James F. Holcomb
Michael M. Boll
July 20, 1994
The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
The future direction of Russian security and defense policies is a fundamental
issue in contemporary world politics. Future Russian policies will have
a major impact on all nuclear issues; on bilateral relations with the United
States; and on European, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Far Eastern
security. One primary indicator of the direction of Russian policies is
the new Defense Doctrine published in November 1993. This document has
aroused much controversy and diverging assessments as to its significance.
However, since it encompasses all the major issues in Russia's security
and defense agenda, it is a major statment that is crucial to any understanding
of Russian trends and policies.
Because of the controversy over Russian doctrine, the Strategic Studies
Institute, as part of its ongoing coverage of Russian defense and security
policies, presents here two very different assessments of that doctrine
to contribute to the debate over its meaning. The Institute is not offering
an official interpretation of the new doctrine. While both authors work
for the Defense Department, they differ in their assessments and are expressing
only their personal opinions, not those of any government agency. We hope
that our audience will find these presentations stimulating and thought
JOHN W. MOUNTCASTLE Colonel, U.S. Army Director, Strategic Studies Institute
In the past decade, Soviet/Russian military doctrine has experienced
startling changes both in content and in the role such doctrine will play
in protecting the vital interests of the state. This report focuses upon
efforts during and after the Gorbachev era to establish clear national
security priorities and to enumerate the ways in which military doctrine
might ensure protection of the Russian national interest.
Since 1987, when the Soviet Union switched to an ostensibly defensive
military doctrine, the nature of this doctrine has been a contentious issue
in both Soviet/Russian policies and Western perceptions of these policies.
This controversy has persisted. The most recent iteration of Russia's defense
doctrine was published, with President Yeltsin's signature, in November
1993. It immediately aroused controversy in the West as being a restatement
of old Soviet themes, a document for an imperial conception of defense
policy, an enshrinement of military superiority over civilians in defense
policy, and so forth. On the other hand, a rival current of opinion argued
for its novelty and recognition of new, more realistic positions on a broad
range of policy issues. As this debate continues, the Strategic Studies
Institute presents two independent and differing assessments of the published
LTC Holcomb's assessment sees in this document a conservative, even
traditional approach that does not, in many cases, offer radical departures
from previous policies and perspectives. The concept of doctrine is, he
claims, no different than what preceded it, and the habit of worst case
planning that characterized Soviet policy is also displayed here. Thus
the overall perspective is shaped by an outlook that is skeptical of the
West and on guard for military dangers, if not threats.
Dr. Boll, on the other hand, argues that while disagreements may flourish
among Russian analysts in the West as to the relative offensive and defensive
aspects of both the new doctrine and its 1992 draft predecessor that was
not formally approved, there is no question that both documents are firmly
integrated with the overall Russian notion of identified national interests
and preferred means for their protection. Accordingly, he contends that,
for the first time, modern Russian military doctrine responds to a purely
national concept of self-interest and threat assessment that is not ideological
in nature. Therefore, Russia now has a truly national doctrine that is
set out before the world for consideration. The changes in the content
of Russian military doctrine are historic in nature. But the alteration
in the form of doctrine is truly revolutionary!
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This page last updated on 18 Jun 99.