Abstract: The authors take new approaches to available options for Russia to maintain its military security by, in particular, using “soft power” and improving its strategic deterrence system.

Maintaining military security of the Russian Federation is among the state’s vital strategic goals and a priority enabling it to respond adequately to military hazards and potential threats at reasonable costs to its national defense budget. The Russian Military Doctrine defines military security as “reliable protection provided for the vital interests of individuals, society, and the state against external and internal threats of military force, or threats to use military force, to create conditions in which a military threat does not exist or the country is capable of repelling it.”1

The relevance of research into problems Russia is facing in maintaining its military security today comes from several significant contributing factors.

  1. Changes occurring in the geopolitical scenery of the world in which Russia must – to do justice to its consistent efforts to reassemble its great historical past – be accorded the respect of a great power, instead of treatment as a nation of no consequence beyond its own region many political majors in the West want to see it.
  2. The military and political situation across the world growing darker because of, among other reasons, cross-border proliferation of terrorism and radical Islamism (nationalism) and evolution of new forms of warfare and transformation of practices used to fight modern-day military conflicts.
  3. Persistence of existing military hazards for Russia and also the change of their focus. The U.S. and several NATO member countries are overwhelmed by hysteria in their attempts to keep whipping up military and political tensions in their relationships with Russia and achieve selective goals such as sapping Russia’s military potential and defensibility, denying it access to new military technologies and arms markets, and undercutting Russia’s influence on countries immediately across its borders and elsewhere.2
  4. Gathering changes in the configuration of military and political ties because of, in part, the waning influence the U.S. used to exercise on anything happening across the world and harder jockeying for a leading role in several regions of the world and between countries in the Middle East, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
  5. The possibility of new power centers coming on the scene and the U.S. desire to continue as the unchallenged world leader by, among other expedients, using military force in coalition with other NATO member countries to resolve critical situations on the territories of sovereign countries without the UN Security Council’s mandate, or putting a broad interpretation on the situations and flouting the accepted norms of international law, and having a part in removing from power any regimes and political leaders crossing its will.
  6. Growth of interethnic differences exposing ethnic groups, and even countries, to the hazard of extinction.

All these factors together contribute to further buildup of the conflict potential in the world that, in its turn, can add more threats to Russia’s military security. Russia’s Defense Minister Army General S.K. Shoygu made this point on many occasions, saying that force still plays a role in solving economic and political differences between countries and that Russia’s exposure to military hazards is increasing and is likely to rise significantly in the years up to 2030.3

A rundown of the military conflicts fought in the past few decades shows that their escalation is used to make attempts to rewrite the rules of international law in disregard of the views of international organizations that were adopted to limit violence in world politics, and that leading foreign countries are intensively developing new types of weapons and offensive technologies, and employment concepts of both. Their military doctrines, too, are undergoing transformation to provide legitimate grounds, as the political and military leaders of those countries believe, for employing military force in almost every corner of the world. Outer space and cyberspace are used for military purposes on a growing scale as well.

Globalization expanding through the clash of “humanization” and “democratization” as an ostensible reason for initiating military conflicts has modified significantly the approaches to the use of military force as well. Emphasis is placed today on political, diplomatic, economic, and other nonmilitary measures, or “soft power,” that are effective only if combined with restraining force.4

The U.S. employs nonmilitary measures as common practice to achieve its geopolitical goals, such as the overthrow of political regimes and leaders refusing to do its will in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and several other countries that were swept by waves of color and velvet revolutions and the Arab Spring movement, under the cover of “defending democratic values and protecting human rights.”

“Democracy” the U.S. exports to regions of the world it has an interest in under the pretext of freeing a nation oppressed by a dictatorial regime by supporting any force in a country it has an eye on that can comply with U.S. national interests; training and equipping “democratic forces” to fight the regime that has fallen out of favor with the U.S.; providing these forces with nonlethal weapons and capabilities to prop up “democracy;” siting military bases in many regions of the world, and so on.

The U.S. reshuffles now and again the official grounds for its presence in other countries in a sequence of tactics, and when “soft power” fails to bring in the coveted returns, it names the point that it has reached a success and goes on with “democratic reforms,” relying on armed opposition and private armed companies.

The Russian President said repeatedly in his statements that the “soft power” policy suggests advancing our goals by persuasion and winning sympathies toward our country by promoting its cultural and intellectual achievements. “Right now, we must admit that we have no part in projecting our country’s image in other countries, and this is the reason why it is often distorted…. Our country’s positions in international affairs are covered from one side only – who shoots and fires missiles are right, and who warns of the need to engage in restrained dialogue is, in a way, blamed for a sort of misdemeanor,” President Putin said. “We have no one to put the blame on but ourselves because we haven’t put across our position clearly enough,”5 he added.

The term “soft power” is applied in international practice to a fit-all toolkit to fix foreign policy problems relying on civil society capabilities and information, communication, humanitarian, and other methodological and technological alternatives to traditional diplomacy.

Intensifying global competition and brewing crises, however, at times carry risks of destructive and unlawful employment of “soft power” and law enforcement concepts to apply political pressure to sovereign countries, interfere in their internal affairs, destabilize the current situation, and manipulate public opinion and mindsets for, among other objectives, funding humanitarian projects and protecting human rights.

In all probability, “soft power” where it is used in international relations must be effective in encouraging people (or seeking their consent) to follow accepted norms of behavior and institutional practice on the international scene and, in the end, achieving the desired result actually without the need to apply coercion. “Soft power” must also imply a call to another country to follow reason and logic to clear the way toward the solution of a problem at issue to make it acceptable by the other side without giving it a sense of having suffered defeat. Diplomacy as an art today when equal, yet different, countries exist side by side is essentially trying to resolve international problems by, in the first place, a similar nonviolent approach (by persuasion, not compulsion), and where this approach produces no result, by using military force as an instrument of coercion.

The international community, it seems, must build a framework for joint operations based, in turn, on corporative culture and morality that has always been a part of all world religions and had among its values such principles and conceptions as an urge for peace and justice, dignity, freedom and responsibility, probity, compassion, and diligence.

Russia is demonstrating to the world at large today that it relies on political and diplomatic approaches, rather than military power it has more than its share to defend itself, to prevent military conflicts, and maintain its national security. These approaches suggest using a balanced combination of nonmilitary and military measures and are central to its efforts to ensure its national security in all fields, in general, and its military security, in particular.

Today that transition is made from a monopolar to multipolar world, “soft power” (nonmilitary pressure) has become more purposeful and more coordinated, and the scale on which it is used and the result it produces have expanded as well. Unlike similar situations in the past, the situation today has grown more complicated because Russia’s opposite numbers no long challenge it in an open conflict if only because it has a huge nuclear deterrent. Its principal adversary stays in the wings, pretending to play a partnership game. His double-barrel policy confuses public opinion and creates multiple uncertainties.

It is less than enough then to acknowledge the significance of a nonmilitary response in defense of the country’s national interests. An adequate set of well-coordinated steps is needed at government level and composite decisions have to be made on the basis of Russia’s historical experience and present-day realities.

The package of nonmilitary threats to Russia’s security, and responses to them, includes some examined below that have an impact on military security as well.

In our view, the most probable economic threats to Russia’s security warranting close scrutiny and assessment are:

  • leading foreign countries’ attempts to undermine Russia’s economic independence and perpetuate its role as a supplier of fuels and natural resources for the world economy and a source of cheap, even if skilled, labor;
  • foreign countries’ steps to keep in place restrictions on Russia’s access to advanced technologies and put up barriers to its unlimited membership in international financial, economic, and commercial institutions and organizations; and
  • foreign countries ‘ determined attempts to undercut Russia’s attractiveness as an end point for investments (innovations) by foreign venture capitalists.

Russia’s economy is certainly in better shape today than it was in the 1990s. It still has to make a faster transition from its dependence of fuel exports to sustained development of high technologies, to take measures encouraging investments in science, education, manufacturing, and agriculture, and make a fuller use of Russia’s geopolitical position, for example, for building Eurasian roads running all the way from the end of one continent to the far end of the other. Steps to promote Russia’s economic development were made at the BRICS summit in July 2014.

The security of the Russian state and society is exposed to the threats of:

  • branches of foreign foundations and nongovernmental organizations being established and opened on Russian territory to erode the security of its state and society;
  • funds flowing from across the border to political forces and parties operating in Russia with the intent to change its political system (current policies) by force, among other options;
  • increasingly coordinated actions by other countries to subvert and hold back integration processes developing within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the CIS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and to loosen the ties between the Russian Federation and countries in Central and East Europe and on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, and in areas of traditional cooperation between Russia and other foreign countries;
  • encroachment on the rights and freedoms of the Russian-speaking local populations and Russian nationals living in the neighboring and other countries, and tensions building up in those countries and some areas in Russia, and uncontrolled migration; and
  • growth in illegal migration to Russia.

The armed conflict in neighboring Ukraine has sent a flood of refugees seeking safety in Russia, not without a strain on the Russian government’s off-budget funds, on the one hand. It is likely that Ukrainian radical nationalists may infiltrate into Russia under the front of refugees to stir up social tensions and commit acts of terrorism. Another hazard is the Russian nationals who supported antigovernment demonstrations in Independence Square (the Maidan) in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and have now returned back to Russia carrying seeds of trouble in their minds. “Fifth Column” attempts to hold demonstrations in downtown Moscow have failed in their purpose, and may be replayed, probably on a larger scale, in the unfolding situation.

On the other hand, the influx of refugees from Ukraine who want to take out Russian citizenship has a favorable effect such as an extra pool of human resources (for mobilization purposes). A well-considered migration policy is, therefore, needed.

Cultural and information security is gaining in importance and relevance for several reasons, such as attempts to falsify history and discredit the victory this country won in the war of 1941 to 1945 against Nazi Germany that are used as a background against which neoliberal ideas are merged with fascist dogmas, and admission of new countries to NATO is attended by vindication of former nationalists, German SS members, and other outlaws who fought on Nazi Germany’s side. These forces are used to conduct ideological and psychological subversion against Russia.

The fundamentals of theory and practice of armed defense of the state and country have been developed and put into effect in sufficient detail, whereas the various aspects of comprehensive employment of nonmilitary measures to protect national interests, maintain Russia’s military security, and counteract new forms of warfare on the international scene have only been explored superficially and inconclusively. The practical steps taken by various federal government agencies assigned to reach a definitive conclusion give the impression of being poorly coordinated and at cross-purposes.

It makes sense to take further steps to enhance the efficiency of nonmilitary measures to thwart potential threats to Russia’s national and military security. The alignment of forces shaping up in the world suggests that Russia opt for seeking UN mandates and cooperating with member countries of the BRICS, SCO, CSTO, and OECD, and other interested countries to campaign energetically on the international scene for an end to the policy of double standards and seek, where realistic, the passage of rules of international law banning subversion against countries other than one’s own. In today’s multipolar world where Russia is not alone living in the shadow of the subversion hazard, its campaign for a healthier pattern of international relations could be supported by many other interested countries and public groups.

A survey of the trends identified in the international situation today indicates that the policy followed by the U.S. brings it inevitably into confrontation with a major part of the world. In the situation that emerges spontaneously, Russia can play the role of a geopolitical mediator, or a peacekeeping center. One more trend that gives sign of turning up soon is the “aggrieved” countries anywhere in the world looking for strong partners that could help them, through political and economic situation, to recover after a dose of “democratic” reforms injected by Western countries, and to resume the advance interrupted by the reforms.

A searching appraisal of potential threats to Russia’s national interests must be made to plan carefully and apply coordinated efforts in political, diplomatic, economic, information, technological, psychological, military, and other areas. All measures and steps taken by the Foreign Ministry, foreign trade, intelligence, and counterintelligence agencies, the Defense Ministry, Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Security Service, and other government agencies must be guided by the national Security Council and Government.

To our mind, the staff of the national Security Council must focus their efforts on coordinating the operations of the various agencies concerned with the maintenance of the country’s security by nonmilitary measures specifically. If this happens to be ill-advised today, consideration must be given to establishing a different government agency to take care of the coordination effort. That is not all, though – amendments expected to be made to the Russian Federation’s National Security Strategy up to 2020 are to identify the tasks and functions to be fulfilled by all government agencies to neutralize the threats to the country’s national security by “soft power.”

To this end, comprehensive research has to be undertaken into warfare involving the use of nonmilitary measures and practical recommendations developed to put them into effect, and arrangements are to be made for training professionals knowledgeable in the theory and practice of employment of nonmilitary forms of warfare, giving priority to the training and skill upgrading of public servants. We have many doubts about the rationale of drawing for this purpose on the practical experience acquired over years by efficient business managers and geared most frequently to making profits and often ill-suited to promoting Russia’s national interests.

Professionals in research into national (military) security maintenance and the country’s defense by nonmilitary measures could be trained at the proficiency improvement courses run by the Armed Forces’ General Staff Military Academy that could also give training in security maintenance to staff members of federal government and military agencies.

It makes sense to consider establishing an office at the Presidential Administration or the Government to coordinate information gathering and dissemination on the countrywide scale, beginning with various aspects of information security, projection of Russia’s favorable image in other countries, and ending with efforts to counter subversion of every kind and ideological preparation of color revolutions (velvet, orange, or any other). Moreover, information security must be examined from two angles – active defense and strong counteraction.

Acknowledging, rightly, the importance of fast-proliferating information technologies, it is wrong to see humans’ complex and diversified life just as only yet another variety of their information-related activities, or confuse what our surroundings are at core and what they look from the outside, hidden as they are inside their information cocoon. More specifically, information security as a category in its own right comprises fostering cultural, spiritual, and moral heritage, historical traditions, patriotism, and humanism, aside from anything else. Rather than just facts of societal life, these components are a key element of mentality, disposition, and spirituality of every nation, and safeguarding them within the national (military) security system is best to be regarded as spiritual security, rather than an element of information security.

Even though nonmilitary measures to maintain Russia’s national security have risen in importance, building up the country’s military potential to be committed where the state has really run out of all other options is equally important. The principal objectives of Russia’s defense and national security maintenance are upholding its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, preventing military aggression against it and its allies, and creating conditions for the country’s peaceful development. Appropriately, developing the theory and practice of strategic deterrence, both nuclear and conventional, is a top priority today.

For military policy priorities to be sorted out, the policy planners must have a clear understanding of the goal the Russian military establishment must pursue to fulfill its purpose. President Putin said unambiguously in his Message to the Federal Assembly in May 2006: “Modern Russia must have Armed Forces capable of fighting simultaneously in a global, regional, and – where circumstances require – in several local conflicts. We must always be ready to fend off a potential external threat and acts of international terrorism.”6

It makes, therefore, little sense in reducing all defense objectives to the fight against terrorism or drug trafficking, as they are interpreted by some experts. Their approach to the existence and advancement of the Armed Forces may divert them far away from meeting their real purpose.

Nor is the fight against terrorism all for special operations forces to handle. In reality, terrorists, where no more appropriate word exists, can overrun large countries with ample armor, artillery, and aviation, as it happened in Afghanistan and Kosovo decades back and is happening in Iraq and Syria now. Trained and experienced regular forces might be called in to roll them back and finish them off. The size and strength of troops to be drawn on from the available contingents and weapon inventories to deal with the current situation may prove to be much less than enough in the future, under the worst of circumstances.

The crosscurrents of social development around the world today have not eliminated the threats of wars and armed conflicts of varying intensity and scale, and even have made them more difficult to predict and expanded the spectrum of threats to military security. As first priority, survival of a state in the face of threats of a worsening political, economic, and information showdown makes compromise hard, if not impossible, to reach.

Experts in military security predict that potential military conflicts will be preceded by complications in all fields of the life of society that will force the opponents to take measures to forestall all hazards and threats in each other’s inventory. Under these circumstances, Russia must unavoidably plan its counter-measures always well in advance and take them in step with the latest fast developments in the military, political, and strategic situation in the world.


1. Voyennaya doktrina Rossiyskoy Federatsiyi. Ukaz Prezidenta Rossiyskoy Federatsiyi ot 5 fevralya 2010 g. # 146 [Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation. Decree # 146 of the President of the Russian Federation, February 5, 2010], Rossiyskaya gazeta, Federal’niy vypusk [Federal Issue], February 10, 2010.

2. D.G. Yevstaf’yev, Sovremennaya amerikanskaya voyennaya politika [Modern American Military Policy], SShA v novom mire: predely mogushchestva [The U.S.A. in the New World: Limits of Power], RISI (Russian Institute for Strategic Studies), Moscow, 1997, p. 152.

3. S.K. Shoygu zayavil o voyennoy ugroze Rossiyi [S.K. Shoygu Warns of Military Threat to Russia]. URL: http://news.mail.ru/politics/11752431

4. Vystupleniye nachal’nika General’nogo shtaba VS RF generala armiyi V.V. Gerasimova na nauchno-prakticheskoy konferentsiyi “Voyennaya bezopasnost’ Rossiyi: XXI vek [Address by Army General V.V. Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces, at the Academic and Practical Conference “Russia’s Military Security: 21st Century”], Voyenno-promyshlenniy kur’yer, # 10 (478), March 13-19, 2013.

5. Yu. Paniyev, Myagkaya sila Vladimira Putina. Prezident oboznachil kontury novoy Kontseptsiyi vneshney politiki [Vladimir Putin’s Soft Force. The President Outlines the New Foreign Policy Concept], Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 10, 2012.

6. Prezident Rossiyi. Poslaniye Federal’nomu Sobraniyu Rossiyskoy Federatsiyi 10 maya 2006 goda [Russian President. Message to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on May 10, 2006]. URL: http://archive.kremlin.ru/text/appears/2006/05/105546.shtml

Translated by Gennady Khmelev