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Russia: New Military Doctrine May Be Developed

  • Jan de Weydenthal

Prague, 6 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- It seems Russia is planning to develop a new military doctrine to provide a basis for the country's national security policy.

Speaking two days ago in Moscow, Secretary of the Defense Council Yuri Baturin told a meeting of military officials that the current doctrine has become inadequate as a result of changes in the geopolitical situation, and the decline in internal military preparedness. The current doctrine was adopted three years ago.

The Russian media quoted Baturin as saying that "much has changed since the doctrine was published." He went on to say that "some things have worsened."

Among the unfavorable geopolitical changes, Baturin noted a crystallization of "NATO plans to expand eastward," which he termed as presenting "a danger to Russia's security."

Furthermore, Baturin drew attention to the situation in the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS), the alliance -- centered on Russia -- of most former Soviet republics, in which, he said, "there is certain resistance to integration," and "certain states exhibit willingness to limit Russia's influence." He said that this has become particularly apparent in the Caucuses and in Central Asia.

Baturin also said internal economic difficulties have forced cuts in the military budget which, combined with shifts in emergency funding toward paramilitary formations (the interior troops, border guards and so), led to "lowering of combat readiness and underfunding of the armed forces."

Indeed, once viewed with awe and fear, Russia's armed forces have recently suffered a humiliating defeat in the minuscule separatist republic of Chechnya. They are also being troubled by trying to pacify unrest in the Caucuses, and ensnared in an internal conflict between Tajikistan's government and opposition Islamic groups.

The downturn was perhaps inevitable, giving the economic breakdown and political chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it also was bolstered by deficiencies within the military itself. These included widespread corruption within the ranks, striking lack of discipline and gross inadequacies in logistical planning.

These problems became particularly apparent during the Chechnya conflict. Troops were sent into battle without proper training and preparation, resulting in large number of casualties. Although they used firepower indiscriminately, this brought little success in dealing with the guerrilla tactics of Chechen separatist fighters.

The need for reform has been discussed for some time now. But effective changes have been slow in coming. Reform efforts have been hampered by a shortage of funds. But there has been no tangible indication of the political and institutional will to adopt and implement major changes in the organization, training and logistical preparedness of the armed forces as a whole. The lack of reforms has had a significant adverse impact on Russia's military power.

Baturin said that a new military doctrine should take this into account.

"Measures to compensate for Russia's, unfortunately, lower military power, should be worked out," he said.

He stopped short of providing details of what, in his view, should be done. But he emphasized that the new doctrine should reflect "limited economic capabilities and much larger technological capabilities" of Russia.

This could herald an effort both to reduce the size of the armed forces and to shift attention toward their modernization. Similar views on military changes have recently been presented former Security Council Secretary, General (retired) Aleksandr Lebed, and current Minister of Defense Igor Rodionov.

Remarks by Baturin suggest that the much needed changes in the Russian military may finally be in the offing.