Russia’s security strategy means more problems for its neighbors
On the New Year’s eve, December 31, Vladimir Putin signed the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, which is the basic document of strategic planning, defining Russia’s national interests and strategic priorities. Judging by the text of the document, it is too early to relax for the Ukrainians.
The National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation is updated every six years, and the new edition covers the period up to 2022.
What’s interesting in the newest edition of the Strategy is the risk assessment for the military, political and economic system of the Russian Federation, as well as the Kremlin's vision of the situation developing around Russia.
According to official Moscow, a polycentric world is forming today. Despite this, further development of Russia's foreign policy is seen as part of a confrontation with the U.S. and NATO, that is, within the bipolar model. This vision can mean the uncertainty in the Kremlin’s estimates of its future relations with China. Another indicator proving this point is a number of provisions of the Strategy, in its logistics and transport sector that can be interpreted as preparation for mobilization in Siberia and the Far East, and for increasing combat readiness, including in this part of the country.
The new edition of the Strategy pays much attention to the strengthening of Russia’s external influence. Military measures are defined as actions taken in case of failure to achieve the objectives through diplomacy. Thus, the use of force goes beyond defensive needs. Compared with the last edition of the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, this may indicate a shift to the offensive concept and attempts to gain positions in foreign policy through the use of force. The Russian leadership perceives military action in Syria and Ukraine as a demonstration of the ability to protect the rights of compatriots abroad and the role of Russia in solving major international problems and conflicts. This gives grounds to forecast Moscow’s further attempts to engage in military operations abroad, and intensification of interference in the affairs of the former Soviet states.
The strategy carries a message of further militarization of the Russian Federation and development of offensive capability. Military priorities are put higher than the socio-economic ones. Improving the quality of life of the Russian citizens is on the third place. The defense sector is considered the engine of all industry and technology.
At the same time, the Strategy emphasizes that the policy of the Russian Federation excludes costly confrontation (such as an arms race). It emphasizes the need to increase defense capabilities and equip the army with modern weaponry. Such an approach could mean the Kremlin’s bet on its nuclear deterrence forces, modernization and development of missiles.
NATO remains to be seen as a key adversary and a major threat. The threats posed by the Islamic State, are assessed as far less significant than those posed by NATO and the U.S., despite the objective risks coming from the IS in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The activities of foreign intelligence and foreign organizations, as a threat to national security and the constitutional order, are mentioned more often than the risks related to the terrorist organizations.
Key threats to the Russian Federation, according to the Strategy, are the overthrow of legitimate political regimes and provoking domestic instability and conflict. Constitutional order, the unity of Russian society, social stability, interethnic harmony and religious tolerance are all together identified as major vulnerabilities to national security. The general analysis of the document suggests serious assessment of these risks by the Kremlin and Moscow’s uncertainty in the issues of control over the Russian territory, stability of the political system and territorial integrity. In addition, the Russian leadership believes in a high probability of ethnic and social conflicts within the Russian borders.
Activities aimed at the "destruction of traditional spiritual and moral values" are defined as a threat to the national security and public safety. This type of threat indicates a further strengthening of the persecution of dissidents, the fight against the political opposition, increased activity of the security forces, the restriction of rights and freedoms of the Russian population.
The list of threats id supplemented by the activities related to the use of information and communication technologies for the dissemination and promotion of the ideology of fascism, extremism, terrorism and separatism, damage to political and social stability. This suggests further pressure on information distribution channels, tighter online control, particularly in social networks. Russia will be further strengthening control over the information space, boosting propaganda and introducing restrictions of any incoming information influence.
The document provides for the deployment of high-tech and multi-functional systems on the Russian border. Given the highly considered risk on the part of the Russian citizens who take part in activities of international terrorist organizations abroad, tightening of border and counterintelligence regimes in the territory of Russia, as well as of Moscow’s migration policy, is projected. The Russian labor market is likely to shrink for the neighboring countries. At the same time progressing demand for cheap labor will encourage Moscow to attract migrant workers from abroad for permanent residence in Russia. The migrants will be distributed across the Russian regions, depending on their needs in the labor force.
An important element in the strategy that distinguishes it from the content of the military doctrine of the Russian Federation and the 2009 edition of the Strategy is the repeated mentioning of the risks of the use of biological and chemical weapons, as well as a reference to the expansion of the network of military biological laboratories of the USA in the countries neighboring with Russia. According to our estimates, the Strategy hints at Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia, where the projects within the framework of CTR and BTRP are implemented.
The report titled "The U.S. is creating a system of military-biological objects around Russia" was published in April 2014, by the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, which is known for developing the concept of destabilization of the situation in Ukraine and drafting reports predicting all-Ukrainian support for the so-called “Novorossiya” project. While the previous edition of the Strategy only indicated the risks of the increasing number of nuclear powers, the current version focuses more on chemical and biological hazards rather than just stating the existing nuclear threats.
Taking into account the military-political situation, this may indicate that the Russian Federation is ready to use biological weapons in the region under the pretext of "leakage" of biomaterials from the “U.S. labs.” Besides, the dangerous objects and materials in countries with the unstable political situation are mentioned. The Strategy says that, due to the critically poor state of their storage, they could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations. Paragraph 23 also mentions the risks of the spread of epidemics and the emergence of previously unknown viruses. Taken together, this may indicate signs of renewed Russian military biological research programs.
The strategy acknowledges the backwardness of the Russian economy and its low competitiveness. The document stresses the facts of misuse of budget funds, technological backwardness, lower quality of goods and services rendered to the population. Restrictive action (sanctions) forces the Kremlin to follow the path of countering shadow economy. Moscow plans to fight with offshore schemes and money siphoning. There is a reference to measures aimed at the return of Russian capital from abroad, although the document does not specify whether such measures are based on the use of force, or on the efforts to improve the local business climate.
The agricultural sector is expected to see strengthening trends toward import substitution, discrimination against foreign manufacturers and a higher bid on national producers. Agro-industrial and pharmaceutical industries are identified as priorities for accelerated growth, which is obviously connected with the internal estimates of their backwardness.
Moscow plans to achieve economic growth by increasing government regulation of the economy and increasing state support of Russian producers of weapons, food, information, and energy. These areas are obviously identified as a priority in order to achieve sustainability of the economy, especially in the context of the threat of war and mobilization needs.
Despite sanctions against the Russian Federation and the escalation in relations with the leading world powers, the Kremlin assesses positively, on the level of declarations, its resistance to external pressure, and notes the ability to preserve and strengthen its potential. At the same time, the document emphasizes the negative impact on the national economy of the sanctions imposed against Russia. Thus, according to our estimates, the external economic pressure on Russia is effective despite a certain margin of its strength.
The contents of the Strategy give grounds to assert that the Russian leaders perceive deterioration of the socio-economic indicators in the economy caused by the sanctions as a tangible factor, at the same time hiding such concerns from the public
The document contains information on the reduction of not only production but also the stocks of strategic mineral resources, deterioration and depletion of the resource base. The Russian government considers possible in the long term scarcity of mineral, water and biological resources. Outflow of the capital and qualified specialists is also mentioned in the economy sector. The message on ensuring domestic demand on standard quality energy resources correlates with a thesis on the prevention of deficiency of energy resources, the creation of strategic reserves of fuel and spare capacities. This may be an indirect sign of a significant fall of Russia’s energy reserves, even for own needs, due to lower export revenues and lower investment in the development of deposits.
In the humanitarian sphere the accents are shaped similar to those unique to dictatorships. Boosting the efforts to bring up the youth through military and patriotic set of measures is declared, as well as through the work of law enforcement agencies and special services.
The predominance of the spiritual over the material in the shape of spiritual and moral values means that the Russian government expects a slowdown in the growth of well-being, which will require increased propaganda and government intervention in cultural spheres in order to prevent social crises and the growing discontent of the population. The strategy includes a clear guideline to limit the influence of foreign culture on Russian society, which is actually a repetition of the Soviet policy of a "closed curtain" at the times of the Cold War.
Support and expansion of the Russian language in conjunction with the promotion of own interpretation of history continues to be a basic element of Russian policy in the cultural sphere and its work in the area of the former Soviet Union, including through the development of telecommunication projects.
In foreign policy, the Kremlin is trying to form its own axis of influence. The emphasis on equal partnership means that Moscow will bet on the development of relations with weaker partners of the Third World in Africa and Latin America. The priorities in relations with the alliances and associations are set on APEC, SCO and BRICS. There are indications of the Kremlin's ambitions to gain leadership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Strengthening the eastern direction of the Russian foreign policy will lead to increased confrontation between Moscow and Beijing, according to our estimates.
Russia will continue the policy of integration in the area of the CIS, developing regional and subregional projects: the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Maintaining control over the area of the former Soviet Union is seen by the Kremlin as one of the foundations of national security.
The absence of any approach to the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations and the fact that Ukraine is only referenced in the context of consequences of "color revolutions" suggest that:
1. The Russian leadership does not consider the conflict in Ukraine resolved. The military and subversive action will remain a priority in Russia’s policy toward Ukraine.
2. The Kremlin’s subversive action in Ukraine will continue until a pro-Russian political regime sets in Ukraine, as Moscow expects.
3. The Russian leadership does not consider Ukraine’s foreign policy choices as final and hopes that the country will shift them, similar to the situation in 2005.
Anatolii Baronin, Da Vinci AG