United States of America and Soviet Union signed a treaty of “Intermediate Range Nuclear Force” during 1987 (also known as Cold War era). The basic purpose of this treaty was to prevent further destruction in the world, but US has engaged the complete world into an arms race. Both the super powers were enthusiastic to abide by the rules of this treaty but, later on US suspected Russia for violating the rules. This research paper is basically to analyze the position of US in the continent Asia whether it will be able to suppress China, as China is the emerging threat towards its hegemony. This research paper is supported by the “offensive realism theory” which was provided by John Mearsheimer. According to this theory, when any state develops strong in any region of strategic importance, different powers intervenes to suppress it in order to maintain their own dominancy.
The main reason behind America withdrawal from “INF treaty” was to construct missiles of that much longer ranges which can counter China and creation of those missiles was actually banned under that treaty. According to the research US actually wanted to suppress China by highlighting the Russia’s non-Compliance as a pretext. Furthermore, due to lack of policies and strategies in Asia-Pacific region US was actually unable to contain China and other Asiatic states for deploying missiles within their territories. The data has been collected from primary and secondary sources and analytical methodology has been applied. Primary data composed of interviews of political parties and American government on News Channels, talk shows and official websites whereas secondary data collected from journals articles, newspapers and reports of “SIPRI”.
Ronald Reagan representing United States and Michael Gaurbachev representing Soviet Union signed “Intermediate Range Nuclear Force (INF)” Treaty in year 1987. Under this treaty both states were obliged to eliminate all missiles having range of between 500 to 5500 Kms.Russia at that time was having SS 20 Missiles which was capable of destroying whole Europe with its range, the basic purpose of US behind initiating this treaty was to dismantle such types of missiles of Russia. Under this treaty, a total of 2692 missiles (US 846 and Soviet Union 1846) were destroyed and hence it is known as the most successful treaty of the Cold War Era.
US blamed Soviet Union of violating the rule of “INF treaty” under which both of the states were not allowed to construct missiles having range more than 500 KMs, these allegations formed the cause of weakening of this treaty. Russia countered those allegations by giving a statement that those 9M729 missiles have a range of 480 KMs which does not exceed the range mentioned in the treaty. Obama Administration made the first allegation on Soviet Union but never provided any evidence in their complete tenure. Donald Trump elected as US President after Obama in 2016, and suspended the treaty on 2nd Feb 2019 providing time of Six months to Soviet Union to comply on this treaty otherwise US will withdraw from this treaty then by using Russian Violation of treaty as a pretext, US officially announced its withdrawal from the treaty on 2nd August 2019. The basic purpose of America to withdraw from this treaty was to contain China emerging as a super power as China was not the part of this treaty.
US hegemony is greatly threatened by rapid emergence of China as a super power. US has always used its powers against the states which threatened its position in the world as one could see US fought against Germany in World War I, as Germany was gaining a dominant position in Europe and similarly, during world war II America overpowered Japan and Soviet Union during the Cold War era. As currently, there is no state in Europe which can threaten US so it shifted its focus towards Asia to gain dominancy. The emergence of China is the real threat to US hegemony therefore US aims to hold INF treaty in Asia-Pacific region to be centric.US is facing a lot of criticism due to few steps it has taken in recent times which has not only affected the mutual trust of the states but has also put security of Europe at stake. They are facing the criticism of increasing the risk of military conflict in the world.
US is desirous to develop a level playing field which includes the construction of all kinds of weapons i.e. Air, Naval, and ground-based intermediate missiles. There is a risk of enhancement in Arms race in the world due to withdrawal of America from INF. Much work has been done on “INF treaty” about its history and importance but this paper will analyze the United States interest and its policies in Asia after withdrawing INF treaty.
- To examine United States reasons behind withdrawing from INF treaty
- To examine the United States policies in countering China
US hegemony was threatened due to emergence of China as a super power in Asia therefore it withdrew from the INF Treaty
Was Russian noncompliance the only reason for United States to withdraw itself from INF treaty?
Will US be able to contain China in Asia?
Primary and secondary data is primarily used to support Hypothesis and analytical methodology has been applied. Data has been taken from “Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)”, “China Global Television Network (CGTN)” and from Arms control and Disarmament websites. News articles, journals articles,news clipping, documentaries, research papers and magazines have been addressed in this research.
Not many books are available on the topic. Had to take help from newspaper clippings, opinion articles, talk shows or panel discussions, YouTube documentaries and news channels. Post 9/11 period has been taken to address the INF treaty.
Theoretical Framework and Discussions:
Realism is the most noticeable theory of International Politics. This theory sees the world with the logical and realistic point of view. It accomplishes the two significant idea of global relations; “Security” and power or force”. For each country “security” is the prime interest and to satisfy this interest, power is a primary source. Power and security can be called as the two sides of same coin. The state removes its insecurity from the persuasion of power which creates insecurity for another states Two speculations have been taken for the justification of hypothesis Classical Realism and Neorealism and it is further subdivided into two positions: “Offensive and Defensive realism”. Basically, Classical realism focus on Human nature and linked power with it that Human is greedy and selfish because of this war happened but in order to analyze Neo realism it is more appropriate in this contemporary world they discuss that International system is anarchic and this structure determines the behavior of states due to which states pursue power. In addition to this, two factorstalk about power but in different perspective. Offensive realism theory proposed by John Mearsheimer’s deals with maximization of power rather than security and seek towards hegemony than equality.Whereas Defensive realism theorists believe that state must seek power enough for its security rather than accumulating excessive power.
However, in order to apply this theory United States is focusing on offensive realism because hegemon state will use all its power to prevent the rise of competitor in order to stay dominant. Now US did not bother about the security of European states and withdrew INF treaty that has arisen the factor of arm race in the world. So, there is no central authority that can take authentic decisions due to which states create its own self-help system to ensure its own survival.
Russian noncompliance was a reason for United States behind termination of “INF treaty” but it was not a fact Trump was more worried about China missiles because it was not a part of this treaty and it was successfully developing numbers of missiles whose ranges are more than “INF” limits. Whereas, United States was prohibited under this treaty and was not allowed to test or deploy ground-based missile because of this US capability was becoming under threatened by the China. On the other hand, Russia was in favor of this treaty because Russia position is different now as compared to 1980’s era. Soviet Union was split in 1991 and the states that were under Soviet Union associated themselves with “North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” thus United States have an advantage to deploy its missiles here and target Russia in a minute. For example, Estonia is near to Russia and it can target Russia in a second. So, Russia does not want termination of this treaty so that US do not deploy its missiles here because in response Russia is unable to reach territory of United States.
Russia made a draft resolution for the preservation of the INF treaty and submitted to the 74th meeting of General Assembly but it was rejected by the “United Nation Disarmament committee” because it comes under Security Council. Russia tried its best to preserve its treaty but unable to achieve success because US already made its mind since 2018 and US security advisor John Bolton told Russian President Putin that Trump has already made his mind to withdraw from this treaty in Moscow. In addition to this, director of the “Center for Security Cooperation in the Chinese ministry of national defense” without supporting any states Zhou Bo has mentioned in an interview on “world insight China Global Television network” that if there was any problem related to Russian missiles then it was the duty of US to investigate it. Though, Russia showed positive gesture as they invited US for the inspection of missiles but America denied to visit. In addition to this, United States denied this inspection because they were working on missiles if they accept this invitation then US has also reveal its information regarding missiles because Russia was also accusing that US is working on missiles formation i.e. Aegis shore and US is making planning to deploy these missiles in Poland.Continuous debate along with counteraccusation game was going on. Russia statements regarding development of US missiles are showing authentic observations because US tested intermediate missiles just after seventeen days of withdrawal from INF. It means that US was working on these missiles for many years.
There were two reports regarding China Ballistic missiles. In 2013 first report was published by “National Air and space Intelligence Centre” that China consumes utmost diverse ballistic missiles.Moreover, second report was published by Pentagon in 2018 that China is improving its missiles. In prior to this, United States seek hegemony in Asia continent and want to counter China by deploying its missiles in Asian allies’ states and announced that they will deploy missiles “sooner rather than later”. Moreover, United States trying to form new treaty in which China must also become a part of it but China denied to join any treaty that make its capability limited. As China is becoming a continental power and intermediate missiles are its backbone so adherence to any treaty would create a huge asymmetry and might cause an unbalanced power between strategic rivals then it would be difficult to compete them.
United States has again opted the policy of “Containment” against China as it made it against Soviet Union in Cold war. However, question arises that will US be able to contain China in Asia? In order to analyze China and Soviet Union, China is far superior than Soviet Union financially and strategically. US made progress in containing Soviet Union since it was inside frail, however in case of China it would be troublesome on the grounds because China’s procurement power is bigger than United States and has fabricated strong military in South China Sea. China has opted winning heart mind scheme in its surrounding areas by building economic corridor, though United States consistently relied on hard power and consistently centered around military innovation. Rivalry among US and China is consistently there, in light of the fact that both are following nationalism and need to secure own national interest so collaboration would be difficult among them and it is very hard to contain China for United States.
US and Asian Allies:
As China is emerging and creating a military threat to United States. So, United States pull out INF treaty so that it makes itself free from the limitations and make a missile of those ranges that are banned under this treaty only to contain China. Three perspective could be made on US withdrawal: First intermediate missiles are inexpensive for US than air and naval assets, it will be good to deter China and more survivable than air and sea-based missiles. However, US did not consult with its Asian Allies before withdrawing the treaty that will these states allow US to deploy its missiles on their territory. For US it would be one of the difficult tasks to attain because it is digging itself into one of the most complicated process i.e. long process of negotiation will take place between US and its Asian allies.
Japan and South Korea are the two allies of US in Asia. In order to analyze both states want good relations with China. The Government of Japan opposed the US decision regarding a withdrawal from INF treaty. Likewise, it will not allow US to deploy its missile on their territory. Moreover, Japan is bound with their customs and has to take consent from the local governors and administration. Japan does not want another challenge from its neighbor country along from their public because US military are deployed in Japan through “Status of force agreement (SOFA)” and they are operating there without respecting Japan domestic laws and Japan took decision to revise SOFA agreement in 2018. So, public opinion is also playing role in Japan decision making and majority of people are not in the support of deployment of missiles in their territory along with unable to face other repercussions from its neighboring state China.
South Korea and United States relations are becoming weaker after 2016. In 2016 US deployed “Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD)” in South Korea to counter North Korea missiles. In result China retaliated and made sanction on economic and diplomatic efforts that costed South Korea approximately seven billion dollars. In addition to this, if South Korea again deploy US missiles then it would face repercussions and its relation with China will affect. Furthermore, in order to analyze the leadership of Korea, they did not want now any sanctions from China and trying to make peaceful Korean peninsula.
Guam is there where US can deploy its missiles but it is very small island about thirty miles long and ten miles wide. China is far from Guam approximately 3,000 km and currently US is lacking this range of missiles to target China.
Australia is left with only the option but it will also cost US expensively because to target China US require Intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of intermediate missiles because from this region China is 5500 km far away and currently US is bound with the New strategic reduction arm treaty that does not allow US to develop these ranges missiles. Again, US did not consult with Australia regarding deployment of missiles. Australia is also not willing to deploy US missiles as its Prime minister also expressed this statement in an interview.
So, United States always make its policies or agreements with the states but whenever it feels the threat related to their dominancy it withdraws itself from agreements unilaterally. Either it is related to climate agreement or arms control agreement. US always look towards its interest if it is fulfilling then it will follow it otherwise it will withdraw itself from the treaty. As offensive realism theory explain that international system is anarchic not in means of chaos but lack of central political authority is there that leads states towards self-help system to ensure its survival. And this is the perspective that US is continuously using offensive behavior and tried it best to use all its power to prevent the rise of competitor and thus it withdraws from INF only to increase its power so that it would be able to contain China.
On the other hand, United States has undermined the trust of states. Before taking this step, US must know that many states are having missiles technology there is no monopoly over it. Now every state will make more missiles to ensure its survival and thus give emergence to new arm race in the world.
US took verdict on withdrawal from INF arrangement rapidly because of absence of legitimate arranging or approaches in regards to containing China. First no vital strategies were made with Asian Allies particularly Japan and South Korea. These two states are bound to their administration order for deploying intermediate missiles in their region. Public perceptions or recognition and assessment are additionally impacting in their administration arrangements. Research explored that authority of Asian states needs great relations with China rather than United States because China is economically more strengthened then US and it is near to them and cannot take any risk against China so that in future, they face more difficulties. Furthermore, absence of clear strategy with respect to containing China will give no achievement in future as US secretary of states has referenced that it will send its missiles sooner in Asia however it is time taking procedure and will take a very long time to execute. In addition to this, if Russia was violating the rules of INF treaty, at that point why confirmations or evidences were not exposed by US government? United States always back out from the treatise whenever their security becomes threatened. Currently, US is only left with one treaty named as “New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty” that was also signed amid US and Soviet Union during cold war. It is expected that US could withdraw from this last cold war treaty in 2021 as President Trump already indicate this factor in his speech as well. Thus, US will free itself from all the restrictions and chances of arm race will be increased among the states either developing or developed states.
Russian noncompliance was just a pretext for United States of America. Its main reason was to contain China and want to make INF treaty Asia-Pacific centric but it would be difficult for the United States after agreement termination, because for deployment of missiles, it needs Asian allies’ states to offer its launch sites for missiles within range of China. It is clear that which country will provide its territory along with future repercussions from China. In this contemporary world, China has opted winning heart mind strategy in its region whereas United States always believed on hard power and always focused on military technology to achieve its hegemony and this concept is becoming blur in modern world. Competition between US and China always there because both are following nationalism and want to protect their own national interest so cooperation would be difficult amid them and it is quite difficult to contain China for United States in South Asia region.
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Lori Esposito Murray, “What the INF Treaty’s Collapse Means for Nuclear Proliferation”, Council on Foreign Relations, August, 1, 2019
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Glenn H. Snyder, “World-Offensive Realism and the Struggle for Security: A Review Essay”, The MIT Press 27,no.1 (summer 2002)
Andrey Baklitskiy, “What the end of the INF treaty means for China”, Carnegie Moscow Center, December 2, 2019
Ivan Tselichtchev, “If Trump blows up US-Russia nuclear treaty, China will pick up the pieces”, South China Morning Post, 10 November 2018
Julian Borger, “European diplomats mount last-ditch effort to stop US scrapping INF treaty”, The Guardian, 18 November 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/18/inf-treaty-european-diplomats-us-russia
 Alexander Lanoska, “The INF Treaty: Pulling Out in Time”, Air University, no.13 (Summer 2019): 56
 Alex ward, “The US just withdrew from an important nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Don’t panic — yet”, VOX, August 2, 2019, https://www.vox.com/world/2019/8/2/20750158/inf-treaty-trump-russia-withdraw
Shannon Bugos, “US completes INF treaty Withdrawal”, Arms control Association, September,2019
Will Saetern, “US cold war containment strategy against China may not end the Soviet way. Instead, it could explode into armed conflict”, South China Morning Post, September 17,2018
 Pranay Vaddi, “Leaving the INF Treaty Won’t Help Trump Counter China”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 31, 2019
 “Australia won’t host U.S. missiles, prime minister says”, August,5,2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-usa-missiles/australia-wont-host-us-missiles-prime-minister-says-idUSKCN1UV0IB
 Malik Qasim Mustafa, “US withdrawal from the INF treaty: Implications for global strategic stability”, Institute of strategic studies Islamabad, ed. Najam Rafique (ISSI, 2018)
Test of Agni Prime Missile and India’s Counterforce Temptations
South Asia is widely regarded as one of the most hostile regions of the world primarily because of the troubled relations between the two nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan. The complex security dynamics have compelled both the countries to maintain nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis each other. India is pursuing an extensive and all-encompassing military modernization at the strategic and operational level. In this regard, India has been involved in the development of advanced missiles as delivery systems and improvement in the existing delivery systems as well. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are solely aimed at India; however, India aspires to fight a ‘two-front war’ against Pakistan and China. Therefore, the size and capability of its nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are aimed at countering both threats. However, most of the recent missile delivery systems made by India appear to be more Pakistan-centric. One recent example in this regard is the recently tested nuclear-capable cannisterized ballistic missile Agni Prime, which is insinuated as Pakistan-centric. These developments would likely further provoke an action-reaction spiral and would increase the pace of conflict in South Asia, which ultimately could result in the intensification of the missile arms race.
Just quite recently, on 28th June 2021, India has successfully tested an advanced variant of its Agni missile series, namely Agni Prime or Agni (P). The missile has a range between 1000-2000 kilometers. Agni Prime is a new missile in the Agni missiles series, with improved accuracy and less weight than Agni 1, 2, and 3 missiles. It has been said that the Agni-P weighs 50 % less than the Agni-3 missile. As per the various media reports, this missile would take the place of Agni 1 and 2 and Prithvi missiles, however officially no such information is available. This new missile and whole Agni series is developed as part of the missile modernization program under the Defence Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) integrated guided missile development program.
Agni-P is a short missile with less weight and ballistic trajectory, the missile has a rocket-propelled, self-guided strategic weapons system capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Moreover, the missile is cannisterized with the ability to be launched from road and rail. The DRDO claimed that the test flight of the missile was monitored by the telemetry radar stations and its trajectory met all the objectives of the mission successfully with high level of accuracy. Agni-P missile because of its range of 1000 to 2000 km is considered a weapon against Pakistan because within this range it cannot target China. Although, India already has different missiles in its inventory with the same range as the newly developed and tested Agni-P missile, so the question arises what this missile would achieve.
Since the last few years, it has been deliberated within the international security discourse that India’s force posture is actually more geared towards counterforce options rather than counter-value options. Although, India’s nuclear doctrine after its operationalization in 2003, claims “massive retaliation” and “nfu” but in reality with developing cannisterized weapons like Agni-P, Agni 5, and testing of hypersonic demonstrative vehicles, India actually is building its capability of “counterforce targeting” or “splendid first strike”. This reflects that India’s nuclear doctrine is just a façade and has no real implication on India’s force modernization.
These developments by India where it is rapidly developing offensive technologies put the regional deterrence equation under stress by increasing ambiguity. In a region like South Asia, where both nuclear rivals are neighbors and distance between both capitals are few thousand kilometers and missile launch from one side would take only a few minutes in reaching its target, ambiguity would increase the fog of war and put other actors, in this case, Pakistan in “use it or lose it” situation, as its nuclear deterrent would be under threat.
In such a situation, where Pakistan maintains that nuclear weapons are its weapons of last resort and to counter threats emerging from India, its nuclear deterrence has to hold the burden of covering all spectrums of threat. It might be left with no choice but to go for the development of a new kind of missile delivery system, probably the cannisterized missile systems as an appropriate response option. However, as Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is based on principle of “CMD” which allow Pakistan to seek deterrence in a cost-effective manner and also by not indulging in an arms race. Therefore, other than the threat of action-reaction dynamic developments like Agni P by India, would make weapons more accurate and lethal, subsequently conflict would be faster, ambiguous, and with less time to think. In such a scenario, as chances of miscalculation increase, the escalation dynamics would become more complex; thus, further undermining the deterrence stability in South Asia.
India’s counter-force temptations and development of offensive weapons are affecting the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia. The deterrence equation is not getting affected just because India is going ahead with the development of offensive technologies but because of its continuous attempts of negating the presence of mutual vulnerability between both countries. Acknowledgement of existence of mutual vulnerability would strengthen the deterrence equation in the region and help both countries to move forward from the action-reaction spiral and arms race. The notions such as the development of offensive or counterforce technology or exploiting the levels below the nuclear threshold to fight a war would not be fruitful in presence of nuclear weapons. As nuclear weapons are weapons to avert the war and not to fight the war.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems & The Annihilistic Future
The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones were introduced as a useful means to military, commercial, civilian and humanitarian activities but yet it ends up in news for none of its original purposes. Drones have rather resulted as a means of mass destruction.
The recent attacks on the technical area of the Jammu Air Force Station highlights the same. This was a first-of-its-kind terror attack on IAF station rather the Indian defence forces that shook the National Investigation Agency to National Security Guard. The initial probe into the attacks directs to involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based out of Pakistan, in the drone attacks as the aerial distance from the point of attack was just 14 kilometers. The attacks took place via an Electric multi-rotor type drone between 11:30 P.M to 1:30 A.M on 27th June, 2021.
The above incident clearly points out the security issues that lie ahead of India in face to the asymmetrical warfare as a result of drones. The Indian Government after looking at the misuse of drones during the first wave of the pandemic realised that its drone regulations were nowhere sufficient and accountable and hence passed the Unmmaned Aircraft Rules, 2021. These rules imposed stricter requirement for obtaining license and authorisations by remote pilots, operators, manufacturers or importers, training organisations and R&D organisations, thereby placing a significantly high burden on the applicants but at the same time they also permit UAS operations beyond visual sight of line and allowing student remote pilots to operate UAS.
But these rules still don’t have any control on the deadly use of drones because multi-rotor drones are very cheap and readily available and what makes them lethal is their ability to be easily detected, additionally the night time makes it even worse. Their small size grants them weak radar, thermal, and aural signatures, albeit varying based on the materials used in their construction.
The pertinent issue to be understood here is that these rules can never ensure safety and security as they cannot control the purpose for which these drones maybe used. There are certain factors that are to be accounted to actually be receptive to such imminent and dangerous threats. Firstly, significantly increasing urban encroachments in areas around defence establishments, particularly air bases, has proved to be fatal. If frontline bases like Jammu or be it any other base when surrounded by unbuffered civilization poses two pronged problems, first it acts as high chances of being a vantage point for possible attackers and second, it also hampering the defence mechanism to come to an action. It is not limited to drone concerns but there have been cases of increased bird activity that has once resulted in engine failure of an IAF Jaguar and has caused similar problems all along.
Another important factor is that of intelligence. The Anti-drone systems will take their time to be in place and it is still a distant call to ascertain how effective will these systems be, so in the time being it is pertinent to focus on intelligence which may include sales and transfers of commercial drone, or the hardware that is required to build a basic multi-rotor drone. These are not something extraordinary because it is even in news when Pakistani drones were being used to supply weapons and ammunition to terror networks on Indian soil. Also, the past experience in handling ISIS have shown the weightage of intelligence over defensive nets.
Intelligence is no doubt a crucial factor in anticipation of drone attacks but what cannot be done away with is the defense mechanism. Efficient counter-drone technology is the need of the hour. DRDO has developed such technology that could provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. It is claimed that solution consists of a radar system that offers 360-degree coverage with detection of micro drones when they are 4km away, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors for detection of micro drones up to 2 km and a radio frequency (RF) detector to detect RF communication up to 3 km and is equipped for both soft kills as well as hard kills.
Hence, the above analysis brings out the need of the application of an international instrument because the technology used in such drone attacks is at an evolving stage and the natural barriers still have an upper hand over be it either flying a pre-programmed path aided by satellite navigation and inertial measurement units (IMUs), or hand controlled to the point of release or impact, both methods have significant limitations as satellite and IMU navigation is prone to errors even when it comes to moderate flight ranges while manual control is subject to the human limitations such as line of sight, visibility as well as technical limitations such as distance estimation of the target, and weak radio links. An example of this could be the Turkish-made Kargu-2 model of killer drone can allegedly autonomously track and kill specific targets on the basis of facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the AI becomes better and better, these drone attacks become more and more terminal.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic is an eye opener for India as well as the world as none of the countries considered the possibility of bio-defenses or made a heavy investment in it even when there was awareness about lethal effects of genetic engineering. Hence, it should be the priority of the government to invest heavily in research and make the development of defensive technologies a national priority else the result of artificially intelligent killer drones would be much more catastrophic.
Russia’s National Security Strategy: A Manifesto for a New Era
The central feature of the new strategy is its focus on Russia itself. The Russian leadership has every reason right now to turn homeward to address the glaring weaknesses, imbalances, and inequalities of the country’s internal situation.
Russia’s new, forty-four-page National Security Strategy signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 2 is a remarkable document. It is much more than an update of the previous paper, adopted in 2015. Back then, relations with the West had already sharply deteriorated as a result of the Ukraine crisis, but were still considered salvageable; much of the liberal phraseology inherited from the 1990s was still in use; and the world still looked more or less unified. The current version of arguably the most important Kremlin strategy statement—covering not only national security issues, but a whole range of others, from the economy to the environment, and values to defense—is a manifesto for a different era: one defined by the increasingly intense confrontation with the United States and its allies; a return to traditional Russian values; and the critical importance for Russia’s future of such issues as technology and climate.
The strategy lays out a view of a world undergoing transformation and turmoil. The hegemony of the West, it concludes, is on the way out, but that is leading to more conflicts, and more serious ones at that. This combination of historical optimism (the imminent end of Western hegemony) and deep concern (as it is losing, the West will fight back with even more ferocity) is vaguely reminiscent of Stalin’s famous dictum of the sharpening of the class struggle along the road to socialism. Economically, Russia faces unfair competition in the form of various restrictions designed to damage it and hold it back; in terms of security, the use of force is a growing threat; in the realm of ethics, Russia’s traditional values and historical legacy are under attack; in domestic politics, Russia has to deal with foreign machinations aimed at provoking long-term instability in the country. This external environment fraught with mounting threats and insecurities is regarded as an epoch, rather than an episode.
Against this sobering background, the central feature of the strategy is its focus on Russia itself: its demographics, its political stability and sovereignty, national accord and harmony, economic development on the basis of new technologies, protection of the environment and adaptation to climate change, and—last but not least—the nation’s spiritual and moral climate. This inward focus is informed by history. Exactly thirty years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed just as its military power was at its peak, and not as a result of a foreign invasion. Having recently regained the country’s great power status and successfully reformed and rearmed its military, the Russian leadership has every reason now to turn homeward to address the glaring weaknesses, imbalances, and inequalities of the country’s internal situation.
The paper outlines a lengthy series of measures for dealing with a host of domestic issues, from rising poverty and continued critical dependence on imported technology to the advent of green energy and the loss of the Soviet-era technological and educational edge. This certainly makes sense. Indeed, the recent Kremlin discovery of climate change as a top-tier issue is a hopeful sign that Russia is overcoming its former denial of the problem, along with inordinately exuberant expectations of the promise of global warming for a predominantly cold country. After all, the Kremlin’s earlier embrace of digitalization has given a major push to the spread of digital services across Russia.
The strategy does not ignore the moral and ethical aspects of national security. It provides a list of traditional Russian values and discusses them at length. It sees these values as being under attack through Westernization, which threatens to rob the Russians of their cultural sovereignty, and through attempts to vilify Russia by rewriting history. In sum, the paper marks an important milestone in Russia’s official abandonment of the liberal phraseology of the 1990s and its replacement with a moral code rooted in the country’s own traditions. Yet here, the strategy misses a key point at the root of Russia’s many economic and social problems: the widespread absence of any values, other than purely materialistic ones, among much of the country’s ruling elite. The paper mentions in passing the need to root out corruption, but the real issue is bigger by an order of magnitude. As each of President Putin’s annual phone-in sessions with the Russian people demonstrates—including the most recent one on June 30—Russia is governed by a class of people who are, for the most part, self-serving, and do not care at all for ordinary people or the country, instead focusing single-mindedly on making themselves rich on the job. Money—or rather Big Money—has become that group’s top value, and the most corrosive element in today’s Russia. Therein lies perhaps the biggest vulnerability of modern Russia.
On foreign policy, the strategy is fairly elliptic, but it gives a hint of what the upcoming Foreign Policy Concept might include. The United States and some of its NATO allies are now officially branded unfriendly states. Relations with the West are de-prioritized and those countries ranked last in terms of closeness, behind former Soviet countries; the strategic partners China and India; non-Western institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, and the Russia-India-China trio; and other Asian, Latin American, and African countries. In addition to U.S. military deployments and its system of alliances, U.S.-based internet giants with their virtual monopoly in the information sphere, and the U.S. dollar that dominates global finances are also seen as instruments of containing Russia.
Overall, the 2021 Russian National Security Strategy seeks to adapt the country to a still interconnected world of fragmentation and sharpening divisions, in which the main battle lines are drawn not only—and not even mostly—between countries, but within them. Victories will be won and defeats suffered largely on domestic turf. Accordingly, it is the Home Front that presents the greatest challenges, and it is there that the main thrust of government policies must be directed.
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In the United States, a revision of the sanctions policy is in full swing. Joe Biden’s administration strives to make sanctions instruments more effective in achieving his...
Unleashing India’s True Potential
As India strives to unleash its true potential to rise as a global powerhouse, it is tasked with a series...
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