- Russia has revised its defence doctrine to make it easier
to press the nuclear button in an international crisis, while unequivocally
declaring the west a hostile power that must be resisted.
- A new national security strategy decreed by the acting
president, Vladimir Putin, on Monday and to be published today marks a
radical shift in Russia's view of the world. It ushers in a policy of "expanded
nuclear containment" while pledging to resist western attempts to
dominate the globe.
- The strategic shift lowers the threshold at which Russia
may resort to nuclear weapons and is the first foreign policy move that
Mr Putin has taken since replacing Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin on New
- Mr Yeltsin's strategy, decreed in December 1997, declared
that nuclear weapons could only be used "in the case of a threat to
the very existence of the Russian Federation as a sovereign state".
- The new document states that the use of nuclear weapons
is necessary "to repel armed aggression if all other means of resolving
a crisis situation have been exhausted or turn out to be ineffective".
- The new strategy substantially eases the constraints
on resort to the nuclear option. This has been partly triggered by the
fact that Russia still commands a large nuclear arsenal, but its conventional
forces lack combat readiness.
- "These are very substantial changes," said
a military affairs expert, Sergei Sorkut. "The emphasis on nuclear
weapons has changed. They can now be used in crisis situations."
- The Putin strategy takes a much more confrontational
position towards the west, a policy overhaul sparked by Nato's expansion
into former Warsaw Pact countries and by the US-led war against the former
Yugoslavia last year.
- Whereas the 1997 strategy spoke of "partnership"
with the west and decreed that there was no threat of military aggression
to Russia, the new paper says that two "mutually exclusive tendencies"
are now locked in combat on the globe.
- It says that the "multi-polar world" promoted
by Mr Yelt sin, who sought to enlist India and China as allies, is in
conflict with "the west led by the US" which aims to use its
military might to dominate world affairs.
- It is not clear what the new strategy may mean for Nato's
Partnership for Peace pact, agreed to appease Russia during negotiations
to admit Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to the alliance. Moscow
froze its participation last year in protest at the Nato war in Kosovo
although more than 3,000 Russian troops are serving in the Nato-led peacekeeping
- Russian commentary on the leaked 21-page document said
it made it clear that "the term 'partnership' has been consigned to
- The radical departure in nuclear doctrine, said Moscow
analysts, represented an "entirely logical development" enshrining
a new policy of "expanded nuclear containment".
- "Russia will not only use nuclear weapons in response
to a nuclear attack, but in response to a conventional attack when there
is no other way out."
- The hostile tone appears to seal a drawn-out process
of disenchantment with the west.
- A new Russian military doctrine, dovetailing with the
Putin national security strategy, is expected to be endorsed by the acting
president in February, said Sergei Ivanov, a close Putin ally and secretary
of the Kremlin's influential security council.
- A draft of the military doc trine, published last October,
also attacked the US and Nato but attracted much adverse comment in Moscow
and many thought it would be toned down.
- Monday's decree by Mr Putin confirms that this will not
happen, although Mr Ivanov said changes to the military doctrine would
still be "necessary".
- On a more conciliatory note, however, Igor Sergeyev,
the defence minister, said he was confident that the new parliament in
Moscow, due to convene this month, would soon ratify the Start-2 arms control
treaty with the US.
- Mr Putin is known to support ratification and he wants
parliament to act before Russia's presidential election on March 26,
a contest that he is widely expected to win.
- The timing of the adoption of the security strategy this
week and the military doctrine next month also represents electioneering
by Mr Putin, whose central message to voters is that he will restore Russia
to its great-power status.
- The new strategy also places greater emphasis on the
threats to Russia from separatism, terrorism and organised crime, and,
in an indirect reference to the war in Chechnya, delivers a more forthright
assertion of when Russia may deploy armed forces domestically "in
strict accordance with the constitution".