Protecting the Motherland: Russia’s Counter–Color Revolution Military Doctrine

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 206

Former Chief of the General Staff and retired Army-General Yuri Baluyevskiy. (Source:

President Vladimir Putin’s order to revise Russia’s 2010 Military Doctrine by the end of this year prompted speculation in the Russian media and raised varying opinions about the revision process’s possible motives and its timing. It appears, according to defense specialists close to the process, that it will not include any major change in Russian nuclear policy and is not directly driven by the Ukraine crisis. Moreover, according to Army-General (retired) Yury Baluyevskiy, the former chief of the General Staff (CGS) and member of the Security Council during the drafting of the 2010 Military Doctrine, the revisions will enshrine non-nuclear deterrence and counter–color revolution strategies into the doctrine (see EDM, October 28, September 9).

In the formulation of Russian Military Doctrine, General Baluyevskiy remains a highly influential individual. His role, albeit an informal one, is particularly important to understand in order to contextualize the current revisions to the 2010 version of this document. Putin appointed Baluyevskiy as the CGS in 2004, and he remained in the post until June 2008; he was replaced just prior to the August 2008 Russia-Georgia War. As a career officer, Baluyevskiy gained a reputation for being a conservative while also prone to controversy; he was part of a group of retired officers involved in a 2012 YouTube documentary about the Russia-Georgia War, in which he openly criticized President Dmitry Medvedev for indecisiveness in the early stages of the conflict. Baluyevskiy served on the Security Council from June 2008 until January 2012, when he retired (,, accessed on November 17).

Since Putin ordered the revisions to the existing Military Doctrine in September 2014, Baluyevskiy’s interviews and articles have downplayed the potential for the revised doctrine to signal shifts in Russian nuclear policy. And his public remarks have sought to quash speculation that it might prove to be an entirely new doctrine. His latest and most detailed expression of his views on this process are revealing, and also mark his designation as an advisor to the chief of the Interior Forces (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, November 12).

Baluyevskiy also sheds light on how the Russian security elite sees the crisis in Ukraine, the West’s response, and the extent to which the defense of the Motherland is moving center stage in doctrine and strategic planning. After explaining that the working group formed under the Security Council is tasked with revising and clarifying parts of the existing doctrine, rather than conducting a re-write of the document, Baluyevskiy offers an overview of the historical development of Russian Military Doctrine since the early 1990s. Furthermore, he goes into the changes in the strategic environment and a robust defense of the content of the 2010 Military Doctrine (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, November 12).

He then explains that although “nuclear deterrence” will remain the cornerstone of Russian security strategy for some time to come, the possession of nuclear weapons in itself cannot guarantee the security of the state. Like others have argued, the author reminds his readers that the possession of nuclear weapons had not prevented the collapse of the Soviet Union: soft power proved stronger. Therefore, Baluyevskiy advocates a “system of non-nuclear deterrence,” by which he envisages a “complex of foreign policy, scientific research and military-technical measures,” to demonstrate deterrence. He elaborates this as follows:

· first, by including the non-nuclear deterrence system and declaring its doctrinal provisions in the Military Doctrine, which will provide legal legitimacy;

· second, by demonstrating the technical feasibility of the non-nuclear deterrence system through the conduct of corresponding tests and exercises with sufficiently broad information support;

· third, by elevating the role of general-purpose forces, which are the basis of the non-nuclear deterrence system (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, November 12).

Baluyevskiy refers to the United States monitoring the military-political situation in regions of the world deemed to be in its national interests, and using a “strategy of indirect action,” which represents a comprehensive approach—with diplomatic, economic and informational aspects. Here he turns to the effectiveness of “non-violent” actions in the color revolution model and applies this to Ukraine in the fall of 2013 and the departure of the legitimate government in February 2014: “In this connection, the potential likelihood remains of employment of transnational and illegal [irregular] armed force elements for the purpose of a violent change in the existing state system and disruption of the state’s territorial integrity; and such a development of events cannot be excluded for Russia, as well, in the foreseeable future. The potential danger of an abrupt exacerbation of domestic problems with a subsequent escalation to the level of internal armed conflict is a real threat to our country’s stability and territorial integrity for the mid-term outlook. This, too, must be reflected in an updated Russian Military Doctrine” (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, November 12).

“Information warfare with a mass effect on the awareness of the population of individual countries and of the world public with the use of cyber weapons for suppressing not just military command-and-control and communications systems already has become reality and an integral part of all armed conflicts,” Baluyevskiy observes (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, November 12). In other words, as the top brass presenters during the Moscow Security Conference in May 2014 consistently stressed, “color revolution” may be perceived as a potential threat to the Russian state. The Russian reading of the Euromaidan mass protests in Ukraine earlier this year, consequently, must be understood in this context—viewing these events as an illegal revolution sweeping the legitimate government from power and lacking widespread popular support.

While Russia has clearly conducted an information campaign against Kyiv, it is also asserted by Russian defense specialists that the West is currently engaged in information operations against Russia. This perception is illustrated by Vasily Burenok, the president of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, who argues that the aim of such a campaign is to “discredit” the Russian leadership and to destroy it (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, November 12; Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, November 11).

These insights offered by leading Russian defense specialists indicate that the risk of color revolutions, however remote, is a key driver in preparing the revisions to the Military Doctrine. Indeed, the recent announcement that by December 1 the new Defense Management Center (NTsUO) will be fully operational, places a powerful anti–color revolution tool at the Kremlin’s disposal. These developments suggest that President Putin is ensuring that a popular or marginal revolt against him never succeeds in removing the Russian leader from office (see EDM, November 4;, October 28).