Russia’s new military doctrine: not so much revised as concentrated

On 5 February, President Medvedev signed into law the long-awaited (in other words, overdue) new military doctrine document. I don’t propose at this point to post much about it, not least as there have already been excellent immediate-response analyses from Dmitry Gorenburg and the anonymous author of the Russian Defense Policy blog. My overwhelming sense is that the 2010 document is fundamentally very close to its 2000 predecessor, albeit a lot more tightly written. Much the same can be said about the doctrine itself. It does not so much change the fundamentals of the previous doctrine as distill them. More to the point, it seems to represent on the one hand a grudging retreat from claims to a truly global status (long overdue) but on the other a much sharper and arguably more aggressive assertion of its regional power status and, indeed, its claims to hegemony in post-Soviet Eurasia. So, NATO is no longer the enemy — but NATO expansion into the ‘Near Abroad’ and even the penetration of its influence there is listed as the greatest military danger (which is different from a threat) to Russia. Likewise, attempts to ‘destabilise states and regions’ near Russia — presumably we’re back to the bugbear of nefarious Westerners engineering pro-democracy movements in Eurasia — are explicitly listed as a danger. Maybe Moscow has come to realise the wisdom of Frederick the Great’s dictum, that if you try to hold everything, you hold nothing. In the future, me may see less global grandstanding (Moscow’s tougher line on Iran’s nuclear policy could prove encouraging) but this is not going to reflect any more conciliatory line so much as a greater concentration of effort on both securing Eurasian hegemony and ejecting foreign influence from the region, something unlikely to be a great comfort to its neighbours.

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