Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 188

Amid Russia’s escalating war in the Caucasus and the rush of pre-election political maneuverings in Moscow, Russian government and military leaders have moved with alacrity in recent weeks to finish work on several key national security documents. The two most important are a military doctrine and a concept of national security. A preliminary draft military doctrine was approved at a meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry leadership (the ministry’s collegium) on September 29. According to military sources, the document should be completed sometime in November, when it will be submitted to the Russian Security Council and to President Boris Yeltsin for consideration. Security Council members who met on October 5, meanwhile, approved a draft Concept of National Security which is soon to be submitted for approval to the country’s upper and lower houses of parliament. Texts of the two documents have not yet been published, though that of the draft military doctrine is expected to appear soon.

The national security document is the broader and, officially, at least, more important of the two. It encompasses a wide range of foreign and domestic policy issues deemed to be of fundamental importance to Russian security. The military doctrine deals more strictly with defense issues, though that too is interpreted broadly to include the activities of all Russia’s security and intelligence organizations, not merely those of the armed forces. The Russian government already has an existing national security concept as well as a military doctrine (or at least the rudiments of one), each developed in the post-Soviet period. In their drafting, however, each of those documents has been the subject of fierce political infighting, and neither has won general acceptance.

The sudden rush to revise, rewrite and otherwise revisit these important national security documents is directly related to recent developments in Russia and on the international stage. Russian officials point directly to NATO’s air campaign in Yugoslavia as the key external incentive for rethinking Russian security needs. Not surprisingly, they point to Russia’s own war in the Caucasus as the key internal impetus. Left unsaid is the importance of Russia’s upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, which appear to be driving Russian politicians of all stripes to stake out positions on key national security issues.

The Russian national security concept and the military doctrine are related documents, and are therefore being shaped by the same perceived threats and goals. With regard to foreign policy and Russia’s place in the world, those calculations and goals are familiar ones. Officials connected to the drafting of both documents speak of U.S. world domination–or, in Moscow’s jargon, the effort to maintain a “unipolar” world–as the most fundamental international threat to Russian security. Conversely, they interpret the promotion of “multipolarity” (the creation of regional power groupings) as the key goal of Russian diplomatic and military policy. U.S. efforts to dominate the world, which presumably includes its leadership of the NATO military alliance, are said to be aimed at constraining Russia’s actions on the world stage and preventing Moscow “from establishing its status as one of [those] influential centers of the multipolar world.”

The perceived internal threats to Russia’s security are interpreted in terms which have also become familiar–albeit more recently–in Russia’s diplomatic response to events in the Caucasus (and in Kosovo). They center on the battle against terrorism and what Moscow deems to be various forms–religious, ethnic, nationalist–of separatism and extremism. Internal and external threats to Russia’s security are seen to intersect on the issue of foreign support for groups identified as terrorist or separatist by Moscow. That point, obviously, reflects recent Russian charges that Chechen rebels are being supported by fundamentalist Islamic groups outside of Russia.

The draft Russian military doctrine, of which there is currently more information available, points also to a wide number of related but more specific threats. They apparently include everything from local and regional conflicts to the possibility of a large-scale attack, presumably from the West. The draft also mentions–as threats the escalation of regional arms races– the aggravation of informational warfare and the alleged weakening of international organizations such as the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Commentary on the draft military doctrine suggests that all of these threats are in, one way or another, increasing (Itar-Tass, October 5; Nezavisimaya gazeta, Izvestia, October 6; Russian agencies, October 7; Krasnaya zvezda, October 8).