On New Year's Eve, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed The National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, replacing a 2009 version. The 2015 document is a bit shriller, particularly with anti-American and anti-NATO rhetoric, but it contains only a few new wrinkles. Mostly, it rehashes that unique combination of self-justification, bellicosity and insecurity that characterize Putin's Russia.
The document puts the world on notice that Russia is a great power that will challenge what it perceives to be American "dominance in world affairs" that opposes "the conduct of the Russian Federation's independent foreign and domestic policies."
The headline in Russia's new strategy is another warning to the West that Russia cannot abide NATO activity anywhere close to its borders and, moreover, that it resents the alliance's growing global role.
"Expanding the force potential of NATO and endowing it with global functions that are implemented in violation of international legal norms, the bloc's heightened military activity, its continued expansion and the approach of its military infrastructure to Russian borders, all create a threat to national security," the document reads.
These passages reflect Moscow's malaise with NATO's forward defense and send Brussels a message intended to dampen any enthusiasm for Georgia or Ukraine in the alliance. Of course, there is no mention of the Russian aggression that sparks Georgian and Ukrainian interest in joining NATO. Nor does the document say that NATO's temporary deployments closer to Russia's borders reflect the fear of invasion among frontline alliance member. Rather, the Russian strategy document offers a shining example of the Kremlin's Uncle Sam syndrome — everything is America's fault!
"US and EU support for the anti-constitutional coup d'état in Ukraine," the paper says, "led to a deep schism in Ukrainian society and to armed conflict. Stoking far-right nationalistic ideology, deliberate portrayal of Russia as an enemy of the Ukrainian people, a blatant bid for a military solution to intrastate conflict and a deep social and economic crisis turned Ukraine into a hearth of long-lasting instability in Europe, just at the Russian border."
A new wrinkle to the 2015 document fits with this theme — Russia has discovered "US military biological laboratories" along its border. This apparently refers to laboratories refurbished in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine under the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program, a project authorized in accordance with the Nunn-Lugar Act. The program's objective was exactly the opposite of Moscow's assertion: It was to demilitarize old Soviet biological weapons facilities, sanitize them and render them for legitimate civilian purposes.
And Russia perceives threats on its periphery beyond southeastern Europe. Also in the "Eurasian and Asia-Pacific regions," the document proceeds, "the principles of equal and indivisible security are not respected. Militarization and arms races characterize the regions that neighbor Russia." The Americans and Europeans do not confine "the practice of overthrowing legitimate political authorities and provoking internal instability and conflict" to Eastern Europe. Rather, the practice "is becoming more widespread. In addition to the still-existing areas of instability in the Middle and Far East, in Africa, South Asia and the Korean Peninsula, new 'hot spots' have appeared, and the territory not controlled by any government authority has expanded."
The 2015 document also forcefully reiterates Russia's perennial warning about any kind of American or NATO missile defense systems. Such deployment, the document asserts, will "significantly decrease the possibility of maintaining global and regional stability." This is intended to erode support for any NATO missile defense and to warn the next American president not to revisit US President Barack Obama's decision to scuttle land-based systems in the Czech Republic and Poland in favor of a "reset" in US-Russian relations.
The only ray of light to emanate from the 2015 strategy is cast upon the Arctic. Russia remains committed to the objectives articulated in 2009: "economic development, basic transport, energy, information, military infrastructures, especially in the Arctic, Eastern Siberia and the Far East, and the development of the Northern Sea Route."
However, the old document was somewhat belligerent, emphasizing the possibility of military confrontation "due to competition for resources." This followed an August 2007 submarine expedition to plant a Russian flag in international waters, 4,000 meters below the North Pole, throwing down the gauntlet to Copenhagen, Oslo, Ottawa and Washington. Likely reflecting the Kremlin's belated realization that it lacks the technology and capital to go it alone in the Arctic, the 2015 strategy notes that, "Of particular importance is the development of equal and mutually beneficial international cooperation in the Arctic."
In sum, with the exception of a possible change of tone on the Arctic and a shriller pitch overall, the 2015 Russian national security strategy is not much different from the previous one. Yet again, it reflects the Kremlin's Uncle Sam syndrome, insecurity and sense of grievance, all wrapped in a package of bellicose self-justification.
Khatuna Mshvidobadze is principal at Cyberlight Global Associates, McLean, Virginia, and an adjunct professor, Utica College, Utica, New York.