined in advance and regulated in detail." He speculated that these provisions are probably contained in the document.

Commenting on the new military doctrine, Patrushev said that Russia's military policies were aimed at avoiding an arms race and military conflicts, but added military policy must address the real threats Russia faces. He argued that large-scale wars had become less likely, but smaller conflicts could break out in many regions of the world. Patrushev added that Russia had no plans to attack other states, but still needed nuclear weapons as a deterrent, especially because other states possessed nuclear weapons. He also expressed concerns that NATO enlargement posed a danger to Russian security.

DPM Sergey Ivanov and Federation Council Defense and Security Committee Chair Viktor Ozerov commented that that new military doctrine differs little from the 2000 military doctrine "in terms of hypothetical use of nuclear weapons by Russia." DPM Ivanov added that Russian generals do not wish to use nuclear weapons against any state. FM Lavrov agreed with the military doctrine's provision that NATO's eastward enlargement was unacceptable to Russia.

The Security Council's Deputy Secretary Yuriy Baluyevskiy stated that no state that possesses nuclear weapons has completely ruled out their use. Russia therefore "needs to guarantee its consistent democratic development" by maintaining its nuclear deterrent. Duma International Relations Committee Chair Konstantin Kosachev commented that, if NATO wanted better relations with Russia, then it should "change its attitude" and take Russia's concerns regarding NATO enlargement into account.

Deputy Editor-In-Chief of Yezhednevniy Zhurnal Aleksandr Golts said the new military doctrine did not contain much that was different from the 2000 military doctrine. He characterized the new military doctrine as a "practically harmless" document that "was the result of bureaucratic infighting." He posited that various factions of the GOR could not agree on what Russia's" military goals should be, and so a document of "15 pages filled with such revelations as the Volga River flowed into the Caspian Sea" was produced.

References to NATO in the new military doctrine were included so that conservative elements in the GOR could express their displeasure with the West. Likewise, the unpublished "Basic Principles of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence Up to 2020" was most likely issued as a sort of face-saving document for Patrushev, whose public predictions that the new military doctrine would allow for preemptive nuclear strikes did not come true.

Golts argued that the pace and direction of Russia's military reforms would not change. He said that once military reforms were completed, Russia would have 87 infantry brigades and 100 air force squadrons; not enough to challenge NATO. The only conceivable major military challenge to Russia would come from China, he said, but Russia could not include this in the military doctrine because China and Russia were both members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. At any rate, Russia would most likely resort to tactical nuclear weapons in a war with China, he argued.

Other experts agreed, saying the new military doctrine was an "exercise in public relations" designed to appease various factions of the Russian government. The daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets agreed, arguing that the West should not take the new military doctrine's concerns about NATO too seriously. "Political slogans are one thing, and life is another," it stated.

Head of the Center for International Security at the Institute of World Economics and International Relations Aleksey Arbatov argued that language in the new military doctrine regarding nuclear weapons was mild. He said that despite the fact that Russia reserved the right to carry out a nuclear strike first, the bar has been raised so high that it could be called a peace doctrine.

References to the NATO "danger," added most likely as a sop to the security services, do not represent a more aggressive stance vis-a-vis the West, but rather a reiteration of complaints we have heard before. References to more cooperation with NATO, as well as acknowledgement that conflicts in the future will most likely require a mobile, high-tech army to fight, show that MinDef Serdyukov's military reforms are not in danger of cancellation. The attempt to please all constituencies has resulted in a military doctrine that is less a doctrine than a statement of intentions and goals. Russia's new military doctrine shows that, even in Russia, all politics is local.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 28-12-2015 17:35:27 ZULU