NEW ORDERS FOR ARMY

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THE AMENDED LAW "ON DEFENSE" WILL ALLOW FOR DEPLOYMENT OF THE RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES WORLDWIDE

The president suggested amendment of the acting law “On Defense”.


President Dmitry Medvedev met with leaders of the Duma factions in Sochi yesterday and announced that he was amending the law "On Defense". (The draft law "On Defense" is available on the official web site of the Kremlin.) The amended legislation will entitle the president to order deployment of the Armed Forces beyond the territory of the Russian Federation "for defense of the interests of Russia and its citizens and maintenance of international peace and security" in the following situations: when the Russian Armed Forces or other troops quartered abroad find themselves under attack; when it is necessary to repel or prevent an aggression against a foreign state; when it is necessary to protect citizens of Russia abroad; and whenever pirates have to be fought and security of navigation ensured.

The order of the decision-making remains unchanged. The decision to deploy the Armed Forces abroad will be made by the president on the basis of a Federation Council resolution in accordance with Article 102 of the Constitution.

As things stand, the law “On Defense” permits deployment of the Armed Forces abroad only to “repel aggression against the Russian Federation, for armed defense of its territorial integrity” and whenever it is permitted by international treaties. It means that the draft law Medvedev said had been forwarded to the Duma broadened the list of reasons behind deployment of the Russian Armed Forces abroad.

“Needless to say, it is a corollary of the last year events,” Medvedev explained. Last August, Russia had mounted a “peace-enforcement operation” on the territory of South Ossetia, a self-proclaimed republic denied international recognition. The Kremlin’s decision raised lots of eyebrows in Russia itself and stirred the international community. In fact, the decision to involve the Russian army in the armed conflict was made then even without the upper house of the parliament.

Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said then that there was no point to convene a meeting of the upper house of the parliament because Russia was not deploying troops in Georgia, it was but “increasing its peacekeeping contingent”. “We were playing it by ear then. All formalities went down the drain,” political scientist and Duma deputy Sergei Markov said. “Something had to be done to clarify the matter.”

It is necessary to add that the 1992 CIS Collective Security Treaty is so far the only international document regulating deployment of the Russian Armed Forces abroad. Article 4 of the Treaty permits direct military aid to “any member state facing an outright aggression.” So, the Treaty in question permits Moscow to send its regular army to the territories of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Article 6 meanwhile emphasizes that “deployment of the armed forces of member states beyond their national territories may only take place in the interests of international security in accordance with the UN Charter and legislations of participants.”

The amended legislation expands geography of deployment practically worldwide. In theory, the reference in it to “aggression against a foreign state” enables Russia to meddle in the conflict between Venezuela and Columbia brewing in Latin America these days. The reference to protection of nationals abroad (tourists) is another motive for deployment of the Russian regular army worldwide.

And yet, it stands to reason to expect Moscow to mostly apply the new legislation to the territory of the late USSR which it considers its own zone of influence. Russia has peacekeepers (Moldova) and military bases (Ukraine, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Trans-Dniester region, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia) in lots of countries here. Also importantly, a sizeable part of the region in question will become the zone of responsibility of the Strategic Response Collective Forces the Kremlin is forming within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The United States alone has an even more radical military legislation. It enables US President to send the army abroad on the strength of his own decision and make a report to the US Congress within forty-eight hours afterwards. If the military operation abroad takes more than 60 days, US President is supposed to ask for legislators’ permission to continue it.

Political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko said that the logic of the amended legislation was absolutely clear. “Threats always appear during crises. The Caucasus and Central Asia are regions of vital importance for Russia. The Americans’ failure in Afghanistan will mean advance of the aggressive Islamism on Russia,” he said.

Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin chose to interpret the amended legislation as a purely preventive measure for the time being. “All of that concerns Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Georgia,” Mitrokhin said. “It is a message to either Georgia or NATO that this is how we will operate, if need be.” Recalling that deployment of the Russian troops in South Ossetia and Georgia had collided with the acting legislation, Yabloko leader assumed that the Russian leadership was taking steps to ameliorate this state of affairs and “make future situations such as this more predictable.”

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