Wary of the West: Russian Security Policy at the Millennium

Article excerpt

Russia's new national security concept mixes elements of exceptionalism, great power concerns, and material interests in the international economy.

Russia's national security policy is defined by opposition and diversity ideas and interests, power and geopolitics. It is affected by elements of Russia's Soviet past, by the cultural struggle to define its post-Soviet identity, and by the new economic and political interests that have served as the agents of change in Russia's transition from communism. It is also, of course, shaped by the limits of Russia's post-Cold War power and its relationship with the United States.

On January 10, Acting President Vladimir Putin approved a new national security concept detailing Russia's political security policy. A draft military doctrine, a more specific policy paper dealing with military issues, was approved by the Russian Security Council in late February.l Both the concept and the doctrine mix elements of Russian exceptionalism, great power prerogatives and concerns, and material interests in the international economy. The documents are not binding-they can be (and have been) changed, amended, and even ignored-but they are important for understanding Russian security policy nonetheless because they reflect the priorities, assessments, compromises, and negotiations within the Russian political and security elite.

America's most important interests can be managed well only in a fundamentally secure environment made possible by the passing of Cold War confrontation. Russia is not the Soviet superpower, and bipolar competition will not return. Russia nevertheless remains the only country that can destroy the United States in a single large-scale nuclear attack-a threat that will remain even if the United States deploys a national missile defense (NMD) and even if economic factors drive Russia's nuclear force downward to only 1,000-1,500 warheads.

It is not enough if Russia is simply not hostile to the West. The United States needs active Russian cooperation in order to achieve its non-proliferation goals. Given the state of Russia's economy, unauthorized sale of technology for missiles or for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons poses a major challenge to the non-proliferation and export control regimes the United States counts on to prevent countries such as Iraq or terrorists like Osama bin Laden from acquiring weapons that can kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. The West needs a Russian governmentsupported by its society-that deems cooperation in this area a priority worth economic and political resources. In particular, the West needs a professional Russian military willing to work with Western security professionals in areas of national security and military sensitivity.

Russia's security concept and military doctrine also define what is possible in conventional and nuclear arms reductions. The recently adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty will not be successfully implemented if Russia's security elite believes that NATO is hostile to Russia, is expanding its capabilities by enlarging its membership, and views the war in Kosovo as a stepping stone to a larger European role. Ratifying START II and moving on to START III requires convincing the security elite that the United States is a reliable partner, subject to international law and respectful of its treaty commitments. And any prospect for an agreement on NMD that will avoid sparking a new multilateral nuclear arms race (involving not only Russia and China, but also possibly India and Pakistan) cannot succeed unless Russia believes that it can enhance its security more by working with the United States than by assuming the worst about American intentions and falling back upon unilateral remedies.

Analysis of Russia's new security concept and military doctrine conveys how likely Russian cooperation on these fronts will be and offers insight into how Russia's threat perceptions could complicate multilateral efforts. …