RUSSIA WILL RESET ITS NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY

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Approval of the National Security Strategy has been postponed again

President Dmitri Medvedev chaired an expanded meeting of the Security Council on March 24. The meeting was supposed to approve the Russian Federation’s National Security Strategy to 2020 – but this decision was postponed at the last moment.


President Dmitri Medvedev chaired an expanded meeting of the Security Council on March 24. The meeting was supposed to approve the Russian Federation’s National Security Strategy to 2020 – but this decision was postponed at the last moment.

In his opening speech, President Medvedev said: “We are meeting to consider an essential document for our country’s development – the draft National Security Strategy to 2020. For some time now, our actions in this area have been based on the National Security Concept adopted in 1997. But Russia has changed greatly since then, moving past the transition period of the 1990s. Our country is developing confidently now, and has moved onto a qualitatively different strategic development path.”

Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev held a post-meeting press conference to report that approval of the National Security Strategy has been postponed for a month. According to Patrushev, although Security Council members had reached agreement on the draft, a number of proposals for improving it were made at yesterday’s meeting. “Many of these proposals were diametrically opposed,” said Patrushev.

It isn’t the first time Medvedev has postponed signing this crucial document. Sources in the Kremlin and the Security Council told us yesterday that the latest postponement is entirely due to technicalities. The presidential administration also said that the decision should not be over-dramatized.

But some of those who have worked on the Strategy give different explanations for why the president has yet to sign the Strategy. The main reason is the thaw in Moscow-Washington relations. The point is that the draft Strategy, as discussed in late December at a meeting with Russian Academy of Sciences consultants, included a list of Moscow’s most likely military opponents in the National Security section. The draft stated: “Military security threats include the policies of a number of leading countries, aimed at attaining overwhelming military superiority, primarily in terms of strategic nuclear forces, a global missile defense system, and militarization of outer space.” After noting that the Euro-Atlantic region’s NATO-focused security architecture is inadequate, the draft Strategy predicted that “the determining factor in relations with NATO will continue to be its plans, unacceptable to Russia, for moving NATO military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders and attempting to give NATO global fuctions that contravene international law.”

All these passages are entirely in the spirit of Russian-American relations as they were in the era of President George W. Bush. But with the election of President Barack Obama, and given Washington’s stated wish to “press the reset button” on Russia policy, the relevance of these statements is open to question. The new US administration has been trying (in words, at least) to take account of Russia’s interests. A recent US commission report states that Washington should be more cautious in criticizing Russia’s human rights situation, should promote WTO accession for Russia, and should recognize that Moscow has legitimate interests in the former USSR.

Ruslan Grinberg, head of the Economics Institute (Russian Academy of Sciences), who took part in writing the Strategy: “I think it’s possible that the start of a thaw in our relations with the Americans has influenced the decision to wait before adopting the Strategy. After all, it isn’t entirely clear yet how relations between the American and Russian leaders will work out. A new window of opportunity may open after their meeting in April. So the decision to postpone adopting the Strategy is entirely reasonable.”

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