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Russia Threatens No One

Sergei IvanovRussian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has delivered a report at a recent conference involving top commanders of this country's Armed Forces. A booklet entitled "Topical Tasks of the Development of The Russian Federation's Armed Forces" was published on the basis of Ivanov's report. Predictably enough, these two events have caused a mixed response, with the mass media already referring to this report as the new Russian military doctrine. Technically speaking, this does not amount to a military doctrine, because Ivanov's report was not discussed by the National Security Council. Nor was this document signed by the President of Russia, thus becoming a guide to action for our Armed Forces. This report deals with the latest global changes, also discussing the Russian military organisation's possible reaction to such changes, as well as its goals and tasks. Incidentally, the NATO strategic concept, which was modified during the 1999 Washington summit, contains virtually the same provisions.


Unlike Ivanov's report, which is a veritable "letter of intent", the strategic concept is a guide to action for 20 current NATO members and nine prospective ones. Moreover, the concept's contents are much more serious than those of Ivanov's report. At any rate, various combat objectives being mentioned by the Russian Defence Minister do not transcend CIS boundaries, or those of Russia's allies. Meanwhile the NATO strategy encompasses the entire world, reaching far beyond the North Atlantic region as the NATO zone of responsibility. This is highlighted by events in Afghanistan.


Still let us leave this comparison alone.


Does Ivanov's report send out any serious message to Brussels? Yes, it does. However, one can say that this message is somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, the Russian military leadership notes a positive trend, i.e. expanded partner-like relations with NATO and the United States. Such partner-like relations match the new level of political interaction between countries. This made it possible to establish additional structures and institutions for the sake of ensuring global stability. This is particularly true of mutual partnership within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council. On the other hand, though, Ivanov's report emphasises the fact that Russia, which is closely following the NATO transformation process, also hopes that direct and indirect anti-Russian components be removed from the NATO military-planning process, as well as political declarations of NATO countries.


Military experts know perfectly well that the anti-Russian bias of the military-planning process wasn't mentioned by sheer coincidence. NATO boasts the nuclear-planning committee, which does not study the theoretical possibility of using nuclear weapons against such terrorist organisations as al-Qaeda or the Taliban. On the contrary, the nuclear-planning committee analyses this possibility with regard to other nuclear powers, except the United States, France and Great Britain. This makes up for a total of four countries, namely, Israel, India, Pakistan and Russia. It goes without saying that Israel is not targeted by NATO's nuclear weapons. Mind you, the 150 V-61 glider bombs, which are deployed by the US Air Force at ten European bases, are not spearheaded against Israel. Nor do they target New Delhi and Islamabad just because tactical bombers capable of carrying such glider bombs will never reach these two cities from Italy, Belgium, Norway and Turkey. At the same time, Russian generals and everyone else know all about their possible targets.


Consequently, double-dealing standards should not be applied to the mutual-threat concept.


Incidentally, Russia doesn't store its tactical nuclear weapons elsewhere. Moreover, such weapons, which are not wielded by combat elements, can only be found at central technical compounds. Frankly speaking, any unbiased expert would perceive this as a tell-tale sign.


At the same time, we should not overlook the fact that Ivanov's report openly notes the possible use of Russia's Armed Forces along the western strategic axis. Specific combat-operation methods, i.e. aerospace operations, naval operations and ground operations, are mentioned, as well. All the main objectives are to be accomplished by means of long-range strikes prior to the commitment of forward based units. The same is true of swift combined operations, which are renowned for their impressive manoeuvrability, and which aim to hit military formations, military installations, as well as economic centres and their infrastructure.


I talked to former first Russian deputy defence minister and former NSC secretary Andrei Kokoshin, who is now a member of the State Duma, and who also heads the Institute of International Security Problems (Russian Academy of Sciences). And I asked Kokoshin about the gist of this contradiction. On the one hand, the army-development concept claims that a global nuclear war, as well as a large-scale conventional war against NATO and the United States, are omitted from the list of the most likely military conflicts involving the Russian Armed Forces. On the other hand, possible large-scale operations are being contemplated along the western strategic axis. According to Kokoshin, this contradiction is a Cold War relapse. Some generals still abide by Cold War categories. Add to this the continued virtual conflict involving a state policy, which aims to establish partner-like relations with the world's leading countries. The military are afraid that such relations do not often attain mutually acceptable goals; consequently, Russia must be ready to cope with military pressure, repelling armed attacks, if need be.


The relevant international experience tends to convince Russian generals time and again that certain countries or their coalitions disregard international law under the pretext of fighting terrorism and preventing the proliferation of mass-destruction weapons. Besides, military force is being used to ensure any given state's economic interests, as well as those of big-league trans-national companies. In the obtaining situation, a reminder about large-scale operations serves as a veritable deterrent, rather than a threat, Kokoshin added.


Ivanov underscored precisely this concept in his report. Russia would have to overhaul its entire military-planning system and principles for the development of its Armed Forces, including changes in the national nuclear strategy, if NATO retains its status of a military alliance replete with the present-day offensive military doctrine, Ivanov stressed.


I think this is a serious warning, rather than a threat, Kokoshin said. Partner-like relations between Russia and NATO, as well as those between Moscow and Washington, imply that we can talk to each other openly and honestly, without lapsing into hysterics, and without staging any public "family quarrels". Apart from that, we can discuss pressing issues respecting each other's positions and concerns. Presidents Vladimir Putin, George Bush Jr., Jacques Chirac, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Prime Minister Tony Blair are setting this example to our countries' politicians and generals.


Vladimir Putin mentioned the UR-100-NUTTKH intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) during the above-said top-brass conference. Experts are aware of the fact that their launchers are deployed in central Russia, i.e. near the town of Kozelsk (the Kaluga region) and Tatishchevo village in the Saratov region. These missiles, which have a minimal range of 3,000 km, simply can't hit targets within a shorter radius. A map showing their possible range shows only too clearly that such missiles can't be used to attack Germany or France.


Summing up, one can say that such fears are groundless, all the more so as Russian ICBMs have not been targeted anywhere over the last 10 years. And nobody is going to change this.

Viktor LITOVKIN, RIAN

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