MOSCOW – The Kremlin on Friday branded the expansion of NATO as a fundamental threat to Russia in a revised military doctrine that dramatically reflects deteriorating relations with the West.
The new document, approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin, decries the "reinforcement of NATO's offensive capacities directly on Russia's borders, and measures taken to deploy a global anti-missile defense system" in Central Europe.
NATO was already seen a major threat in an earlier version of the doctrine published in 2010, but the war in Ukraine has further raised tensions to levels not seen since the Cold War.
The alarmed tone of the new version comes in the wake of repeated protests by Moscow over NATO's decision to position troops in alliance member states like Poland or the Baltic states that border Russia.
The Kremlin has also opposed NATO's American-driven plan to base its anti-missile defense shield in Central Europe, which Moscow views as directed foremost against Russia.
The doctrine's harsher tone also follows Wednesday's decision by Ukraine to abandon its non-aligned status — a symbolic move that provoked Moscow's anger by potentially clearing the way for Kiev to request NATO membership.
Ukraine faces a huge task to bring its military up to NATO norms, and key members of the alliance, including France and Germany, remain skeptical about it joining the alliance.
Despite its new anti-NATO edge, the Russian doctrine remains primarily defensive in nature, calling any military action by Russia justifiable only after all non-violent options to settle a conflict have been exhausted.
In the same vein, it notes the "decreased likelihood of a large-scale war against Russia", although it does list a number of increasing threats to stability like territorial disputes, "interference in the internal affairs" of nations, and the use of strategic arms in space.
Russia's new military doctrine also introduces the concept of "non-nuclear dissuasion" based on maintaining a high degree of preparedness of conventional military forces. It also urges active participation in regional security organizations like the Commonwealth of Independent States, made up of nine former Soviet Republics; and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation formed by Russia, China, and several ex-Soviet Caucasian republics.
It reserves however the right to use the country's nuclear arsenal in the event of aggression against Russia or its allies, or in case of "threat to the very existence of the state."
Among the principal duties listed in the doctrine for the country's armed forces during times of peace is the protection "of Russia's national interests in the Arctic," a strategic region in Russia's future energy development to which the United States and Canada also lay claim.