Strategic Stability in a Globalized World
№4 2003 October/December

Yuri Baluyevsky, Colonel General, is First Deputy Chief
of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian

What will the world be like in the 21st century? How can
security and strategic stability be ensured in a globalized world?
These questions, once purely theoretical, have become very
pragmatic and most pressing for the world community.

 Today the world has to address the following global
challenges to its security:

•  Global and regional military threats across the
zones of instability, such as the Middle and Near East, and above
all in Iraq and Afghanistan;
•  International terrorism and extremism;
 Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and
missile technologies;
•  Uneven rates of development, poverty and

The scale and nature of the present military challenges are such
that they require new, unorthodox ways of protecting national
interests. Economic, scientific and cultural potentials, together
with the informational capacities of nations, will play
ever-increasing roles in the area of security. If nation states are
really interested in each other, they will find such mechanisms of
conflict settlement and protection of national interests that will
first move the use of force into the background and eventually make
it altogether unnecessary. Yet there is one mandatory condition to
be met: there needs to be an effective international system of
security based on universally agreed rules and mechanisms.

In the meantime, given the increase in the interdependence
between nations, the most powerful might wish to influence other
countries in order to ensure their own security, as well as resolve
particular issues of interstate relations. This would be
accomplished through military means of maintaining security,
currently beginning to play the domineering role in international
relations, above all in combating international terrorism.


The political developments of the past two decades, which have
given impetus to the process of globalization, have led to fast
geopolitical changes. The concept of strategic stability which came
into use during the Cold War era has acquired a new interpretation.
Initially, it was only used in reference to the relations between
the two nuclear superpowers, i.e. the Soviet Union and the United
States. This strategic stability implied a certain state in
Soviet-American relations, when the two parties had enough nuclear
capabilities to destroy each other several times – and the rest of
the world at the same time. The nuclear arms race resulted in the
parity of the strategic offensive arsenals of the U.S.S.R. and the
U.S.A., or, in other words, a nuclear stalemate. Seeking to surpass
the opponent in the number and quality of their nuclear warheads
and missile weapons, each side was, at the same time, afraid of
provoking the opponent into pre-emptive actions.

The ‘stability of global fear’ was backed by ideological
confrontation, deep mutual distrust and the reluctance of the
military and political leadership of the two countries to agree on
a compromise, let alone reach agreement to reduce the threat. The
allocation of huge resources for the development of lethal weapons
– capable of instantly destroying the entire planet – prevented
each of the countries from resolving vital issues. During the
d?tente period the two superpowers began a rapprochement, which was
intended to reduce the level of confrontation and cut expenses for
the nuclear weapons. In other words, both sides sought to achieve
strategic stability without resorting to force. The system of
bilateral and multilateral treaties concluded at this time defined,
first, parameters for the limitation of strategic armaments, and,
second, their step-by-step reduction. Defensive sufficiency became
a key criterion in determining the requirements imposed on the
strategic weapons systems.

Today, we are witnessing a transfer from the old type of
strategic stability of a bipolar world during the Cold War era, to
a new type of stability. What can be used as a basis for stability
in a world that many believe will be unipolar? And is a unipolar
world feasible? Finally, how stable will it be?


The previous mechanisms for maintaining international security,
which were based on a complex system of treaties on limitation and
reduction of nuclear and conventional armaments, actually ceased to
work after the U.S. withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty and adopted its concept of preventive military actions. What
does the U.S. offer to the world in exchange?

•  A unipolar world;
 The unrestricted build-up of the military capability of the
only superpower;
•  Prevalence of ‘The law of power, as opposed to the
power of law’ principle (i.e. unilateral preventive military
actions, ignoring the international law);
•  The reduced role of the international institutions and

It is noteworthy that within this new ‘model’ Russia is
frequently confronted with the policy of double standards. This was
manifest in the U.S. attitude toward the Chechen terrorists, the
reluctance to write off Soviet debts (although debts have been
written off for some of the other former socialist republics, such
as Poland), and the obvious tendency to isolate Russia. The
‘younger’ NATO member-states appear to be especially zealous in
such attitudes.

Of course, Russia sees this model, which is being forwarded by
one state, albeit the strongest in political, economic and military
terms, as a potentially dangerous trend since it is theoretically
capable of posing a threat to its security.

At the same time, Russia and the United States have a long,
shared history of cooperation from the d?tente period to tearing
down the Berlin wall and building up a new system of collective
security designed to protect humanity from the threats of the 21st
century. Inter alia, it has been the leaders of Russia and the
United States who have displayed the political will and led the
fight against international terrorism.

The reality of life has invalidated the question as to what kind
of world we are to live in – a multipolar or unipolar one. There is
no other choice but for the world to be multipolar, otherwise it
will lose its stability. It is my strong belief that Washington
remained the “sole pole of power” for only eighteen months,
starting from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York
and Washington until the U.S. started its war on Iraq on March 20,
2003. During that period the U.S. had not only the strongest
military power, but also the legitimacy to lead the world community
in countering international terrorism. However, the U.S. pointedly
ignored the opinions voiced by other countries and demonstrated a
profound reluctance to compromise its own interests. This policy
has not lifted U.S. prestige in the eyes of other nations.
Furthermore, the subsequent developments have proved that even the
United States cannot cope with the role of a world leader.

Given its huge military, technological, resource and human
potentials, Russia is destined to hold leading positions in the
forthcoming multipolar world, along with the United States.
Together with the U.S., Russia can play a key role in addressing
many global issues.


As noted by Jacques Santer, former president of the European
Commission, Russia is too great to become a full-fledged
member-state of the European Union. If Russia is too great for such
a large organization as the EU, it will hardly be able to fit into
other organizations. Thus, on the one hand, Russia is destined to
cruise independently across the sea of history and, on the other,
it must be involved in solving the most important problems of
today’s world. This is a bare fact, whether we want to accept it or

As a state entity Russia has existed for more than a millennium.
What contribution has it made to the solution of problems that
mankind has faced during this period?

The past

•  Russia saved European civilization from a
Mongol-Tartar invasion in the 13th and 14th centuries, which could
have prevented the Renaissance in Europe from happening;
•  Liberated Europe from Napoleon;
 Played a decisive role in World War I and more than once
helped its allies in hopeless situations;
•  Made a decisive contribution to the victory over
Nazism during World War II;
•  Established nuclear parity with the U.S.A., thus
contributing for over half a century to strategic stability in the

The present

•  Russia has launched d?tente and perestroika;
•  Helped break down the Berlin wall;
•  Has been pursuing a policy of partnership, equal
cooperation and integration into European structures;
•  Has abided by the principles created for the
limitation and reduction of armaments;
•  Is striving to maintain the legal fundamentals of the
strategic stability and international security.

Russia’s goals and objectives in the future:

•  Becoming something like a bridge between Europe and
Asia and, in some respects, between the U.S.A. and Europe, given
the emerging rift in the transatlantic relationship;
•  Gaining full membership in all European and world
•  Remaining one of the poles of the multipolar world,
where it cooperates – not opposes – with the other poles.


Whatever differences there are between Russia and the U.S., the
two countries bear joint responsibility for strengthening the WMD
nonproliferation regime and prevention of leaks of sensitive
nuclear and missile technologies. The changes in the international
relationship in the recent decade have led to a substantial
weakening of the nonproliferation regime, previously maintained by
the efforts of the two superpowers. After the bipolar system had
collapsed, many countries received new or stronger incentives to
acquire WMD. The world community appeared unprepared to oppose this
trend. During the Cold War period, the bipolar system gave the
third world countries certain guarantees against possible attacks.
The superpowers fervently kept an eye on each other, preventing the
other side from using force against neutral countries, which could
possibly strengthen the positions of one of the opponents. Now that
the roles of international organizations in controlling the use of
force has been sharply reduced, there arise objective incentives
for the development or acquisition of WMD by certain states which
are outside the ‘zone of American influence.’

Nuclear weapons, which appeared in the middle of the last
century as a weapon of the rich countries, are now becoming a
weapon of the poor countries: it is now possible for them to
counter military threats from the developed nations. The fast
evolution of conventional weapons in major countries prompts
technologically backward states that are afraid of military
interference to find ways for acquiring WMD as a counterbalance.
Due to technical progress, nuclear technologies, not to mention
chemical and bacteriological weapons, are becoming more easily
available. The new threats and security challenges force many
countries to rely more heavily on nuclear arsenals, which results
in a higher probability of nuclear proliferation.

In this connection it is disturbing when we consider the
attempts of the U.S. and Great Britain to treat nuclear weapons as
a means of deterring other types of WMD. This approach runs counter
to the principle of ‘negative security guarantees’ for non-nuclear
states. Another area of concern is the U.S. plan to develop, in
accordance with its new nuclear doctrine, low and super-low yield
nuclear munitions for launching pinpoint attacks (including
pre-emptive actions) against terrorist targets.

According to Russia’s military doctrine, its nuclear arsenal is
viewed as a means of retaliation in case of a nuclear attack or an
act of aggression involving other types of WMD; this would also
include the case of a large-scale act of aggression against the
country when the situation has become critical in terms of national
security. At the same time, Russia guarantees that it will not use
nuclear weapons against the states-signatories to the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty (except, of course, for cases of direct
attacks against Russia).

Thus, the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and other types of
WMD should be a high priority of national security policies of the
nuclear states. Russia’s disagreement with particular decisions
made by the U.S. administration does not mean, however, that we
renounce the strategic partnership or underestimate its


As early as the 1920s, Alexander Svechin, an outstanding Russian
military theorist, wrote that in the military sphere “the strategic
line of conduct must be a projection of the general political line
of conduct on the armed forces.” Today as well, Russia’s long-term
political and economic priorities determine its strategic military

The Russian Federation pursues a firm line of integration into
the world community and looks for mutually acceptable and
beneficial forms of cooperation with all interested parties.

The 2002 address by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the
Federal Assembly states: “Our goals remain unchanged – Russia’s
democratic development, the formation of a civilized market and a
rule-of-law state and, most importantly, higher living standards
for the people… We must make Russia a prosperous country and ensure
a comfortable and secure life for our citizens, so that they could
freely work wherever they like and make a decent living for
themselves and their children.” The president’s 2003 address
further stresses the idea that “all of our decisions, all of our
activities should be targeted at Russia becoming one of the really
strong, economically advanced and powerful states in the world in
the foreseeable future.”

Russia’s key national interest is the development of an
economically powerful state which enjoys international respect and
is oriented to meet the demands and aspirations of all social
strata, all peoples, and all ethnic minorities of the Russian
Federation. This goal cannot be attained unless Russia strengthens
its national defenses and maintains its military potential at a
level adequate to the existing and potential threats.

Overall, Russia’s political and military leadership proceeds
from the assumption that Russia has no direct enemies, but that
potential threats still persist; they should be taken into account
during state and military planning.

These threats include:

•  Deployment of forces and weapons with a view to
launching attacks against the Russian Federation or its
•  Territorial claims to Russia and the threat of
political or military annexation of Russian territories;
•  Implementation by states, organizations and movements
of programs for developing weapons of mass destruction;
•  Build-up of troops, tipping the existing balance of
forces in close proximity to the borders of the Russian Federation,
or those of its allies and in adjacent territorial waters;
•  Expansion of military blocs and alliances to the
detriment of the military security of the Russian Federation or its

The underestimation of the military threats is as dangerous as
their overestimation, and will inevitably bring about mistakes both
in foreign and defense policies. In the latter case, a
miscalculation would force the state to build its armed forces
beyond the limits of its economic capabilities.

Russia’s national interests were formulated in Russian Defense
Minister Sergei Ivanov’s October 2003 report on the vital tasks of
the Russian armed forces’ development, as well as in documents
adopted at the Russian-U.S. Summit in Moscow on May 24, 2002. These
are the Joint Declaration by Presidents Vladimir Putin and George
Bush on the New Strategic Relationship between Russia and the U.S.,
and the Russian-U.S. Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions.

Russia and the U.S. have acknowledged that the present security
environment differs dramatically from the situation as it was
during the Cold War years. The two countries are taking measures to
project the new nature of their strategic relationship to the
military sphere, and to develop a new system of strategic stability
and international security. This system must be based on generally
recognized norms of international law and involve the existing
international institutions, above all, the United Nations. It would
make possible international cooperation, based on a UN Security
Council mandate, in extinguishing hotbeds of instability and
carrying out peacekeeping operations.

The coming two years will be decisive in this respect. The
Russian and U.S. presidents’ first terms in office are running out,
and they should formulate their strategies for the future. It is
natural that each of them wants to win the upcoming elections in
order to implement their programs. The second presidential term is
traditionally a time for taking resolute practical steps, when
presidential decisions no longer affect the outcome of future
elections. They want to go down in history and ensure the
continuity of their policy.

Russia has the following strategic national priorities:

Inside the country:

•  Building of a democratic rule-of-law state which
will meet the political, economic, social and humanitarian needs of
the whole of society and each citizen;
•  Economic prosperity and concord of all classes,
movements, organizations and political parties;
•  Sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and
defense capability of the Russian Federation;
•  Continued military reform and switchover to a
predominantly contract-based professional army; as well as a
reduced conscription term.

On the world arena:

•  Strategic stability worldwide, prevention of crises
and armed conflicts, retention of its status of one of the most
reliable guarantors of international stability;
•  Expanded strategic partnership with the U.S.A. in
military, political and economic spheres; continued cooperation in
advancing strategic stability and the dismantling of Cold War
•  A highly pragmatic foreign policy stemming from
Russia’s capabilities and national interests in military-strategic,
economic and political spheres. (Of special importance is the
development of Russia’s relationship with the Commonwealth of
Independent States, as well as efforts to create a Common European
Economic Space with the European Union.);
•  Gaining of strong positions amidst keen international
competition for markets, investments, political and economic
influence; compliance with rigid requirements of the international
market, and the winning of new niches;

The United States may have different priorities. Yet,
maintenance of international security continues to be the U.S.
leadership’s critical priority. Russia is ready to go halfway and
contribute to building a new international security system. The
international community should have common understanding and will
to formulate shared approaches to countering threats and preventing

It would not be reasonable to disunite Europe, stretching from
the Atlantic to the Urals. Instead of seeking to oust Russia from
the international community, all countries should build an
integrated security system; especially as there are prerequisites
for such efforts – they were laid in the Rome Declaration a year

In the military sphere, these efforts should provide for:

•  Close interaction, first of all, among the
permanent members of the UN Security Council, which bear special
responsibility for the world’s destiny; the member-states of NATO
and the European Union; as well as all other countries and
international organizations, on the basis of the principles of
cooperation, respect for each other’s positions, mutual benefit,
and renunciation of attempts to gain unilateral benefits;
•  Continued radical, verifiable, irreversible reductions
of strategic offensive armaments, combined with limitations on
strategic defensive systems;
•  Strengthened WMD non-proliferation regime;
•  Elaboration and coordination of measures to enhance
predictability and confidence in the military-strategic field,
including continuous dialog on military matters.

All these measures will require strenuous efforts and
responsibility from each member of the international community.
Security is a costly thing, however, it is worth it. The deeper our
mutual understanding and closer our cooperation, the better we can
do the job. This objective will be attained if Russia, the U.S. and
other countries pool their technological, financial and
organizational potentials.