National Security, Civil Society, and Human Rights in Russia: Conceptual and Legal Framework

Article excerpt

The development of civil society and respect for human rights in Russia is closely connected with the character of Russia's security system. Official state policy impedes the development of civil society and human rights, perceiving them as threats to state security. Or it may accept and even stimulate development of civil society and human rights seeing them not as competitors, but as partners in maintaining national security, which is understood as the security of the individual, state, and society. For a long time, dominant approaches toward Russia's security impeded the development of civil society. The very existence of social structures and organizations that were not under the control of the totalitarian state and the ruling party contradicted their interests and was perceived as a potential threat to security. Indeed, it was a threat in the final analysis.

The state had a monopoly in the sphere of security, not only politically, but also theoretically. The concept of security was narrow; the main object was the security of the state, which in practice was the security of the ruling regime.

Not surprisingly, during perestroika and the first years of democratic reforms following the breakup of the USSR, Russian public opinion viewed state security highly negatively. It was perceived as something that should be done away with if society was to become democratic. That conviction emerged vividly during the years of perestroika, when the organs of state security came under severe criticism and were even discredited.

Against this background of criticism of Soviet security policy, however, a new process began--a rethinking of the very nature of security and a search for new approaches and strategies concerning it. Under conditions of democratization and political pluralism, this rethinking was occurring not only in the state agencies responsible for security but also outside them. It was reflected in the creation of a number of independent research centers specializing in security issues. Formed and staffed by experts in military issues, international affairs, and criminology, employees of law enforcement agencies, and former military officers, they began researching security issues and elaborating security strategies independently of the state. Their activities led to the breakup in the realm of the state monopoly on research and analysis in the realm of security, which resulted in a diversity of views and approaches to the problem.

Those organizations' activities, as well as individual research efforts, led to a public debate on Russian security policy in which political parties and movements played a considerable role. In the course of the debate, at least three different approaches emerged: the liberal-romantic, the statist-patriotic, and the realistic-pragmatic. They differ in how they conceive of Russia's national interests and how they assess threats to Russia's security.

The representatives of the three approaches also have different views on the role of state and society in the country's national security, as well as on the relationship between national security and human rights. The ultraliberals are inclined to give priority to the security of individuals and society. For the statist-patriots, the security of the state is paramount. Pragmatists try to reach and maintain a balance among the interests of the individual, state, and society and to ensure that there is equilibrium between human rights and national security.

Official Security Concept on Democratization and Civil Society

The elaboration of an official state concept of national security occurred at the same time as the public debate on it. Different stages were influenced by representatives of the various schools of security thought. As a result, the first official documents on Russia's post-cold war security were published in the mid-1990s. After a military doctrine that focused on military aspects of national security was approved by President Yeltsin in November 1993, the official approach to national security was presented in three documents: the July 1996 Presidential Message to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation entitled "On National Security"; the National Security Concept of the Russian Federation, which was approved by President Yeltsin in December 1997; and the new version of the National Security Concept signed by Acting President Putin in January 2000. …