As the 21st century begins, countries have unfortunately failed to exclude the military factor from their internal and foreign policies. That is why the new edition of the Russian National Security Concept (NSC) states that: “the national interests of the Russian Federation require the presence of military power sufficient for its defense. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation play the major role in the provision of military security for the Russian Federation.”

To understand why the document contains such wording, it is necessary to attain a grasp of the character of internal and external threats, which are also described in the NSC. Here is a list of those threats, from which arise the need to provide military security: territorial problems arising from the absence of clear legal determination of state borders; interference in internal affairs of the Russian Federation, including infringement of state unity and territorial integrity; attempts to violate the interests of the Russian Federation when solving international security problems; appearance and escalation of armed conflicts, primarily near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies; organization (build-up) of troops, resulting in changing of the current balance of forces near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies; expansion of military blocs and treaties, infringing on the military security of the Russian Federation; actions aimed at undermining global or regional stability, and so on.

These threats are not imaginary and their authenticity is demonstrated by the events that began in the North Caucasus in August 1999. The contingent of the Armed Forces and other security agencies of the country currently enforces Constitutional order in the dangerous areas of the North Caucasus.

Bandits engage in guerrilla warfare, hence security in Chechnya will depend on the actions of the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies.

In comparison to the previous Chechen campaign, troops have achieved noticeable successes, which resulted from certain steps taken to reform the military. Since 1997, the Armed Forces have been reduced to the necessary level; their command structures were optimized, which allowed units to be in a state of permanent readiness and wartime strength. It is those units and formations, which currently operate in Chechnya.

Russia has managed to realize its potential for military build up. In June 1997, the President approved the plan for reforming the Armed Forces. A month later, the program for the build up of the Armed Forces until 2005 was approved. This is a program document, on the basis of which the large-scale qualitative and quantitative transformation of the composition of the Armed Forces was begun, which included reduction forces to their authorized strength.

In 1998, the basis (concept) of the state military build up policy of the Russian Federation was approved. This document has managed to achieve clarity in solving problems of optimization and consolidation of the military organization of the state. In particular, some military districts have been enlarged and received the status of tactical-strategic (tactical-territorial) districts of the Armed Forces. In accordance with the federal law “On defense,” within the framework of their borders, these districts are entitled to tactical command of groups, formations, and units of the Armed Forces, and other troops of other security agencies.

The statements on the tactical-strategic command are currently being acted out by the organization of the United Group of Forces in the North Caucasus. The group comprises units and formations of various security agencies. The group is commanded by Colonel General Victor Kazantsev, the Commander of the North-Caucasus Military District. Efficiency of the group command is evident. It is confirmed by the effective and coordinated operations of the troops of the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry, Federal Border Guards Service, and militia in Chechnya.

Thus, the effectiveness of the Armed Forces in combating local terrorist aggression and resolving internal conflicts in the country has been proven in recent events. Meanwhile, external threats require improvement and maintenance of the combat readiness of strategic deterrence forces too. Over the last few years, these forces have also undergone large-scale transformations.

In 1997, the Strategic Missile Forces, Military-Space Forces, and Space Anti-Missile Defense Forces were merged into the Strategic Missile Forces. As a result of the integration, the command personnel were reduced by 30%, and duplicating structures were cut back. Combat readiness was increased 15-20% with a substantial saving of funds needed for maintenance of the reduced Armed Forces branch. Two new regiments, armed with Topol-M missiles, have recently begun their combat duty.

In 1998, the Air Force and Air Defense Forces were merged into the Air Force. On account of unification of the command structures of the two Armed Forces branches, the authorized strength of the Air Force was reduced 30-40%. The Air Force is currently enlarging long-range aviation.

The Navy has also undergone a significant reorganization. It will be soon reinforced with nuclear cruiser submarines. It is obvious why Russia needs this. In 1999, NATO accepted three new members: Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. We can assume that this does not threaten Russia, but according to the Defense Ministry, the mere fact of the presence of armed forces, ships, and the aircraft of NATO near the Russian borders demonstrates that Russia “needs to keep the powder dry.” NATO has already demonstrated its “love for peace” with Russia. Under the guise of a peacekeeping operation, NATO inserted its forces into Yugoslavia. The Serb orthodox Christian population is still persecuted in Kosovo. It is already clear that NATO has overtaken a strategically important combat area in the center of Europe.

The beneficial geographic location of Yugoslavia, at the crossroads of transport routes and interests of many countries, is the reason for the concentration of NATO forces there.

The new strategy of NATO makes provisions for expanding the possible military force application far beyond the “zone of responsibility” of the alliance. At this point, Russia is concerned not only about the activation of military-political efforts in the former Soviet republics, but also these regions’ assertions that they constitute a sphere of NATO security interests. Thus, the NATO zone includes not only the Caspian countries, but also Central Asia. However, Russia also has its own interests in this region. Thus, collusion of these interests shows that Russia needs to improve its military powers.

Moreover, Washington plans to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972. Washington will make a decision on this matter in the summer of 2000. It is very likely that the anti-missile defense system, which is prohibited by the ABM treaty, will be deployed. Selection of areas of the national anti-missile defense system deployment (Alaska and Grand-Forks air base, North Dakota) demonstrates that this system is mainly intended to intercept ballistic missiles launched from Russia and China. In these circumstances, Russia will take responsive measures.

Russia will be able to defend its sovereignty. The economic situation in the country is gradually stabilizing. This was demonstrated by the observance of the budget allocations to the Armed Forces. For the first time during the whole post-Soviet history, all budget assignments for national defense in 1999 were fully observed. In 2000, it is planned that the state defense order will be increased 50%. The Armed Forces will receive new kinds of weapons, which indicates that the needs of Russia’s national security will be fully met.

All this will happen, if there is peace and accord in Russia and power is based on democratic principles. However, in reality, many factors could hinder this process, including the presidential elections. No one can predict with 100% assurance how Putin will (as one of the candidates for presidency) behave as the President. Meanwhile, his intention to increase the military budget and strengthen the Armed Forces shows that, on the one hand, he cares about the state. On the other hand, however, he could be creating the preconditions for the establishment of tyranny and authoritarian rule in the country.