Henceforth Russia will not struggle for military parity, but in the event of aggression will not rule out the first use of nuclear weapons

The full text of the National Security Concept (NSC) that has been approved by the President was published in the state media organs at the end of December. Simultaneously, Yeltsin put the mechanisms for implementing this document in place and instructed “federal power organs and Federation subjects’ power organs to work toward making the document a reality.”

Journalists and society at large gave the decree little notice, but this does not diminish the document’s significance. Up to this point, in our government, there has not been any kind of conceptual plan relating to the mechanism or principles for securing our interests in the economic, social, political, military or other spheres of Russian life.

It was decided to create an NSC even during the time of the Soviet Union. After the USSR’s disintegration, when the Russian Security Council was only beginning to form, it was assumed that such a program for this strategic document would appear in the near future. But a long 5 years passed until this notion was transformed into concrete action. Incidentally, Nezavisimaya Gazeta has done regular reports on the course of work on the NSC. In 1996, former National Security Advisor to the President, Yuri Baturin, repeatedly made statements on the pages of Nezavisimaya Gazeta regarding the preparation of this document. His position consisted of the idea that all of the branches of federal power, society, scientific circles, journalists, etc., had been enlisted to work on the NSC. Unfortunately, however, this was not the case.

At the end of 1996, when Ivan Rybkin had already taken over the Security Council, Yeltsin instructed him and his staff to complete work on the NSC in the shortest possible time. So, behind closed doors, the Security Council, Defense Ministry, General Staff and other affected departments that had been instructed by the executive to take part, began non-stop work on the NSC. On May 7, 1997, at a regular Security Council meeting, the draft of the NSC was discussed in its fundamental principles. Security Council representatives then adopted the document in its initial form.

Why then did an argument erupt in society regarding the correctness of the NSC in May 1997? The thing is that Security Council Secretary Rybkin and his former deputy Boris Berezovsky, in explaining the approved draft document, indicated that the NSC included conditions for the possible first use of Russia’s nuclear weapons. Without having seen the actual document, several reporters and social figures decided to argue with its thesis. They said that raising such a question was tantamount to a return to the Cold War. Now that the NSC has been published in its entirety, interest in its contents has diminished. What exactly does the NSC say with regard to the right of first use of nuclear weapons and what does the document stand for in its entirety?

The National Security Concept that was approved by President Yeltsin is a rather lengthy document (the equivalent of 2 full-length newspaper pages). The NSC’s text consists of a preamble and 4 sections. The preamble sets forth the NSC’s characteristics and indicates its significance for the formulation of government policies. The 1st section is entitled, “Russia in the World” and it analyzes the fundamental trends in the development of the contemporary world, as well as Russia’s global role. The 2nd section, entitled “Russia’s National Interests,” presents a system for determining the country’s national interests as an aggregate of fundamental interests of the individual, society and the state. The NSC’s 3rd section, entitled “Threats to National Security,” identifies the characteristics and composition of fundamental threats to Russia’s national security (in the economic, social and military spheres, in connection with the distribution of national and regional separatism, crime and organized crime, ecological and natural catastrophes and so on). The document’s 4th section, “Safeguarding Russia’s National Security,” identifies the basic government strategies for safeguarding national security. The problem of safeguarding the national security and defending national interests in the economic sphere occupies the forefront. Very little space is given to the discussion of military affairs. This is, it seems, related to the fact that the document notes that at present there are few military threats to Russia’s national security. The NSC does not discount the possibility that an external threat may arise, but indicates that it is unlikely that a global armed conflict will soon erupt. At the same time, there is discussion of the fact that regional and local conflicts are quite likely. But at present Russia is not equipped to predict their occurrence, or their form or the best method to settle such conflicts. The Security Council notes that this is a principally important provision, allowing one to view the mechanism of military security, and the country’s military defense, in a very different way. It means that significant resources are freed up for the needs and desires of citizens and society in general. In addition, we know quite well that the conclusion regarding the unlikelihood of Russia’s entry into a large-scale war was disputed and will likely continue to be disputed in society. One could say that former Defense Minister Igor Rodinov and former Defense Council Secretary Yuri Baturin argued about this very idea until quite recently. The beginning of the reduction and reform of the Armed Forces was delayed as a result of this very argument. However, now there are other people in power in the structures responsible for defense policies. One can see their hands at work in the NSC’s statement that “Russia is not struggling to retain parity in arms or armed forces with the leading world powers and is oriented toward the realization of the principle of deterrence, at the heart of which lies the capability to adequately employ needed military force for the prevention of aggression. In order to avert war and military conflict the Russian Federation will give preference to political, economic and other non-military means.” Objectively, the arms race is over for our country. However, it is also impossible for Russia to be completely “peace-loving.” And it is no accident that the NSC envisions Russia’s right “to use all the forces at its disposal, including nuclear weapons, if as the result of armed aggression, a threat arises to the existence of the Russian Federation as an independent and sovereign state.” As one can see, the document makes no direct reference to the first use of nuclear weapons. However, it is not difficult to make the conclusion that such a strike is possible, if aggression arises from other states, threatening the Russian Federation. A similar thesis, but in a more stark form, is employed by the US, struggling for preeminence in the world. Several weeks before the signing of Russia’s NSC, the US President signed a directive in which he reserved for the US, the right to employ nuclear weapons. They would be employed against countries which employ chemical or biological weapons against American troops. Russia, of course, is one of those countries that has chemical weapons.

Russia today remains a great power due to its nuclear forces. It is these forces that are currently serve as the basis for the state’s power, and this is emphasized in the NSC. At the same time it must be admitted that the work on creating and making the structure of the mechanism for safeguarding Russia’s national security has only begun with the adoption of the NSC. On its basis must be worked up and adopted an entire range of doctrines and programs, determining policies and strategies for the government in particular branches: military doctrines, economic doctrines, financial, social and industrial safeguards, measures to safeguard informational and ecological security and several others. Thus, given all the sharp and partially disputed points tied to the adoption of several of the NSC’s conditions, and the non-democratic form of its approval (the draft conception was not discussed in society and was developed within a small circle of officials), the very fact of its birth speaks of many things. The fact that the President signed the document may be seen as an attempt to begin an intelligent, programmed realization by Russia of its domestic and foreign policies. This is a indication of the state toward which the Russian Federation is now striving.