Extended version of my MT op-ed on Russia’s new military doctrine

Here is an extended version of my MT op-ed on Russia's new military doctrine, followed by comparison of the 2014 and 2010 doctrines' language:

It is indisputable that the Ukraine crisis has dealt a serious blow to Russia’s relations with core members of NATO. It would take many years for Moscow, Washington and Brussels to fully mend the fences even if the conflict in Ukraine were resolved tomorrow.

But as Russia’s new military doctrine indicate, the Rubicon in Russian-NATO relations has not been crossed.  At least, not yet. While naming Russia’s allies, the  doctrine, which was published on Dec. 26, avoids designating either NATO as a whole or any of its specific members of that alliance as adversaries.

The new document does place NATO first in the list of external military dangers to Russia. But as I noted in my initial analysis of the 2014 document in my blog, that's not qualitatively different from the 2010 doctrine. The latter designated NATO as top source of military threats to Russia even though it was adopted at the time the U.S.-Russian reset was in full swing.

Moreover, the new document even calls for a dialogue of equals between NATO and Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the sphere of European security and for cooperation in the sphere of missile defense. It also notes that the probability of a large-scale war against Russia has been decreasing.

Importantly, the 2014 doctrine leaves condition for the use of nuclear weapons unchanged compared to the 2010 document. The latter became the first post-Soviet unclassified strategic document to somewhat constrain first use of nuclear weapons by Russian armed forces. Like its predecessor, the new doctrine allows the first use of nuclear weapons if Russia or its allies are attacked with use of weapons of mass destruction or if a conventional conflict threatens “the very existence” of the Russian state.

The new doctrine also preserves its predecessor’s provisions for countering proliferation of WMD. The doctrine’s innovations include  references to the threat of radiological terrorism and notion of nonnuclear strategic deterrence.

Other innovations includes classification of the following challenges as main external military dangers to Russia: use of military information and communications technologies for military-political objectives to carry out actions directed against the sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of states; establishment of regimes in neighboring states, and subversive activities of special services and organizations of foreign states and their coalitions against Russia.

These references clearly stem from Russia’s experiences and perceptions acquired in the course of the color revolutions in neighboring post-Soviet states, including most recently, Ukraine. The new doctrine also introduces a section on allied relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia while also preserving its predecessor’s language on such relations with Belarus in particular and CSTO members in general.

Prior to the publication of the 2014 doctrine, both Russian and Western press were awash with speculations that the new doctrine would identify NATO as Russia’s foe. Such speculations were not unfounded.

The Financial Times quoted people familiar with the draft of this strategic document as saying in November that the latter would openly designate the U.S. and NATO as adversaries in the wake of the standoff in Ukraine. The new Ukrainian authorities’ decision to restart the drive for their country’s NATO membership had also fueled speculation that Russia's new doctrine would designate the alliance as an adversary.

You may also recall reports in the Western media last year that the U.S. government reportedly wanted an updated NATO doctrine that would identify Russia as a revitalized and fundamental danger. Moreover,  NATO's then-General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen and his deputy Alexander Vershbow had argued prior to NATO’s September 2014 summit that the alliance should treat Russia as adversary because Russia considers this Western bloc as an adversary and acts accordingly, though I begged to differ at that time.

The summit came and went, but NATO members decided not to publicly name Russia as a foe. Moreover, Rasmussen's successor at the helm of this organization is no longer calling for Russia to be branded a foe of the alliance. Jens Stoltenberg told Russian reporters last month that “NATO is not an enemy of Russia. On the contrary.” The new general secretary also stated in the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris, which French authorities have blamed on Islamists, that Russia “should be an ally in the fight against terrorism.”

The language has become conciliatory on the Russian side too, at least when it comes to diplomats. NATO is not an enemy for Russia, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. And the Russia-NATO relations have not reached the "point of no return,” according to Lavrov's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov.

Hopefully, these statements reflect serious intent on both sides to avoid a slide into a new Cold War, even though some thoughtful experts both in the West and Russia believe such a war has become unavoidable, and there should be no doubt that NATO and Russian generals have been lately busy updating operational war plans against each other.

Were the crisis in Ukraine to prompt Russia and NATO to officially call each other foes in their strategic documents, it would have become hard for leaders of both sides to argue for reversal of this designation.  Such a reversal would require qualitative improvement in the Russian-Western relationship, which is unlikely in the near future.

Russia and core founding members of NATO share too many vital interests in such spheres, as counter-terrorism and non-proliferation, including preventing non-state actors from acquiring nuclear weapons, to afford a relapse of the adversarial relationship they abandoned more than quarter a century ago. As NATO’s Stoltenberg has noted in the wake of the terrorist attacks staged by Islamists in Paris: “it is important that Russia and NATO are able to work together on important issues, like for instance, fighting terror.” Russia “should be an ally in the fight against terrorism,” Stoltenberg was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

It is about time that former Cold War foes start collecting the peace dividends, which Russia might find especially handy, given its current economic woes. The best predictor for the latter is a decline in price of oil, but if Russia and U.S., acting together with European Union, could convince the government in Kiev and separatists in Eastern Ukraine to reach a lasting resolution of their conflict, then many of the most damaging of Western sanctions against Russia would be lifted. That would certainly ease Russia's economic pains.

The first step toward normalizing the relationship would be the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, as I have argued in a piece that I co-authored with Dr. Gary Samore from Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs this fall.

Such a solution could incorporate decentralization of power within Ukraine and robust protection of rights of minorities, along with disarming of all the illegal armed formations, a legally binding affirmation of Ukraine’s military neutrality, and unequivocal guarantees (rather than assurances) of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, perhaps, while deferring final resolution of Crimea’s status.

One of the subsequent moves should include rebuilding of the collective security architecture in post Cold War Europe, which has failed time and over again, as demonstrated not only by the crisis in Ukraine, but the 2008 war and the conflicts in former Yugoslavia. Germany’s recent decision to involve Russia in talks that former German ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger would lead to suggest ways of t reforming pan-European security structure is a right step in that direction.

The longer the sides remain locked in the conflict, the more likely it will be that the temporary measures, which Russia and Western countries have imposed upon each other to punish each other over the Ukraine conflict, will become permanent and that the sides will slide into a new Cold War.

As the saying goes “Nothing is more permanent than the temporary,” be it naming of foes adversaries or imposition of sanctions. If you have doubts about the lasting nature of 'temporary' punishment, then you should have asked U.S. Senators Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson of Washington and Charles Vanik co-sponsors of  a 1974 amendment that limited trade with the Soviet Union while they were still alive.

. Comparison of the 2014 and 2010 Doctrines.[1]

2014 Doctrine 2010 Doctrine
The main external military dangers are:

  • buildup of force potential of NATO and its endowment with global functions  approach of the military infrastructure of NATO member countries to borders of Russia, including by further bloc expansion; so no qualitative change compared to 2010 doctrine, is spite of earlier reports that the doctrine will designate NATO/US as adversary
  • ….creation and deployment of strategic missile defence systems… so no qualitative change compared to 2010 doctrine
  • realization of the "global strike" concept; intention to station weapons in space; and deployment of strategic nonnuclear precision weapon systems; new
  • …proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of missiles and missile technologies; same as before
  • …growing threat of global extremism terrorism; real threat of terrorist acts using radioactive materials and toxic chemical agents; reference to radiological terrorism is new.
  • use of information and communications technologies for military-political objectives to carry out actions directed against the sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of states – new
  • establishment of regimes in states contiguous with Russia, including as a result of the overthrow of legitimate state authorities, and having a policy threatening interests of Russia; new, refers to Ukraine – notable that classified as a military threat rather than a national security threat.
  • subversive activities of special services and organizations of foreign states and their coalitions against Russia notable that classified as a military threat rather than a national security threat
The main external military dangers are:

  • the desire to endow the force potential of NATO with global functions carried out in violation of the norms of international law and to move the military infrastructure of NATO member countries closer to the borders of Russia, including by expanding the bloc;
  • …creation and deployment of strategic missile defense systems undermining global stability and violating the established correlation of forces in the nuclear-missile sphere, and also the militarization of outer space and the deployment of strategic nonnuclear precision weapon systems;
  • … proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missiles, and missile technologies
  • ….the spread of international terrorism;
  • the emergence of seats of interethnic interfaith tension, the activity of international armed radical groupings in areas adjacent to the state border of Russia and the borders of its allies,
The main military threats are:

  • abrupt exacerbation of the military-political situation interstate relations and creation of conditions for use of military force; same as before
  • the impeding of the operation of systems of state and military command and control of Russia, disruption of the functioning of its strategic nuclear forces, missile attack warning system, space surveillance system, nuclear weapon storage facilities, nuclear power engineering, the nuclear, chemical, pharmaceutical, and medical industry, and other potentially dangerous facilities; same as before
  • establishment and training of illegal armed force elements; their activities on territory of Russia or on territories of its allies; same as before
  • a show of military force during exercises on territories of states contiguous with Russia and its allies; same as before
  • stepped-up activities of armed forces of certain states groups of states with the conduct of partial or general mobilization and with a transition of state and military command and control entities of these states to operation under wartime conditions. same as before
The main military threats are:

  • abrupt exacerbation the military-political situation interstate relations and the creation of the conditions for the utilization of military force;
  • the impeding of the operation of systems of state and military command and control of Russia, the disruption of the functioning of its strategic nuclear forces, missile early warning systems, systems for monitoring outer space, nuclear munitions storage facilities, nuclear energy facilities, atomic and chemical industry facilities, and other potentially dangerous facilities;
  • the creation and training of illegal armed formations and their activity on the territory of Russia or on the territories of its allies;
  • a show of military force with provocative objectives in the course of exercises on the territories of states contiguous with Russia or its allies;
  • a stepping up of the activity of the Armed Forces of individual states groups of states involving partial or complete mobilization and the transitioning of these states' organs of state and military command and control to wartime operating conditions.
The main tasks in deterring and preventing military conflicts are:

  • …strengthen the collective security system within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization ODKB [CSTO] and build up its potential; strengthen interaction in the international security area within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States SNG [CIS], Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe OBSYe [OSCE], and Shanghai Cooperation Organization ShOS [SCO]; interact with the Republic of Abkhazia and Republic of South Ossetia for joint defence and security
  • support an equitable dialogue with the European Union and NATO in the sphere of European security; enhanced language, leaves door open for cooperation with NATO
  • assist in building a new security model in the Asia-Pacific Region based on collective nonaligned principles; So no formal defense alliance with China
  • form mutually advantageous bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms in countering probable missile threats, and if necessary create joint missile defence systems with equitable Russian participation; so leaves door open for BMD cooperation with NATO/US
  • …oppose attempts by certain states groups of states to achieve military superiority by deploying strategic missile defence systems, stationing weapons in space, and deploying strategic nonnuclear precision weapon systems;
  • …participate in the struggle against international terrorism.  same as before
The main tasks in deterring and preventing military conflicts are:

  • …strengthen the system of collective security within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization CSTO and to build up its potential, to intensify cooperation in the field of international security within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States CIS, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe OSCE, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization SCO, and to develop relations in this sphere with other interstate organizations the European Union and NATO;
  • … create mechanisms for the regulation of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the sphere of missile defense;
  • …participate in the struggle against international terrorism.
Russia shall consider an armed attack on a member state of the Union State or any actions with use of military force against it as an act of aggression against the Union State and it shall take retaliatory measures. Essentially same as before Russia regards an armed attack on a Union State member or any actions involving the utilization of military force against it as an act of aggression against the Union State and will carry out retaliatory measures
The use of precision weapons shall be considered within the framework of Russia's fulfilment of forceful measures of strategic deterrence. Same as before. In the context of the implementation by Russia of strategic deterrence measures of a forceful nature, provision is made for the utilization of precision weapons.
Russia shall reserve for itself the right to employ nuclear weapons in response to the use against it and/or its allies of nuclear and other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, as well as in the case of aggression against Russia with use of conventional weapons when the state's very existence has been threatened. Same as before, which is good as the 2010 document constrained use of nukes somewhat, but bear in mind that actual use of nukes was regulated by the  classified provisions adopted as supplement to the 2010 document Russia reserves right to employ nuclear weapons in response to the utilization of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, and also in the event of aggression against Russia involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat.
The main missions of the Armed Forces, other troops, and entities in peacetime:

  • ….. strategic nuclear and nonnuclear deterrence, including prevention of military conflicts; reference to strategic  nonnuclear deterrence is new, emphasizes Russian military’s effort to narrow US lead in development of nonnuclear long range attack systems.
The main missions of the Armed Forces and other troops in peacetime are:

  • ….to ensure strategic deterrence, including the prevention of military conflicts;
The tasks of military-political cooperation are:

  • forming and developing allied relations with CSTO member states and CIS member states, with the Republic of Abkhazia and Republic of South Ossetia, and friendly and partner relations with other states; S. Ossetia and Abkhazia added
  • ….preserving equitable relations with interested states and international organizations for opposing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and means of their delivery; same as before.
The tasks of military-political cooperation are:

  • form and develop allied relations with the member states of the CSTO and the member states of the CIS and relations of friendship and partnership with other states;
  • maintain equal relations with interested states and international organizations to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery.
Priorities of military-political cooperation are:

  • With the Republic of Belarus: coordinating activities in the development of national armed forces and use of the military infrastructure; developing and coordinating measures for maintaining defence capability of the Union State in accordance with the Military Doctrine of the Union State; same as before essentially.
  • with the Republic of Abkhazia and Republic of South Ossetia – interacting for ensuring joint defence and security; new.
  • with CSTO member states – consolidating efforts to upgrade forces and assets of the CSTO collective security system to ensure collective security and joint defence; dropped reference to collective forces
  • with SCO member states – coordinating efforts to counter new military dangers and military threats in the joint space, and creating the necessary regulatory legal base; same as before, allows joint countering of military dangers with China
Priorities of military-political cooperation are:

  • With the Republic of Belarus: to coordinate activities in the sphere of the development of the national Armed Forces and the use of the military infrastructure; to formulate and agree measures to maintain the defense capability of the Union State (of Russia and Belarus) in accordance with the Military Doctrine of the Union State;
  • with the CSTO member states — to consolidate efforts and create collective forces in the interests of ensuring collective security and joint defense; with other CIS member states — to ensure regional and international security and carry out peacekeeping activities;
  • with the SCO states — to coordinate efforts in the interests of countering new military dangers and military threats in the joint space, and also to create the necessary legal and regulatory base;


[1] Ignore differences in wording – there has been no official translation of either 2010 or 2014 doctrines, so I relied on BBC and WPS for translation of 2014 and 2010 documents respectively,
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