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Russia Overhauls Military Doctrine

January 10, 2015 (Photo Credit: DMITRY ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty Images)

WARSAW — Russia's new military doctrine calls for a more aggressive stance toward NATO, boosting presence in the Arctic and strengthening cooperation with India and China.

"Global developments at present stage are characterized by an increasing global competition, tensions in various interstate and interregional areas," said the document, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 26. "There are many regional conflicts which remain unresolved. There is a tendency to force their resolution, including those which are in the regions bordering the Russian Federation. The existing architecture of the international security system does not provide an equal level of security to all states. "

The new doctrine brings significant changes to the country's defense strategy in a number of fields, and names the expansion of NATO in Russia's neighborhood as one of the principal threat factors.

In response to efforts by NATO to extend air and anti-missile defense coverage over Europe, the document enables the joint setting up of missile defense systems by Russia and allied countries, which was not possible under the previous doctrine. The document says these efforts by NATO states are "undermining global stability and violating the balance of power in the nuclear-missile sphere."

Referring to the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine, where Moscow is backing pro-Russian rebels in the country's east against the government in Kiev, the document explicitly identifies "the expansion of NATO's military potential on the Russian border" as a security threat. As a response, the doctrine calls for developing cooperation with other BRICS countries, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The document points to this as one of the "main tasks of the Russian Federation to contain and prevent armed conflicts."

Local analysts say Russia is already a major supplier of arms to some of the BRICS states, such as India, where it is partnering on joint defense projects.

"[T]he strategic partnership between the two countries remains critical for India's defense needs, especially now that India has permitted foreign direct investments in the defense sector, up to [a share of] 49 percent. Until 2013, India [represented] 38 percent of Russia's major weapons exports, with Moscow supplying 75 percent of India's imports of major weapons," said Monika Chansoria, senior fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies think tank in New Delhi. "However, what primarily took off as a buyer-seller relationship has now fully evolved into a joint venture association."

Fifteen years following the signing of the Indo-Russian Declaration on Strategic Partnership, there is an "amplified collaboration between Moscow and New Delhi in joint design, [research and development], and development and manufacturing of defense systems and technologies extending to space applications and aviation," Chansoria said. "This is only likely to be further enhanced with announcements such as … the cooperation on the production of 400 Ka-226 military helicopters."

Petr Topychkanov, an associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center's Nonproliferation Program, said the Indian arms market is "promising for Russia, because Russia not only exports weapons to this country, but also cooperates in production of new systems like BrahMos or the Su-35MKI" fighter jet.

The BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by NPO Mashinostroeyenia, a Russian design bureau, and India's state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Meanwhile, local observers say Russia's push to intensify ties with other BRICS countries, as expressed in the new doctrine, is a natural continuation of Moscow's earlier foreign policies.

"Russia has always intended to have a more sustained and fully structured cooperation between all the BRICS countries …. while, at the same time, a number of security topics are much more ripe and relevant to deal with not within BRICS, but, rather, within other formats [of Russia's international cooperation]," said Victoria Panova, assistant professor at the Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia at the MGIMO University in Moscow.

"South Africa or Brazil would not be interested in the issue of [weapons of mass destruction] non-proliferation or disarmament the same way as the other three countries," Panova said. "All five countries could be very interested in common policies and deepening their cooperation regarding information and cybersecurity."

The sanctions imposed on Russia by the West following its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, including those hampering imports and exports of military gear, are another major factor contributing to Moscow's drive toward closer cooperation with the remaining four BRICS states, local analysts say.

The new doctrine is also calling for expanding Russia's military presence in the Arctic. This follows statements by Russian political leaders. In April, Putin said the region has always been a sphere of "special interest" to Russia.

The decision by the country's Defense Ministry to set up an Arctic Strategic Command last December, and related plans to acquire aircraft, radars and other military equipment for the newly-established force, demonstrate Moscow's commitment to enhancing its military capabilities in the Arctic.


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