Int. Herald Tribune
Russia acts to toughen its security framework

Cooler Toward West, New Doctrine Lowers The Nuclear Threshold By David Hoffman

Paris, Saturday, January 15, 2000


MOSCOW - Russia published a revised national security concept Friday that reflects a more hostile view of the West, somewhat lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and places more emphasis on fighting terrorism, separatism and organized crime.

The 21-page document is an update of the 1997 national security concept signed by then-President Boris Yeltsin.

The changes were drafted last year, at a time when emotions were running high over the NATO attack on Yugoslavia and at the beginning of the conflict in Chechnya that has drawn Western criticism.

The tone of the document is less sanguine than the earlier one about Russia's security, both internal and beyond its borders.

Acting President Vladimir Putin, who oversaw drafting of the document when he was director of the Kremlin security council, signed the revised concept Jan. 10, and the full text was published Friday in Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozrenie, a weekly newspaper. Separately, Russia also has prepared a new draft military doctrine which is being debated and may be adopted later this spring.

In the past, such documents have proved useful as guideposts to the thinking of the Russian military and political elite, but they are not binding and often have been superseded as times and circumstances change.

The new document reflects vigorous Russian objections to the NATO attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo last year. For example, the earlier concept noted the emergence of a multipolar world after the Cold War. But the new one goes further, criticizing the United States for trying to create "unilateral" solutions to global problems with military force and "sidelining the basic founding standards of international law."

The previous document suggested that there was no serious outside threat to Russia, but the new one says that "the level and scale of threat in the military sphere is increasing." Specifically, the document adds, NATO's use of force outside the alliance borders, without sanction from the United Nations, and the incorporation of this into the alliance doctrine "is fraught with the threat of destabilization of the whole strategic situation in the world."

Alexander Pikayev, director of the nonproliferation project and an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace here, said the new concept "reflects a debate which took place in 1999 as a result of Kosovo and Chechnya - to a certain extent, it fixes the results of those two debates."

One of the most important changes in the document, he added, "is that the West for the first time openly was described as a potential threat to Russian security," which was not part of the 1997 concept nor an earlier doctrine prepared in 1993.

The other important change, Mr. Pikayev said, is the language on the use of nuclear weapons. With its conventional forces weakened, Russia has for most of this decade put emphasis on its nuclear deterrent. Russia also earlier discarded a no-first-use pledge made by the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. However, the last concept had used a vague formulation for the threshold of using nuclear weapons. That document called for their use "in case of a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation as a sovereign state."

In the new concept, the threshold appears to be somewhat lower. The new document says that nuclear weapons can be used "in case of the need to repulse an armed aggression, if all other methods of resolving the crisis situation are exhausted or have been ineffective."

"The scenarios of the possible use of nuclear weapons are considerably broadened," Mr. Pikayev said. "It was vague in 1997, and even more vague in 1993." But he added, "It is probably not the worst possible language." Some officials were arguing in the throes of the Kosovo crisis for language allowing for "early first use" of nuclear weapons in a crisis. "Fortunately, this was not included," he said. "It's not the worst case."




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