Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 27

The Russian constitution requires the country to have a military doctrine. President Vladimir Putin signed the present doctrine in April 2000, after his election, but before his inauguration, making him legally still acting president (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, April 28, 2000). In January 2000, two weeks after President Boris Yeltsin had resigned, Putin also signed a national security concept (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, January 14, 2000). Putin authorized both documents, but the texts were prepared under Yeltsin’s watch. Since then the Putin administration failed to produce any new comprehensive defense or national security policy.

The current documents stipulate that Russia does not have enemies, but faces threats — potentially from all directions — and must prepare to mobilize a multimillion mass army to fight locally, regionally, and in a “global” or “large-scale” war with the United States and its allies. Russia must prepare to face an “aerospace assault,” along the lines of the U.S. air offensives in Iraq in 1991 and in Yugoslavia in 1999. The United States, NATO, Japan, China, Iran are named “partners,” but also seen as potential adversaries. Internal and international terrorism poses an additional threat.

The Soviet principle of perimeter defense against the rest of the world has survived the collapse of the USSR. The present national security and defense guidelines were written by bureaucrats who acted in the belief that it is safer to add up all possible threats than to exclude some and be accused of negligence or even treason. Under Yeltsin, the guidelines were useless for the day-to-day defense, foreign policy, and security decision-making, as they were devoid of any comprehension of Russia’s actual capabilities and resources. Yuri Baturin, a presidential aide on defense and national security during the 1990s, told me that Yeltsin had tentatively approved the “badly composed National Security Concept only with the understanding that it will immediately be fully rewritten.” Today that rewriting is still pending.

However, the essential need to adapt the ineffective security and defense infrastructure Russia inherited from the USSR soon became self-evident and overwhelming. Last May in his annual address to parliament, Putin recalled the shock he experienced in 1999, when, as prime minister, he was charged with planning the invasion of Chechnya: “The Chief of the General Staff reported that the Army could field only 55,000 men and even they had to be scraped up from all over the country. We had an armed force of 1,400,000 men, but there was no one ready to fight. We sent untrained boys to battle. I’ll never forget it. We must ensure this will never be repeated” (, May 10, 2006.)

Under Putin, there have been many announcements that new, official defense and national security documents are being prepared and will be soon approved. In 2004 the secretary of the Security Council, former foreign minister Igor Ivanov, announced, “A new National Security Concept is being developed.” Ivanov implied that the new concept is needed “to meet 21st century challenges” (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, October 1, 2004). The concept was never realized.

In October 2003, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov presented a half-baked prototype military doctrine known in the West as the “White Paper.” The style of Ivanov’s presentation was modern and catchy, but the text was contradictory. For example, Ivanov declared NATO to be both a close partner and a potential enemy. Ivanov stated that airpower would be decisive in future armed conflicts, but, one section later, “Too much reliance on air power is detrimental.” In another section, Ivanov stressed the need to acquire long-range modern precision weapons to win battles of the future and, several lines later, that Russian troops should prepare to fight hand-to-hand pitched battles to win wars. Ivanov announced that Russia would prepare Special Forces equipped with modern weapons to prevail in anti-guerrilla and anti-terrorist campaigns and be prepared to fight two wars at the same time, while keeping a mass conscript army (, October 2, 2003).

Ivanov’s White Paper was never officially approved, and the only serious follow up came last month. In January a special meeting of Russia’s Academy of Military Sciences discussed a new military doctrine. Legally the Academy is an independent think tank, but its connections with the Defense Ministry are strong and Russia’s military chiefs attended to make keynote speeches (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, February 3).

Still, there was little new in the presentations. Based on the comments of General Alexander Rukshin, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff, the old Soviet concept of perimeter defense, of “creating self-sufficient military groupings on all strategic directions,” is still alive, as is the stated intention to retain the resources to mobilize a mass multimillion-strong army. “All nukes of all other nations in the world are in essence aimed at Russia,” declared General Makhmut Gareyev, the president of the Academy. The military chiefs all demanded a major increase in defense spending to meet all the threats. Gareyev called for a major concentration of national resources, comparable with the Soviet nuclear arms program under Josef Stalin, to create modern weapons to rearm the military.

In 2007, the Russian defense budget will increase 23% and reach 860 billion rubles ($35 billion) (RIA-Novosti, January 31). The top brass want much more, and they are inflating threats to achieve the goal. But whether they will get what they want and a new military doctrine before the 2008 presidential elections remains an open question.