James F. Holcomb
 Michael M. Boll

July 20, 1994

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


The future direction of Russian security and defense policies is a fundamental issue in contemporary world politics. Future Russian policies will have a major impact on all nuclear issues; on bilateral relations with the United States; and on European, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Far Eastern security. One primary indicator of the direction of Russian policies is the new Defense Doctrine published in November 1993. This document has aroused much controversy and diverging assessments as to its significance. However, since it encompasses all the major issues in Russia's security and defense agenda, it is a major statment that is crucial to any understanding of Russian trends and policies.

Because of the controversy over Russian doctrine, the Strategic Studies Institute, as part of its ongoing coverage of Russian defense and security policies, presents here two very different assessments of that doctrine to contribute to the debate over its meaning. The Institute is not offering an official interpretation of the new doctrine. While both authors work for the Defense Department, they differ in their assessments and are expressing only their personal opinions, not those of any government agency. We hope that our audience will find these presentations stimulating and thought provoking.

                             JOHN W. MOUNTCASTLE
                             Colonel, U.S. Army
                             Director, Strategic Studies Institute


In the past decade, Soviet/Russian military doctrine has experienced startling changes both in content and in the role such doctrine will play in protecting the vital interests of the state. This report focuses upon efforts during and after the Gorbachev era to establish clear national security priorities and to enumerate the ways in which military doctrine might ensure protection of the Russian national interest.

Since 1987, when the Soviet Union switched to an ostensibly defensive military doctrine, the nature of this doctrine has been a contentious issue in both Soviet/Russian policies and Western perceptions of these policies. This controversy has persisted. The most recent iteration of Russia's defense doctrine was published, with President Yeltsin's signature, in November 1993. It immediately aroused controversy in the West as being a restatement of old Soviet themes, a document for an imperial conception of defense policy, an enshrinement of military superiority over civilians in defense policy, and so forth. On the other hand, a rival current of opinion argued for its novelty and recognition of new, more realistic positions on a broad range of policy issues. As this debate continues, the Strategic Studies Institute presents two independent and differing assessments of the published doctrine.

LTC Holcomb's assessment sees in this document a conservative, even traditional approach that does not, in many cases, offer radical departures from previous policies and perspectives. The concept of doctrine is, he claims, no different than what preceded it, and the habit of worst case planning that characterized Soviet policy is also displayed here. Thus the overall perspective is shaped by an outlook that is skeptical of the West and on guard for military dangers, if not threats.

Dr. Boll, on the other hand, argues that while disagreements may flourish among Russian analysts in the West as to the relative offensive and defensive aspects of both the new doctrine and its 1992 draft predecessor that was not formally approved, there is no question that both documents are firmly integrated with the overall Russian notion of identified national interests and preferred means for their protection. Accordingly, he contends that, for the first time, modern Russian military doctrine responds to a purely national concept of self-interest and threat assessment that is not ideological in nature. Therefore, Russia now has a truly national doctrine that is set out before the world for consideration. The changes in the content of Russian military doctrine are historic in nature. But the alteration in the form of doctrine is truly revolutionary!

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