|RUSSIA’S EXTERNAL CHALLENGES IN THE
MOSCOW. (Sergei Kortunov for RIA Novosti) –
Nearly all of the mid- and long-term forecasts for Russia’s development
made in this country and abroad are pessimistic. They predict a
demographic collapse, a decline in the quality of human capital, economic
and technological degradation, the crumbling of democracy, and a return to
The only possible result of this will be Russia’s rollback into the
group of third-rate countries on the outskirts of global development, an
eventual break-up, and division of the “Russian heritage” among the
more successful international players: China, the United States, the
European Union, Japan, and the Islamic states.
This is possible, but it’s not the only scenario. The good news is that
it should mobilize the nation to do something to prevent its coming true.
But in order take appropriate actions, the country should put aside the
hysterics and emotions and start calmly analyzing the military and
political situation. This alone can provide the foundation for making
realistic development forecasts for the world and Russia.
I suggest analyzing such realistic forecasts.
External threats to Russia will be minor in the short term (three to five
years). It is difficult to imagine any country launching an armed
aggression against Russia in this period. NATO has become the dominant
military force in Europe, but there are no acute political or economic
conflicts between its members and Russia that could develop into a major
Russia will maintain its nuclear status, and the arms control system,
which ensures military and political predictability, will most likely be a
sufficient strategic deterrence and therefore preclude the threat of a
At the same time, Russia cannot hope to sign major new agreements in this
sphere with the U.S. Moreover, the nuclear club may expand, and the
proliferation of missiles seems likely.
On the whole, the threat of an external attack is now much smaller than
the threat of internal socio-political destabilization, a growing divide
between the rich and the poor, a demographic catastrophe, continued
technological degradation, and natural and man-made disasters (including
those brought about by the deterioration of fixed assets).
We must admit that the main threats to Russia’s vital interests do not
come from without, but are the result of domestic developments and events
in the former Soviet republics.
Therefore, Russia should have the following national security priorities:
Domestic political and social tasks should come first (protecting human
rights and liberties, and building the foundations of a civil society and
an effective democratic state). Next should come technological
modernization, including the renewal of fixed assets, transition to
innovation-based economic development and global competitiveness, and the
creation of an affordable, quality social infrastructure, just like in
successful post-industrial states: healthcare, education, pension
insurance, affordable housing, etc. Taken together, this boils down to
improving living standards. And the last task is to protect these
achievements from external threats by deterring aggressions and ensuring
the country’s vital interests beyond the national territory.
In the mid term (10-15 years), external threats may grow, especially in
the south. Islamic extremism is gaining momentum in the world, and Russia
is coming face to face with the aggressive regimes of the Middle East. If
diplomats fail to develop good relations with Islamic countries, disputes
with some Muslim countries that seek domination from Bosnia to Tajikistan
may develop into confrontation. At the worst, Russia may have to wage
several Afghan-type wars in its domestic territory or in the Commonwealth
of Independent States (CIS).
In may be a period of continued degradation of international security
mechanisms (the UN, NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe, etc.), as well as the main regimes of non-proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles, primarily missiles.
East-West relations may also deteriorate, but a direct military threat is
improbable. However, Russia and NATO should develop a mechanism for
effective partnership, and the latter should change from a closed military
bloc into a peacekeeping organization with Russia as a member and stop its
military infrastructure from moving to Russia’s borders. Otherwise the
situation could be aggravated to the point of potential confrontation
between Russia and the West.
We must realize that the role of nuclear weapons in ensuring national
security will keep diminishing in the midterm. The United States will
equip its armed forces with fifth- and subsequently sixth-generation
precision-guided weapons with powerful information systems, which will
allow it to wage non-contact wars.
Russia is unlikely within the next 10 years to have the technology to
rival the U.S., which may deploy tactical ballistic missile systems
effective against some (though not all) Russian strategic forces, as well
as elements of a territorial National Missile Defense system.
In addition, if Russia fails to start batch production of fifth-generation
weapons (including an analogue of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter), possibly
in cooperation with the leading EU countries, Washington will monopolize
the global arms market, and Russia will most probably lose its standing as
a global arms supplier, which is a major lever for influencing global
politics as a whole.
In the medium term, China may enter into serious disputes with Russia’s
regional allies (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), as well as with
neutral Mongolia, which is a crucial nation for Russia. Although there are
no grounds for forecasting aggressive Chinese aspirations now, some
objective factors point to the possibility of disputes between China and
Russia, which might create serious security problems for Russia’s
regions beyond Lake Baikal and the Maritime Territory. (To be continued)
Sergei Kortunov is deputy chairman of the expert council of the
international affairs committee of the upper house of Russia’s