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RIA Novosti
December 17, 2008
A military doctrine for every occasion

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - In 2009, Russia's armed forces will get a new military doctrine meeting present-day realities as defined by national security and foreign policy interests.

A military doctrine is a set of principles defining the objectives of military planning, preparations for war, and the ways and means of warfare. These principles depend on the political system, form of government, economic and technological development, and the perception of its authors on what to anticipate from an expected war.

The last Soviet doctrine was adopted in 1987 and was defensive in nature. It dropped the term "potential enemy" and confirmed its earlier commitment not to be the first to launch hostilities or use nuclear weapons.

Soon after the adoption of this doctrine, the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia, which succeeded it, faced the need to redefine its place in the world and produce a new military doctrine.

In its 1993 doctrine, Russia repeated that it had no potential enemies and undertook not to use military force save for self-defense. Nuclear weapons came to be seen not as a fighting tool but as a political deterrent. Reasonable sufficiency became the principle underlying military potential: it was to be maintained at a level that would meet an existing threat.

Further developments, however, forced the military to change some provisions of the doctrine. It was declared, for example, that along with ordinary weapons, nuclear weapons could be used to repulse an act of aggression.

According to the doctrine, regional and local wars are today most likely, while a large-scale global war, including a nuclear war, is less probable.

The experience of the past years and the expected course of events, however, suggest that although local and regional wars are indeed most probable, new destabilizing factors, such as destruction of nuclear missile parity, have appeared, making the option of a large-scale war more likely. For example, a U.S. missile defense shield, which, with military arsenals being cut, could deliver an unpunished first strike with little or no damage from a retaliatory attack.

It is to be hoped that Russia's new military doctrine, while emphasizing local and regional conflicts, will not loose focus on a large-scale nuclear conflict as probable in the current destabilized setting and include the missile defense system among external threats.

In view of these factors, maintaining Russia's nuclear potential and its retaliation capability will be one of the main goals in guaranteeing its military security. To do so, it is necessary to have top-class armed forces able to fight in every environment and engage targets at any distance.

Russia should also have a capability for taking part in peacekeeping operations and in local and regional conflicts, whose likelihood is only growing as events of the last few years have shown.