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Russia: Plans Afoot To Draft Security Policy

Prague, 6 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- President Boris Yeltsin is to chair tomorrow a special meeting of the Russian Security Council on the new national security policy.

The meeting is to discuss a series of draft documents defining Russia's national interests, assessing potential threats to its security and suggesting effective responses.

The work on these documents appears to have commenced last year, after Yeltsin had told the State Duma that Russia needed a clearly defined national security policy to take account of the changes in both the economic and political conditions at home and the general geo-political situation.

Last November, Secretary of the Defense Council Yuri Baturin announced the beginning of work on a new military doctrine. Baturin said that internal economic difficulties had forced cuts in the military budget that led to "lowering of combat readiness and underfunding of the armed forces."

This downturn was perhaps inevitable, given the economic decline and political chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it was also bolstered by deficiencies within the military itself. These included widespread corruption within the ranks, a 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 separatists.

It may be assumed that the draft national security policy has taken these experiences into account. That much was already suggested by Baturin, who emphasized the need to focus on Russia's "technological capabilities, rather than limited economic resources" in streamlining the country's defenses.

This suggested efforts both to reduce the size of the armed forces and to shift attention toward their modernization. Similar views on defensive changes have been subsequently presented by former Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed and current Minister of Defense Igor Rodionov.

Writing last week in a Moscow newspaper (Nezavisimaya Gazeta), current Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said that a new national security policy will affect both politics and the economy, shaping the way the Government operates and ordinary people live.

Rybkin focused on the internal factors affecting the policy, emphasizing "the crisis situation in the economy," and dangers of territorial separatism.

Plans for the current state budget envisage substantial cuts (up to 30 percent) in funds allocated to the military and other security agencies.

Rybkin also said that the security policy will root relations between the central Federal Government and the regions on the "immutability" of Russia's Constitution, that is: only a relative regional autonomy with strong central authority.

The entire national security system should, Rybkin said, be focused on and coordinated with the collective security system set up by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), under Moscow's strong influence.

Rybkin said that the national security policy is not directed against any country of power. "Russia does not threaten anyone and does not wish to do so," he said. But he said that Russia would use "every category of weapons" in its defense. Russia is a major nuclear power.

But in the end, it is economic stability that conditions the shape and the effectiveness of security policies, Rybkin said - adding that economic growth is needed to reform the military, prevent separatist tension, neutralize social unrest and assure Russia's status on the world scene.

President Yeltsin and other members of the Security Council will discuss tomorrow how to cope with all these problems through a comprehensive national security policy. It is certain to be a difficult discussion.