Staunton, December 27 – In the new Russian military doctrine Vladimir Putin signed December 26, the fourth a Kremlin leader has issued since 1991, the Russian president speaks about an increasingly threatening foreign environment that can produce problems at home but provides few specifics about the threats, their source, or how Moscow will counter them.
The new doctrine replaces the one Dmitry Medvedev issued in 2010. Putin himself issued an earlier one in 2000 that replaced the one Boris Yeltsin signed in 1993. The complete Russian-language text of the new one is at kremlin.ru. Useful summaries can be found at Meduza and Rosbalt.
According to the document Putin has signed, Russia has gained two new allies since 2010: South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They join the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And the doctrine says Moscow hopes for cooperation with Brazil, India, China and South Africa.
Putin’s doctrine does not enumerate Russia’s enemies, saying only the world has become more tense as a result of intensifying “global competition” over conflicting values. But it speaks first and foremost of “threats” emanating from NATO and the US, including the placement of Western forces in countries adjoining Russia and the development by the alliance of ABM, space-based, and new rapid reaction forces.
With respect to nuclear weapons, the new doctrine brings Russia into line with the US in specifying that Moscow can respond to any use of weapons of mass destruction, including non-nuclear ones, with nuclear weapons, something that has been American doctrine from the time of the Cold War.
It also points to the possibility that a potential enemy of Russia might use private firms or irregular forces against Moscow, much, it should be said, as Moscow has used against Ukraine. And it specifies that among the most serious threats to Russia are the overthrowing of governments in countries neighboring Russia, precisely what Putin says the West did in Ukraine.
And for the first time, the Russian military doctrine speaks about the defense of Russian national interests in the Arctic and about a requirement that officials in Russia remain in constant readiness for mobilization. Another innovation is that it calls for Moscow to take measures to counter the use of communications technologies against Russia, presumably although the document does not specify them, cyber-warfare and the social networks.
Putin’s new military doctrine also lays particular stress on agitation and propaganda among the young in order to promote patriotism while countering efforts to distort or undermine “the historical, spiritual and patriotic traditions” of the country and thereby prepare young people for service in the military.
Liliya Shevtsova, now of the Brookings Institution, provides one of the first commentaries on the new Putin military doctrine. She says that it effectively “legalizes the transition of Russia into an extraordinary regime of existence,” a term sometimes used for martial law but here applied more broadly.
After enumerating the contents of the measure, Shevtsova says that there is one thing “positive” about it: The new doctrine honestly admits that what is going on in the world is a competition between peoples with different civilizations and values, the first time since 1991 that Moscow has admitted this in a military doctrine.
That, she concludes, is “the Kremlin’s gift” to Russians for Christmas and the New Year.