EXTERNAL THREAT

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NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY: IMPOVERISHMENT, SEPARATISM, AND UNDERWORLD NO LONGER THREATEN RUSSIA

The new National Security Strategy seems to be somewhat controversial.


President Dmitry Medvedev declared a new National Security Strategy necessary in September 2008, soon after the end of the war in the end of the war in South Ossetia. Drafted in 1997 and updated in 2000, the existing concept was clearly obsolete – or so he had decided.

Fundamental threats as listed in the 2000 National Security Concept included stratification of society into a few wealthy and a vast majority of the poor, separatist trends, terrorism, imperfect governance, criminalization of social relations, and organized crime. The document also mentioned a crisis in social welfare and health care spheres.

The National Security Strategy until 2020 does not acknowledge any of these threats.

“They are no longer pressing,” a source in the Security Council explained. “Terrorism is on the list, as it was in the previous document, but this threat is no longer as serious as it once was. We have the National Counter-Terrorism Committee now, the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya is over.”

Yevgeny Gontmakher of the Social Policy Center (Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences) pointed out meanwhile that stratification of society was still a problem of considerable proportions and its absence from the list of officially recognized threats was surprising. “Anyway, the crisis under way may give birth to new dangers the document does not mention – marginalization of society, increase of the so called “informal” economy…”

Crisis and its effects would be allowed for, the Security Council source promised. The new Strategy set the criteria for evaluation of the shape of national security starting with the level of unemployment, prices, and so on. “There are no precise parameters in the document for the time being. The government will define them,” he added.

The list of domestic threats began with activities of foreign intelligence services in Russia and ended with corruption. According to the same source, “A great deal has been done by way of combating this evil (corruption – Vedomosti). Besides, exact place on the threat list does not really matter. Attention will be paid to all of them.”

The 2000 Concept spoke of observance of the Russians’ constitutional rights and freedoms, the new Strategy of safe conditions for realization of the constitutional rights. The document even recognized a new priority: promotion of Russians’ interests abroad. As far as human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina is concerned, this particular premise is purely political (a corollary of recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states).

The new Strategy mentioned energy security and suggested that the attention of the international community would be concentrated now on the reserves of the Middle East, Barents Sea shelf, and Central Asia. As for the Arctic Region, one of the authors of the document (Aleksei Arbatov of the International Security Center of the Institute of Global Economy and International Relations) said that it was necessary to decide without delay if it was to become an arena of cooperation because a confrontation would make development of the Arctic resources a sheer impossibility.

The 2000 Concept elaborated on equal conditions for businesses and companies regardless of the form of ownership. The new Strategy merely reiterated the importance of upping competitive capacities of Russian businesses and improving efficiency of state regulation.

Yevgeny Gavrilenkov of Troika-Dialog said that priorities should include a low inflation allowing for equality of businesses and gradual reduction of the part played by the state in economic affairs.

Economic objectives as listed by the new document included making Russia the country with the 5th largest GDP (it is the 8th largest, these days).

The United States and NATO were recognized as the major external threats to Russia, frequently mentioned in the document as they were. Arbatov explained that it was their actions rather than anything else that posed a threat: expansion of the Alliance to the Russian borders and plans to install American ballistic missile defense system in Europe.

“Since the army is supposed to be ready to repel an aggression, NATO as the world’s strongest military organization approaching the Russian borders is viewed as a challenge to military security,” a Defense Ministry officer said.

The Security Council source meanwhile objected and pointed out that the document did not regard the United States and NATO as threats. On the contrary, it identified the United States as a strategic partner in global security maintenance.

The new Strategy acknowledged the danger posed by an increase of the number of nuclear powers. It specifically mentioned Iraq and Afghanistan but failed to mention Iran. “Russia does not regard Iran and its nuclear program as a threat,” Arbatov explained.

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