Publication: Prism Volume: 2 Issue: 13

A New Approach to National Security

By Aleksandr Vladimirov and Aleksandr Zhilin

The collapse of the USSR and the disappearance of the Warsaw Pacthave forced Russia to look for new forms, structures, and approacheswhich would allow her to reliably guarantee her national security.But this search has been awkward, like the shuffling gait of ablind man, who has only a vague idea of where he is and wherehe is going. One gets the impression that the main goal of Russia’snational security policy today is to prevent NATO expansion. Butit is clear that Moscow needs to find another way, to show morepolitical common sense, in its analysis of the possible ways thatRussia could integrate into the world community.

Where do the Threats Come From?

The radical change in the geopolitical situation in the worldbrought about by the collapse of the USSR and the disintegrationof the so-called "socialist camp" dramatically changedthe way that military threats and threats to global security areassessed. With the substantial reduction in the risk of globalnuclear conflict and world war, a whole new spectrum of threatsto the world’s military and political stability have appeared.

These threats include military and political conflicts provokedby the "new nationalism," which has an ethno-religiousand racial character; conflicts which arise out of territorialdisputes and claims; conflicts stemming from socio-economic causes,and regional demographic crises, international terrorism, internationalpiracy on the high seas, and the increase in activity of internationalcriminal organizations trading in drugs, people, human organs,arms, radioactive materials, etc.

It seems that the world community was not prepared, either politically,economically, intellectually, mentally, psychologically, or morally,for these threats. At the very least, there has as yet been noperceptible, adequate, and effective reaction to these threats.It is alarming that there is not yet any systematic framework,from which a conception of national (for each individual country)and international security could be built, which takes into accountthe changes which have taken place in the world.

It is obvious that the "Islamic factor," growing beforeour eyes, the policies of China, a united Germany, and Russia,and the intensity of America’s efforts to "implant"democracy and the free market throughout the rest of the world(with an eye, first of all, towards its own national interests),all have to be taken into account in considering the politicalaspects of international security in the 21st century.

Russia’s National Defense

Recently it seems that the Kremlin has begun to pay more attentionto national defense, explaining that the element of force hasnot disappeared completely from international relations. In theKremlin, the illusion that world stability would come automaticallyafter the disappearance of world socialism is melting away. Thereis now more understanding that politics and life in the real worldmean life in a state of permanent overt or covert international,regional, and ethnic conflict, in which the strongest either win,or at any rate, lose the least. As a rule, they lose the leastbecause they possess a larger, and better assortment of meansto achieve their national interests, which means that their peopleshave a better chance to survive. This leads to the conclusionthat military force, just as before, remains a weighty argumentin modern political life. The Russian "hawks" are increasingtheir pressure on the government and the president radically toreexamine the budget in favor of military-industrial complex andthe army, trying, once again, to transform Russia into the world’s"scarecrow" — half-starved, but armed to the teeth.

But at the same time, few have recognized that Russia’s nationaldefense must correspond with its tasks, place, role, and capabilitiesin the modern world. It must pose tasks which are within the realmof possibility, while not being destructive to the country. Itmust preserve its government’s democratic foundations, while atthe same time, ensuring the defense of Russia’s national interests.Otherwise, in the 21st century, Russia will either turn into aninternational monster or significantly lose its weight and authority,both in Europe and throughout the world.

It is Time to Renounce Soviet Primitivism

Unfortunately, there are few people in the Kremlin, the Ministryof Foreign Affairs, or the Ministry of Defense, able to understandthat Russia needs new, more civilized, and more efficient waysto create its own national security system.

Russia’s national security, like that of any other civilized statein the modern world, cannot be achieved by its own efforts alone.Real security can be built only on the basis of equal partnershipwith other countries.

Russia’s national security can be achieved only if its own nationalinterests are harmonized with those of other powers, and mostof all, with the interests of the states which are regional leaders.And it must be achieved within the existing system of law, internationalrelations, and the stability of the borders currently acceptedby the world community.

Russia’s national security can be achieved only with her activeand full-fledged participation in the system of internationalorganizations on security and cooperation, and only in cooperationwith its neighbor states, both within the former Soviet Unionand outside it. One of the main prerequisites for this is thatRussia remain internally stable and that it continue along a democraticpath.

What Would Benefit Russia?

The reasonable transformation of the existing world security system(the UN) and the formation of full-fledged regional security systemsin Europe, the CIS, and the Asia-Pacific region as regional subsystemsof the UN, with the full-fledged participation of Russia, is inRussia’s national interests.

Russia’s national defense, and the strategic direction of itsdevelopment, should ensure that armed confrontations with otherstates be avoided through mutual arms reduction, the establishmentof partnership and alliance relations between states and theirarmed forces through the treaty process, the definition and mutuallimitation of zones of responsibility and military activity, andthe carrying out of joint scientific, peacekeeping, and patrollingmissions.

At the same time, Russia must maintain her strategic deterrencepotential at a level sufficient to deliver a guaranteed and sufficientretaliatory blow, without being perceived as a direct militarythreat, especially to neighboring countries or countries withwhom Russia has signed military and political cooperation agreements.

The external function of Russia’s armed forces is to guaranteethe country’s sovereignty and independence, which should be broughtabout through their integration into the regional security systemsof Europe, the CIS, and the Asia-Pacific region, and also by makingsure that they are strong enough to perform these tasks independently,if need be.

The internal function of Russia’s armed forces is to guaranteeinternal stability and a constitutional order. This should beachieved through their having an unquestioned prestige in society,based on the population’s understanding of the need for, and theimportance of, the tasks performed by the armed forces, and ontheir being under society’s rigid control.

With Whom Should Russia Make Friends?

Russia, as a large Eurasian power, has deep historical interestsand direct vital national interests in Europe, Asia, the Far East,and the Pacific region. This means that Russia must clearly defineits main strategic partners in these theaters in order to avoidmaking strategic enemies there. It is obvious that in Europe –this means Germany, in Asia — Iran and India, in the Far East– China, and in the Pacific region — the U.S.

Moreover, Russia has a direct interest in preventing the nationswhich are leaders in these regions, such as Germany, Turkey, Iran,China, and Japan, from becoming regional superpowers, able andwilling to dictate their own terms unilaterally. This means thatall relations with these states should be conducted in such away as to harmonize the national interests of Russia with thoseof these states, with the view to finding a common interest. Thisshould become Russia’s basic principle and an unconditional priorityin conducting her foreign policy.

At the same time, a balance of interests and forces in Eurasiamust be formed, not only without ignoring Russia’s interests,but with Russia’s participation. This balance should not be confrontationalin nature.

The harmonization of mutual interests should be achieved by seekingthe maximum number of points on which interests coincide and removingnegative factors through political means. It is built step bystep, on the basis of the reasonable expansion and developmentof bilateral relations. In this way, it is possible to build solidrelations with each of the world’s leading states.

Without a doubt, Russia must reconcile herself to the fact thatthe U.S., at the present time, is the unquestioned world economic,military, and political leader, and must take a calm view, andnot suffer from any inferiority complex over the U.S.’s desireto make its presence felt in various regions in the world. Moreover,Russia can, and ought to use this presence in its own interests,through participation in joint actions. In other words, Russiaought to have stable, strategic, partnership relations with theU.S. as the unquestioned world leader. These relations shouldhave a special status, and should be recognized, not only by Washington,but by the world community as well. The U.S. itself should helpRussia in this, since friendship with Russia is in its own interestsas well. Russia must guarantee the security of its communicationsand borders, and free access to the seas, trans-European and trans-Asiancommunications on the territory of the CIS, as the main elementof its national security, including maintaining a military presencein potential hot spots on the territory of the Commonwealth ofIndependent States. Russia’s national security strategy must operatein the situations and structures formed in the new geo-economicsystem of coordinates, and not on the plane of traditional foreignpolicy. This is possible, in principle, only within the frameworkof an indirect action strategy.

An Indirect Action Strategy

Obviously, Russia can only restore its influence and prestigein the world under new conditions and at another level if it followsa non-confrontational and firmly-democratic course of domesticeconomic and political modernization, using a strategy of indirectaction in its dealings with the rest of the world.

An indirect action strategy involves thwarting negative disturbanceswhich stand in the way of Russia’s national interests and buildingan environment inside the country in which civilized life canthrive. To speak in metaphorical terms, this is like forging achain of direct and indirect causes leading to a future in whichforce, or other foreign policy, economic, or military actions,need not be applied.

An indirect action strategy presupposes a search for new approachesfor Russia to cooperation, both within and outside the country,at all levels and spheres of government activity.

In its foreign policy aspect, it means the fostering of friendlysurroundings for Russia, through a policy of support for the Russiandiaspora, most of all in the countries of the former USSR andactions to form an integrated union of the CIS member states,and to prevent their being reoriented into other countries’ spheresof influence. What is involved is a strategy of small deeds andmajor initiatives: including the development of long-term internationalprograms and projects capable of attracting former USSR statesand involving them in projects which are good for Russia’s developmentand the transformation of existing international and regionalsecurity organizations, through the gradual acquisition of full-fledgedmembership for Russia.

This strategy presupposes that Moscow will develop major foreignpolicy initiatives on several fronts simultaneously:

The UN

The crisis of the UN as the world’s security system has manifesteditself in an inefficient decision-making process, and the ineffectiveimplementation of decisions, the decline of the UN Security Counciland the UN staff’s double standard in favor of strong states.Raising the prestige and capabilities of the UN through structuraland statutory changes and increasing the powers of the SecurityCouncil could become the main goals of a much needed reform effort.A new conception of the image, structure and fundamental prioritiesof the UN in the 21st century must be worked out.

This presupposes, for example, that Europe and the CIS be offeredthe status of UN regional subsystems, with their regional securitycouncils and regional force structures. Creating regional securitysubsystems under the aegis of the UN, first of all in Europe –on the basis of the OSCE and the CIS — including the creationof force structures, that would be based on NATO and the CIS’scollective security system, integrating both military-politicalalliances into a single collective security system and reducingthe chances of confrontation between them.

In the medium-term, it seems reasonable that an Asia-Pacific securitysystem be created, with its military component initially to beformed on the basis of the armed forces of the U.S., Russia, Japan,and China. With time, all these regional collective security systemscould be integrated into a unified Euro-Asia-Pacific CollectiveSecurity System. The active involvement of the U.S. and Russia,as great nuclear powers, in these regional systems, and later,in the Unified Collective Security System will make these systemswork more efficiently and eliminate possible collisions and mutualsuspicion concerning unfriendly or aggressive inclinations ofother participants in the system.


An analysis of relations between Russia and NATO shows that thedecision on expanding NATO has already been made, and that thebloc’s leadership will not change their minds. Virtually all thepost-Soviet countries, with the exception of Russia, Belarus,and, at least for now, Ukraine, have rushed to seek NATO membership,which will increase the potential of this structure, born in thedays of the Cold War. All of Russia’s political parties and statepower structures actively oppose NATO expansion, and its steadyprogress towards the borders of the Moscow Military District.Russia has no legal means of stopping NATO’s eastward expansion.This means that Moscow has to work out some countermeasures. Now,there is talk that, if NATO expands, a military bloc of the formerSoviet republics will be formed within the framework of the CIS.

But there is a second option as well. Moscow could use the processof NATO expansion in the interests of increasing her own nationalsecurity. The transformation of NATO into a structure posing nothreat to Russia is possible only if Russia enters NATO as a full-fledgedpartner, having a special exclusive status, with the later integrationof NATO and the CIS Collective Security System into a single EurasianSecurity System. In connection with this, Russia can, and oughtto, in the spirit of the "indirect action strategy,"change the sign and vector of NATO expansion. By consistentlyand actively establishing itself in NATO’s political and militarystructures, by using its influence in them and promoting her alliesinto them, Russia could transform the process of the bloc’s eastwardexpansion into a process of the westward expansion of the CISCollective Security System (its European part, for the time being).

This path appears more rational, since it will fundamentally eliminatethe confrontational character of the NATO expansion process andchange Russia from a potential adversary to a real ally of theNorth Atlantic bloc.

Translated by Aleksandr Kondorsky