Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 2

Moscow’s own hard line vis-a-vis the West over Chechnya was also reflected more broadly in a key national security document approved by Putin on January 6. Russia’s so-called “concept of national security” is an overarching outline of the country’s security needs and is intended both to orient Russian policy-makers in the post-Cold War environment and to shape other key national security documents and policies. The document replaces a 1997 version of the concept and is expected to be followed soon by the approval and publication of another important national security document–Russia’s military doctrine.

The national security concept published this month offered little which was new or unexpected, but did serve both to formalize Russia’s more confrontational posture toward the West and to underscore Putin’s involvement in Russian national security affairs. The new document makes the creation of a “multipolar” world order (one in which international authority is distributed among a number of regional power groupings) the primary goal of Russian foreign and security policy, and depicts alleged U.S. and NATO efforts to dominate the world as the gravest threat to Russia’s security. The document also outlines a wide array of internal threats to Russia’s security, including economic weakness, organized crime, terrorism and separatist movements. Russian officials have suggested that conceptualization of the main external and internal threats to Russia were driven, respectively, by NATO’s 1999 air war against Yugoslavia and Russia’s current conflict in the Caucasus.

Those positions, of course, merely restate the broader rhetoric of confrontation which has been voiced with numbing regularity by Russian officials in recent months. But the new security concept also revises Russian nuclear doctrine by broadening the conditions under which Moscow might resort to the use of nuclear weapons. The new policy reflects the continuing weakness of Russia’s conventional forces and was dismissed as insignificant by U.S. officials and a number of arms control experts. But it does reflect rising tensions between Russia and the West and suggests that Moscow’s already decaying and over-stressed nuclear forces could be subject to additional demands.