Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 25

Russia’s Ominous New Military Doctrine

by Stanislav Lunev

Last August, the last Russian military units left Germany tothe strains of cheerful marches played by a military band, directed,at times, by the president of the Russian Federation himself. These were the last Russian military formations officially deployedon foreign territory of the so-called "far-abroad,"the term used nowadays in Russia to refer to foreign states otherthan those which were formerly Soviet republics.

This withdrawal, which was carried out on the basis of internationalagreements concluded between Russia and Germany, was precededby a withdrawal from the territory of the USSR’s former WarsawPact allies, and also from Mongolia and Cuba. The withdrawal ofall these troops from foreign lands to Russian territory was inaccordance with the Russian Federation’s first military doctrine,which was established by the Russian Defense Ministry and approvedby President Boris Yeltsin in November 1993.

The adoption of this doctrine had a short and not very attractivehistory. The military doctrine prepared by the Defense Ministrylay for half a year on the desk of the president, who refusedto sign the document until October 1993, the month of the bloodysuppression of the first Russian parliament by the executive branch.After receiving the support of the military hierarchy and elitemilitary units of the Moscow Military District in his fight againstparliament, the Russian president approved the military doctrineas a means of paying off the debt he now owed to military leaders.

The reason that the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forcesrefused to sign the document for so long is that this Russianmilitary doctrine is more aggressive than any existing militarydoctrines. In fact, it far exceeds the aggressiveness of theanalogous document which existed in the former Soviet Union inthe last years of its existence. In particular, while repeatingthe general positions of its Soviet predecessor, Russian militarydoctrine foresees the possibility of the Russian army using anuclear first strike against any country which has such weapons,even if the enemy uses only conventional weapons.

This provision of the new Russian military doctrine was met withbewilderment and concern from the other members of the world’snuclear club, which unofficially appealed to the Russian governmentfor an explanation. But they were told that the nuclear part ofthe doctrine was intended exclusively for pressure against Ukraine,which, at that time, was "horse-trading" with the Weston the question of handing over the former Soviet strategic nuclearmissiles to Russia for destruction. This explanation deflatedthe tension with the world nuclear powers, who pretended thatRussia was not making any substantive changes to its doctrineafterall.

The 1993 doctrine envisioned Russia with a "small"(under 2 million men) and, as far as possible, professional andmobile army. It was intended that with such a force the armycould snuff out regional conflicts, guard military installations,and help internal troops if extraordinary circumstances were to break out.

This document also had a diplomatic function which included puttingpressure, not only on Ukraine, but also on other former republicsof the USSR which had refused to heed Moscow’s cries and weretrying to build their own states independently of the opinionsand intentions of the Kremlin leadership. Thus the military doctrinewas directed toward creating and securing Russia’s dominant influencewithin the bounds of the former USSR, while assigning the otherformer republics the role of obedient younger brother.

The authors of 1993 doctrine passed over the question of Russia’sprobable enemy in silence, implying the possibility of carryingon military operations in the future against all potential enemies,from the "near" and "far" abroad alike.

Over the course of the next two years this document guided themilitary leadership, and Russia’s political leadership was satisfied.But in light of the failures of the Russian army in Chechnya,NATO’s intention to expand by adding new members from the statesof Eastern Europe, and the increased activity of the UN peacekeepingforces in the former Yugoslavia, the Kremlin has ceased to becontent with the two-year old document.

Over the last few months quite interesting and reliable articleshave appeared in both the Russian and the foreign press, whichstate that the Defense Ministry and the General Staff of Russia’sarmed forces are actively working on a new military doctrine.The new doctrine will correspond to what they call the new strategicand political realities of the European continent.

One such article appeared in Segodnya on August 18, 1995,and was written by military columnist Pavel Felgengauer, who hasgood contacts with the country’s military and political leadershipand whose materials often reflect the opinion of the top militaryleaders. This article, (which for reasons unknown, did not receivethe appropriate degree of attention in the West), revealed thatthe military is reviewing Russia’s nuclear policy, one of thefundamental links of Russia’s current military doctrine.

The article said that "the war in Chechnya had proved thatthe Russian army could easily suffer a defeat in a local conflictin the Caucasus or in Central Asia. The political and militaryconsequences of such a defeat could prove to be absolutely unacceptablefor Russia, and therefore, the direct threat to use nuclear weapons,or even a limited ‘demonstration’ nuclear strike, could unexpectedlybecome the last real possibility of winning or bringing a stalemateto a lost war, although now, of course, nobody in Moscow is seriouslyplanning such actions."

The last phrase will remain on the newspaper’s conscience, butthe premise of the possibility of the Russian army’s using a firststrike of nuclear weapons against any enemy, even one which didnot have nuclear weapons, has passed the boundaries of Russia’spresent military doctrine. And this premise, if it correspondswith the opinion of Russia’s military and political leadershipand if it is reflected in the operation plans of the Defense Ministryand the General Staff, could substantially change the still-unstablenuclear balance, especially in Europe.

The article which appeared in Segodnya also reached theconclusion that the West not only ought to forget about any possiblemilitary threat from the Russian army "which had shamed itselfin Chechnya," but should cooperate with the Russian military-industrialcomplex. The U.S. was urged to provide direct assistance to Russiato help re-arm its land forces with modern weapons, because onlyby substantially strengthening these conventional forces couldthe likelihood of a local nuclear war in Europe or in Asia bereduced.

In other words, the article proposed nothing less than directnuclear blackmail, designed to extort new aid for the presentKremlin regime, including direct military aid, from the West. There is not enough evidence to call this a new premise, buteven the purely symbolic reality of a possible or "demonstration"Russian nuclear strike on the Baltic states, Ukraine, Tajikistan,or Azerbaijan, on any other "foreign" republics, oreven on one of its own republics or oblasts, can only increasetensions.

Following this change of opinion on the question of the use ofnuclear weapons, new points of view have come to light with respectto the specific intentions of the Russian armed forces. In particular,as Monitor reported, (Monitor, No. 110, October6, 1995) quoting Komsomolskaya pravda, the Russian GeneralStaff is working out a new military doctrine in response to NATO’spossible eastward expansion. It was noted that this document envisionedthe redeployment of troops, including nuclear forces, to Russia’swestern border, and the sending of troops to the Baltic statesif they join NATO. The publication emphasized that highly-placedRussian military leaders were behind these threatening statements.

This article in Komsomolskaya pravda, which caused a stormof indignation in the Baltic states, also elicited a certain amountof bewilderment. The question of troop redeployment, includingthat of nuclear forces, was inconsistent with the country’s basicmilitary doctrine as outlined in the 1993 document. Suspicionsthat there was something new brewing was later confirmed whenit was discovered that the document named by Komsomolskayapravda had virtually nothing to do with military doctrine,but could be used by the military and political leadership inorder to update plans for the operational use of Russia’s armedforces.

As reported in Segodnya, (Segodnya, October 20,1995) the question of a Russian military incursion into the Balticstates was examined in a special research paper, prepared by theDefense Research Institute (IOI). The document proposed thatthe Russian military take measures against the Baltic mafia, andin defense of the Russian minority living in these countries,which is subject to discrimination from the local authorities.

According to the IOI document, the Russian side could help ethnicRussians in the Baltic states to organize parallel governmentstructures and paramilitary groups, and could send its troopsinto the Baltic states to help these Russian paramilitary groupsat their request, seize the leaders of the Baltic states, andannex their territory, splitting it up between Russia and Belarus.The scenario depicted in this document was intended to preventthe Baltic states from joining NATO, which was seen as just asmuch of a threat to Russia’s national security as the deploymentof Soviet missiles in Cuba was to American national security.

Russia has sufficient legal and moral grounds for occupying theBaltic states, the IOI’s report emphasized, and no one in theWest will go to war with Russia over the Baltic states. The Westernreaction to such an occupation could be expressed in the formof economic sanctions, but not by an all-encompassing economicblockade, and the leading countries of the European Union, afteran occupation, would even continue to buy raw materials in Russia,and offer assistance in the conversion of Russian defense industryand the re-industrialization of the Russian economy.

Naturally, none of Russia’s official leaders wished to confirmor deny that they shared the Moscow research center’s aggressiveviews. But in the Baltic states, they took the institute’s document,which was prepared for the government, very seriously indeed.In particular, as one of the leaders of the Coalition Party andMinister of European Affairs for the Estonian government, EndelLippmaa, said (BNS, October 24, 1995) that he had no doubt thatRussia had plans directed against the Baltic states.

The Estonian minister stated that the Russian side was concentratingspecially-trained troops on the borders with the Baltic states,first of all, so-called Spetsnaz units. But in his opinion,the main threat from Russia to the security of the Baltic statescomes from Russia’s intention to re-examine the conditions ofthe CFE treaty in order to have as many troops on the northernand southern flanks as possible, including strengthening of theRussian units deployed on the borders of the Baltic states andFinland.

Unfortunately, world public opinion did not listen to theconcerns of the Estonian minister and other representatives ofthe Baltic states, and, on November 17, it was expected that theflank limits for the Russian army envisioned by the CFE wouldbe significantly broadened. After receiving permission to strengthenits forces on the flanks in exchange for the participation ofRussian servicemen in the UN peacekeeping mission in the formerYugoslavia, the Russian armed forces will have substantially improvedtheir chances to increase the number of troops in the regionsbordering the Baltic states.

And there are quite a few troops there now, most of all, in theKaliningrad oblast (formerly known as East Prussia). For example,as one of Russia’s vice-premiers, Sergei Shakhrai, who had recentlyvisited this oblast, said, (Interfax, October 26, 1995) this regionplays a special role in the European balance of forces. The RussianBaltic Fleet, 11th Field Army, and border troops deployed in thisregion could play a decisive role in restraining the eastwardexpansion of NATO’s influence.

It is worth noting that the deal on the CFE flank limits strengthensRussia’s position in relations with its neighbors to such a degreethat the appetites of Russian military leaders have begun to reacheven beyond the boundaries of the European continent. In particular,as noted in an article in Segodnya entitled "Russianeeds Freedom Island again," if NATO seriously plans to deploynuclear weapons in Poland, Russian nuclear missiles could reappearin Cuba. (Segodnya, October 17, 1995)

And although today this statement looks more like blackmailthan a realistic possibility, the very fact of its publicationcould be seen as indication of the serious intention of the representativesof some individual Russian groups to make revisions to Russianmilitary doctrine. (In reality, the construction of the nuclearfacility at Juragua in Cuba is more dangerous for the Americancontinent than the deployment of nuclear missiles there.)

So far, none of Russia’s official representatives has said thata new doctrine is being constructed. This is not surprising, sincethe drafting of such a document would be done by a very smallnumber of people under conditions of the strictest secrecy, until its text is approved at the highest level. But several statementsof Russia’s military leaders give cause for somber reflection.

In particular, recently a Russian television broadcast Russiandefense minister Pavel Grachev, who said that Russian militarydoctrine, says nothing about who Russia’s enemy is at the presenttime. (Vesti program, November 2, 1995) But, he noted,times are changing, and something could happen. After this, thevoice-over noted that, according to Pavel Grachev, if NATO expandseastward, then Russia would be forced to look for military partners.Such partners, in the opinion of the Russian minister, could befound both among the CIS countries and among the Eastern and CentralEuropean states, and also among the countries of the Near andFar East.

With this statement, the "Best Defense Minister," (assome of the Russian mass media call Pavel Grachev tongue-in-cheek),made a major blunder. Grachev disclosed a terrible secret: thatRussia’s overtures to the Partnership for Peace are not genuine,because Russia’s present military leaders plans to seek allianceswith some anti-Western countries. If Russia were to enter intoa partnership, or alliance, with the countries of the regionsso incautiously named by Pavel Grachev, in the event of a confrontationRussia would be on opposite sides from the states which are today offering a helpinghand to the long-suffering Russian people.

In the absence of any official confirmation or denial of thefact of the creation of a new military doctrine is underway, the West will make the most benign interpretation of such statementsby Grachev and other military leaders. For the West, the simplestand most acceptable explanation is that the aforementioned aggressivenessis only an attempt to blackmail the leading NATO countries sothat they will not expand the alliance by incorporating the USSR’sformer Warsaw Pact allies. But realistically, the evidence existsthat a new Russian military doctrine is being developed.

And this doctrine will be much more aggressive in content thanthe existing one.

If the course of events in Russia does not change significantly,the new military doctrine will be distinguished from the presentone in still another way: It could correct a "shortcoming"of the 1993 doctrine by naming an adversary. It is not difficultto guess who would be named as the adversary whom the Russianmilitary would face in partnership or alliance with some of theCIS countries, and with the countries of the Near and Far East.

According to Komsomolskaya pravda, over the last fiveyears, NATO has been able to change the geostrategic balance radicallyin its own favor. With the conclusion of agreements with the EasternEuropeans within the framework of "Partnership for Peace,"NATO’s actual zone of responsibility has moved towards the boundariesof the former USSR, and judging from everything, will creep furtherin that direction. ( Komsomolskaya pravda, September 30,1995)

And as the Associated Press (AP, October 22, 1995) noted in reportingthe news of the aforementioned IOI report, according to this material,"the source of the greatest danger for Russia" at thepresent time is the USA. The wire service linked the very factof the publication of the IOI report with the fact that it wasdeveloped "in accordance with the desires of a number of’force ministries’ and lies at the foundation of Russia’s newdefense policy."

In other words, Russia’s probable main military adversary hasalready been defined, and now all that remains is to wait a while,until a new doctrine is introduced.

Stanislav Lunev was formerly a Colonel in Soviet Military Intelligence.