Russian and U.S. Defense Policies in the Era of Globalization
No. 2 2007 April/June
Pavel Zolotarev

Deputy Director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The defense
policies of Russia and the United States differ essentially, and
this difference is deeply rooted. Along the same lines, the
positions and roles of the two countries in the globalization
processes are incommensurable: the U.S. largely initiates these
processes, whereas Russia must adapt to them.

internationalization of the American economy has not only
stimulated the globalization processes; indeed, it has made the
U.S. directly dependent on the success of these processes.
Washington needs to create a favorable environment for
globalization and, at the same time, mitigate its negative effects.
The solution of these two tasks is impossible without reliance on
military force, which inevitably necessitates the globalization of
U.S. defense policy.

The ability to
project force globally has become a major condition for ensuring
national security and serves as the foundation, on which the logic
of this policy is formed.

In contrast,
Russia’s defense policy in the Soviet era required the global
projection of force for purely ideological reasons that naturally
stemmed from the bipolar confrontation. It was not in the interests
of the economy to exert military power, thus, the prevalence of
politics was one of the causes of the Soviet economy’s

Russia has some economic prerequisites for seeking a global
projection of force (in regard to the raw-material sector of the
economy). However, the country’s military potential, besides the
nuclear component, is not conducive to such a policy. After the end
of the Cold War, Russia ceased to be a superpower; moreover, it
lacks the political, economic and military potentials of a regional
power. At the same time, its nuclear might (Russia is the only
country capable of “overkilling” the United States) agitates the
nostalgic claims of its superpower status.


Former U.S.
president Bill Clinton spent his entire presidency working out a
new defense policy under new conditions. But his administration
usually showed restraint and avoided any impulsive moves. The
Clinton administration’s defense policy was gradually adapting
itself to the changes of the time. There were only two major
problems it faced: the destiny of the Soviet Union’s nuclear
potential, and the settlement of the military conflict in the

The first problem
required the solution of several specific tasks in the field of
nuclear security. The solution was found and implemented within the
guidelines of the Nunn-Lugar program.
The Balkan crisis promoted the peacemaking aspect of U.S. defense
policy, and boosted efforts to make NATO a major instrument of U.S.
policy in the Euro-Atlantic space. The United States obtained more
opportunities for peacemaking operations, including those involving
coalition groups and NATO command and control bodies. NATO’s
transformation and enlargement became a component of U.S. defense
policy. Peacemaking turned into a foreign-policy instrument,
allowing Washington to use military force in a more or less
legitimate form.

the United States reduced the troop strength of its National Guard
and Armed Forces (approximately by 40 percent), as well as Army
divisions, naval ships and Air Force wings (by about 45 percent).
Also, it cut the number of troops and military bases stationed
abroad and lowered the alert status of elements of the backup
control system, which ensured the reliability of command and
control in the event of a nuclear war.

The defense
budget structure was changed as well. The purchase of arms and
military equipment was markedly reduced, while spending on research
and development did not change much, although some projects were
actually frozen. This approach was explained by the desire to skip
a generation of technology in equipping the Armed

There were
prospects at that time for building a National Missile Defense
system, which would be largely linked to nonproliferation
activities and the creation of a Global Defense System, possibly
with the participation of Russia. Therefore, the destiny of the
1972 ABM Treaty did not cause much worry.

By the time the
administration of George W. Bush came to power, there had
accumulated many internal problems pertaining to military
questions. The great budget surplus, inherited from the Clinton
administration, let Bush solve these problems, but he needed solid
substantiations for such a decision.

The Bush
government did not intend to be bound by international commitments
on security matters; the only superpower could afford to ignore any
possible negative reaction from other countries with regard to its
policy. The new administration would “proceed from the firm ground
of the national interest, not from the interests of an illusory
international community” (Condoleezza Rice. Campaign 2000:
Promoting the National Interest, Foreign Affairs, January/February

Such an approach
is nothing new; it has been characteristic of the U.S. since the
19th century, just as it has been with its main Messianic goal: the
promotion of democracy and freedom. As regards defense policy, I
would like to again cite Ms Rice from the same article, now on the
need to transform the Armed Forces: “U.S. technological advantages
should be leveraged to build forces that are lighter and more
lethal, more mobile and agile, and capable of firing accurately
from long distances.”

As it so
happened, the completion of the new conceptual documents in defense
policy practically coincided in time with the terrorist acts of
September 11, 2001.


The new defense
policy is best condensed in the Nuclear Posture Review [submitted
to the U.S. Congress on December 31, 2001 – Ed.], viewed as the new
nuclear doctrine of the United States. At the same time, the NPR
contains a strategy for comprehensive employment of all Armed
Forces assets (both nuclear and conventional).

establishes a New Triad, in which offensive strike systems (both
nuclear and non-nuclear) are only one of three components. The
other two include defenses and a revitalized defense infrastructure
that will provide “new capabilities in a timely fashion to meet
emerging threats.” All the components of the New Triad are bound
together by enhanced command and control, intelligence and analysis
systems within the framework of a new Strategic Command

For historical
reasons, it was only by the end of the Cold War that the U.S.
military-political leadership established a unified strategic
command. The command was in charge of planning and controlling U.S.
strategic nuclear forces that remained in the traditionally rival
services of the Air Force and the Navy. At the same time, command
and control of general-purpose forces was outside the Command’s
authority. It took about ten more years before a command and
control body (STRATCOM) was established in the U.S. This body,
which is similar to the Main Operational Directorate of the General
Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces, was given command authority over
diverse services in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The U.S. Doctrine
for Joint Nuclear Operations, adopted in 2005, defined very
precisely the essence of strategic deterrence and the goals guiding
the employment of the U.S. Armed Forces, including nuclear

deterrence is defined as “the prevention of adversary aggression or
coercion that threatens vital interests of the United States and/or
our national survival.”
Goals that guide the development of U.S. force capabilities, their
development and use:

– assuring allies
and friends of the U.S. steadfastness of purpose and its capability
to fulfill its security commitments;
– dissuading adversaries from undertaking programs or operations
that could threaten U.S. interests or those of its allies and
– deterring aggression and coercion by deploying forward the
capacity to swiftly defeat attacks and imposing severe penalties
for aggression on an adversary’s military capability and supporting
– decisively defeating an adversary if deterrence fails.

So, the
prevention of enemy attack must be achieved not by being the first
to initiate combat actions, but through military-political and
diplomatic actions that are meant to dissuade potential adversaries
from using military force against the United States. Therefore,
only one of the four goals of Armed Forces employment involves
combat actions.

The comprehensive
use by one command (STRATCOM) of all Armed Forces assets is
intended to achieve two goals – minimizing the need to employ
nuclear weapons for fulfilling the tasks set, and preserving
nuclear weapons’ deterrence function under the new

The Nuclear
Posture Review reveals the obvious U.S. desire to reduce its
dependence on nuclear weapons for deterring adversary attack. This
can be done in two ways:
First, implement the simultaneous development of
non-nuclear strike forces and information systems (intelligence and
command and control) to a level that will allow for the delivery of
strikes against targets; the effectiveness of such systems would
make unnecessary the employment of nuclear weapons, or reduce the
need for them to the minimum.

Second, develop defense systems capable of
countering single and group ballistic missile strikes, while
avoiding the need for an immediate launch-on-warning retaliatory

The new security
environment has made redundant the former employment of strategic
nuclear forces (massive nuclear strikes). The basic plans for
employing nuclear weapons have remained unchanged both in the U.S.
and Russia. There is no political sense in mutual nuclear
deterrence, yet we have to maintain it for organizational and
technical reasons; there are no signs of universal nuclear
disarmament in the near future. Moreover, the threat of further
nuclear proliferation is increasingly growing, while the nature of
future threats remains unknown. This calls for finding spheres
where nuclear weapons could be effectively employed against a wider
spectrum of threats. Deterrence may now involve single or group
nuclear strikes, while classifying nuclear weapons into strategic
and tactical ones begins to lose sense.

As before,
deterrence is possible only if nuclear weapons are viewed in a
broader perspective rather than as a political instrument only, and
if everything is done to assure adversaries of the possibility of
nuclear weapon employment. This calls for meeting the following
basic requirements:

1. Maintaining
the required nuclear readiness.
2. Holding to the position that nuclear weapon employment is a
probable event, while demonstrating the political leadership’s
resolve to use nuclear weapons in a critical situation.
3. Preserving the balance between the transparency and
ambiguousness of conditions for employing nuclear

As follows from
the Nuclear Posture Review, the U.S. will meet all these
requirements. The alert status of the larger part of America’s
nuclear forces may be downgraded, while, at the same time,
preserving its launch-under-attack capability that involves a
certain number of ground-based intercontinental ballistic

Planning the
employment of nuclear weapons under the new conditions is rather
complicated. One must ensure operational detection of new targets
and work out plans for their destruction in real time. The
destruction plan must be integrated, embracing the entire spectrum
of possible means of destruction, including nuclear weapons as a
last resort. These considerations must be behind plans to turn to
adaptive planning.

The 2002 Nuclear
Posture Review makes no mention of deterring Russia. It only says
that Russia “maintains the most formidable nuclear forces, aside
from the United States,” adding, however, that “there now are no
ideological sources of conflict with Moscow.” The employment by
Russia and the U.S. of nuclear weapons against each other is viewed
possible only as the result of unforeseen circumstances (an
accidental or unauthorized missile launch, etc.).

This conclusion
is of fundamental importance and underlies one of the goals of the
new nuclear policy: “Adjusting U.S. immediate nuclear force
requirements in recognition of the changed relationship with Russia
is a critical step away from the Cold War policy of mutual
vulnerability and toward more cooperative relations.”

The U.S. declared
nuclear policy does not pose direct threats to Russia’s security,
nor does it strengthen it. Whatever the political intentions of the
United States are, its military capabilities, including in the
nuclear field, steadily increase.

The U.S. 2002
National Security Strategy says: “Russia’s uneven commitment to the
basic values of free-market democracy and dubious record in
combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remain
matters of great concern. Russia’s very weakness limits the
opportunities for cooperation. Nevertheless, those opportunities
are vastly greater now than in recent years – or even

The latest
Quadrennial Defense Review of February 6, 2006, also expresses
concern over “the erosion of democracy in Russia, the curtailment
of non-governmental organizations and freedom of the press, the
centralization of political power and limits on economic

Meanwhile, there
remain complications in Russian-U.S. relations, and these are most
probable at the regional level – where their interests coincide
geographically, and as a consequence of their mutual nuclear
deterrence. When these two factors coincide, the situation may
become particularly critical. Thus, Russia’s reaction to the
planned deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in the Czech
Republic and Poland.


Presently, the
substantive part of Russia’s defense policy is more determined by
internal factors than outside threats.

Since 1992, the
main factor that predetermines the essence of this policy is the
systemic crisis of Russia’s statehood, which has hit all branches
of government. The executive branch acts without strategy,
proceeding from short-term priorities of political groups
struggling for power and access to property and financial flows.
The legislative and judicial branches are amorphous and absolutely
dependent on the executive.

The actions of
the executive branch are at variance with legislatively established
procedures for defining strategic priorities of domestic and
foreign policies.

It is worth
mentioning that the law On Security of the Russian Federation was
adopted back in 1992. In keeping with the principles embraced by
all modern states and fixed in UN documents, this law gives
priority to the development of the human potential. The law defines
security as the protection of vital interests of the individual,
society and the state. To ensure such a state, the Statute on
Russia’s Security Council entrusted the Council with analyzing and
balancing out these interests, uncovering factors impeding their
realization, and finding ways to ensure the country’s security.
This was how the Concept of the Russian Federation’s Security and
its component part – the Military Doctrine – were to be formed. The
law also provided for procedures for implementing the security
policy, namely, through federal budget programs. In practice,
however, this way of shaping home and foreign policies of the state
did not materialize.

At the same time,
the situation that evolved in Russia by the mid-90s hardly inspired
hope for something else. Even if the interests of various sections
of society had been analyzed and considered in the course of
privatization, the situation would not have drastically changed.
The means of production would have ended up in the hands of the
former Soviet nomenklatura and ‘chevaliers’ of fortune of every
stripe from the inner circle all the same.

political developments left fewer opportunities for implementing a
strategically correct policy, as the interests of an absolute
majority of the population were beyond the scope of state policy.
Moreover, the state security structures, including the Armed
Forces, also found themselves beyond the interests of the state,
which did not prevent them, however, from being used at a critical
stage of confrontation between the executive and legislature
branches in October 1993.

Russia’s security
forces were left to the mercy of those who – at a time when the
state institutions of Soviet Russia were being destroyed – were
ready to undermine and destroy the defense and security potential
of the new Russia.

While the top
echelons were busy dividing former public property among them,
control over small businesses was handed over to criminal
organizations. As a result, by the late 1990s there emerged a
criminal-oligarchic state in Russia. The struggle for the division
of property gave way to the struggle for power. Oligarchs sought to
take power from above, while criminal groups did the same from
below. The state’s power vertical was placed under jeopardy, thus
the time was again not right for working on a strategy.

At the same time,
the country’s military organization hit a critical point, beyond
which were irreversible processes of decay. The military-industrial
complex in some aspects even passed this point. Nevertheless, due
credit must be given to the country’s military leaders. Despite the
challenges they faced, they successfully handled myriad difficult
theoretical and practical tasks. They correctly assessed the
international situation and adequately chose the main areas for the
country’s defense policy. These were included in the Concept of
Forming the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and in the Basic
Provisions of the Military Doctrine (October 1993). The doctrine
said, in particular, that Russia no longer had enemies or military
threats, but there were sources of military threats. The country’s
nuclear forces were assigned the task of deterring and preventing
large conflicts, for which the Armed Forces were not yet ready
because of the weakness of the general-purpose forces.

During the
military reconstruction, the following tasks were laid down to meet
the requirements of the time:

– transition to a
mixed volunteer- and conscription-based recruiting system in the
Armed Forces;
– transition from the army/division structure in the Ground Forces
to a corps/brigade structure;
– formation of mobile forces capable of rapid deployment that may
accomplish restricted tasks in any region of the

The outlined
tasks that were set for completion by 1995 remain unfulfilled to
this day – not through the fault of the military

As regards
practical actions of the Armed Forces, in those conditions they can
be described as successful. Suffice it to recall the colossal
operation to withdraw Russian troops stationed in East European
countries and deploy them back home, and the successful
peacekeeping operations in South Ossetia, Transdnestria, Abkhazia,
Tajikistan, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will also be fair to
recognize the successful military part of the operation to restore
the constitutional order in Chechnya. Despite the treacherous
position of state officials, not to mention hostile actions by the
mass media against their own Army, the military professionally
handled their mission. The rest must be on the conscience of the
political leadership.

relations with its Western partners, and the U.S. in particular,
despite differences on NATO’s enlargement and the Kosovo crisis,
experienced a period of steadily positive dynamics. Although Russia
lacked enough funds at the time, it made no attempts to solve its
financial problems by hyping the military threats

At the beginning
of the new millennium, as a team of statists came to power in
Russia, domestic policy drastically changed. The new government
removed the threat of the country’s disintegration and thwarted an
oligarchic coup that intended to create a parliamentary republic in
Russia with the help of a corrupt State Duma. Security services
achieved some success in combating crime and corruption. A
favorable external economic environment created the prerequisites
for overcoming an internal economic crisis. Eventually, the
government set its sights on the country’s social problems.
Rudiments of a civil society began to be formed in Russia, albeit
from above, rather than from the grassroots level.

However much one
may criticize Russia, it was only authoritarian-style methods of
government that were capable of liquidating the consequences of the
chaotic transformations of the early 1990s, stopping organized
crime, which sought to take over power in the country, and reducing
the level of corruption that permeated all branches of

Over time, high
energy prices helped to improve funding of the Armed Forces.
Although the share of the GDP allocated for defense (less than 3
percent) remained unchanged, the amount of defense spending in
absolute terms increased. Military construction plans were
consistently implemented; the structure of the state’s military
organization was noticeably optimized; and the system of
interaction between the military and defense industries improved.
Obviously, it was impossible to overcome, in a short period of
time, the consequences of the protracted underfinancing of the
Armed Forces. But the external situation allowed this to become a
reality only gradually, without detriment to the country’s

However, alarming
tendencies, which showed once again the gravity of a situation when
decisions are not based on profound analysis and goals set down by
law, have marked the recent years.
There is an impression that the executive branch again chooses
priorities from the positions of its struggle for power within the
present alignment of forces and influences of specific political
groups, rather than in security interests as they are interpreted
in the law On Security of the Russian Federation. An obvious
priority of state interests has been established over the interests
of the individual and society.

The arrangement
of state priorities is fully reflected in the country’s budgetary

Ever since Russia
became an independent state, the correlation in the national budget
between traditional functions of the state (administration, defense
and security) and modern ones (education, public health, and other
social tasks) has been at a level uncharacteristic of developed
nations. In developed countries, the ratio between traditional and
modern functions of the state stands at 1:6, while in developing
countries it is 1:3. The law On Security of the Russian Federation,
as well as UN documents that Russia, together with other states,
has pledged to observe, established a different arrangement of
priorities. They give top priority to the individual and the
development of the human potential. Giving priority to state
interests over the interests of the individual and society ruins
the state in the long run, as the history of the Soviet Union

Naturally, tanks,
aircraft, ships and submarines do not run, fly or sail by
themselves; they are set in motion by individuals who must be
healthy and technically educated. The persisting imbalance of
priorities obstructs plans to introduce a mixed recruitment system
in the Armed Forces and create a corps of contract sergeants, and
has a negative impact on the entire defense policy. Moreover, the
Defense Ministry assigns more importance to arms purchases than the
human potential.

In 2006, defense
spending exceeded allocations for education and public health by
about 200 percent each. By comparison, Germany spends three times
more money on education and seven times more money on public health
than on defense. This ratio is typical of all developed countries.
Even the warring United States, which spends exorbitant amounts on
defense, nevertheless allocates more funds for education and public
health, taken separately, than it does for defense.

A document on the
main areas of budgetary policy over the next three years sets
priority on raising the standard of living in the country. Social
problems are to be solved through high economic growth rates.
Adequate defense and security are named in the document as
necessary conditions for achieving the goal. In real figures,
however, things are just the opposite. The gap between spending on
defense and spending on public health and education, far from
decreasing, is only growing. In 2006, defense spending stood at 659
billion rubles, while in 2009 it is to reach 1,037 billion rubles.
The respective figures for public health and sports are 156 billion
and 214 billion rubles, and for education – 208 billion and 297
billion rubles.

the government is pushing for increasing the share of defense
spending to a level that was set but never backed by it in the
mid-1990s – 3.6 percent of the GDP. The question is: How can this
be achieved? It is doubtful that the government will cut general
state expenditures. It is no coincidence that emotions are now
fueled over the growth of military threats. The population must be
convinced that enemies are everywhere; they must resign themselves
to this fact and tighten their belts.

To all
appearances, the executive power has become hostage to forces whose
well-being depends on defense orders. Moreover, under the influence
of these forces a new defense policy of Russia has begun to take

It goes without
saying that the U.S. and NATO occasionally are the cause for
changes in Russia’s defense policy on the international scene.
However, we must not forget what can result from an inaccurate
arrangement of priorities. Actions by Western powers cannot pose a
real military threat; suffice it to look at the results of the war
in Iraq. Despite superiority in military might, neither the U.S.
nor any of its allies are able to conduct a protracted war, even on
a local scale. The age of globalization has introduced a new system
for limiting military capabilities.

Meanwhile, the
executive power, which is increasingly guided by short-term
interests, has lost the faculty for strategic planning in both
domestic and foreign policies.

The West does not
want to see Russia strong; it fears it. However, it seems that it
is not the West but Russia itself that is driving the country onto
a self-destructive path.

The main
legislative problem facing Russia is that the State Duma has turned
into an expensive kind of Legislation Ministry under the
government. The legislature is still unable to form a defense
budget structure that would allow establishing civilian control
over the defense sphere. This was the reason for numerous
inconsistent decisions, such as the abolition and then
reinstatement of the Ground Forces Command, and the inclusion of
the Space Forces into the Strategic Missile Forces, and their
subsequent exclusion. There are still plans to unite different arms
and services of the Armed Forces according to “warfare spheres” –
water, land and air – as well as to merge the Air Force and the
Strategic Missile Forces. At the same time, even from the text of
the existing Military Doctrine it follows that modern warfare will
not be waged separately according to spheres. On the contrary, the
Doctrine calls for unifying command and control, irrespective of
the environment but depending on a mission. There is no sense in
destroying administrative control – such a step would be expensive
and not efficient. However, command and control must be united
according to mission level – strategic and regional – especially
since Russia has some real achievements in this field. At the
strategic level, Russia’s military leaders realized and solved this
task earlier than their American counterparts. The new structure of
the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’
General Staff, which meets modern requirements, appeared on the
scene earlier than STRATCOM in the U.S. Armed Forces. Russia has
also launched an experimental program at the regional level, but
this experiment has too many opponents who advocate traditional
approaches and desire a mixture of administrative and operational
control in the Armed Forces.

The judicial
system in the military sphere has undergone major positive changes.
Efforts to combat crime in the Armed Forces have achieved a scale
incommensurable with that in the early 1990s. But the main problem
– actual independence of the military branch of the judicial power
– remains unsolved. The judiciary has also become a kind of
judicial ministry within the executive, hence, the inevitable
rendition of “expedient” court decisions. Moreover, an undermined
belief in fair justice does not add to the government’s popularity.
Unfortunately, it is the military that often must pay for the poor
work of legislators who have not yet created a clear legal field
for the military’s actions to ensure the nation’s internal

All of the
aforementioned factors show that Russia’s defense policy largely
depends on internal political processes. In an age of
globalization, real threats to security (proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction, international terrorism, etc.) require the
joint efforts of Russia and the United States. But to this end,
Russia must make its defense policy independent of subjective
factors of its internal development, while the United States should
show respect for Russia and treat it as an equal partner, as
opposed to a loser in the Cold War.