Russia promotes conventional forces in new doctrine

File photo: Armed Russian soldier stands near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, 1 March 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Russian soldiers deployed across Crimea during the crisis in March

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has signed a revised version of the country's military doctrine, which identifies major threats to security.

The new document promotes the use of Russia's conventional, non-nuclear forces as a deterrent.

Chief among new threats identified by planners are the armed conflict in neighbouring Ukraine as well as events in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Russian forces are believed to be operating covertly in eastern Ukraine.

Their reported intervention on the rebel side, as well as the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March after a disputed referendum, has been met with economic sanctions by Western states.

Russia's air force has also stepped up patrolling in international airspace close to Nato states while the Russian navy has raised its international profile to a lesser extent.

'Indirect action'

Nato expansion into eastern Europe remains the main military threat identified in the new planning document, published (in Russian) on the Kremlin website, which replaces the 2010 doctrine.

Ukraine's parliament voted this week to drop the country's non-aligned status and work towards Nato membership. However, its prospect of actually joining the alliance is questionable, given its territorial dispute with Russia over Crimea and the continuing conflict in its eastern regions.

After a meeting last week, the Russian Security Council announced in a statement (in Russian) that the new doctrine would take account of "the emergence of new threats for Russia, which became evident in the situation in Ukraine and around it and the events in Northern Africa, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionVideo shot by Dutch F-16 pilots for Nato's Baltic Air Policing mission on 8 December shows the apparent interception of Russian military aircraft

Notwithstanding that Russia has itself been accused by Nato regularly of covert military deployments in eastern Ukraine, the Security Council also found that unnamed "leading states" were taking "indirect action" to advance their interests.

They were, it said, using "the population's potential for protest, radical and extremist organisations, and private military companies".

America has long been accused by Russian hawks of steering pro-democracy uprisings in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states to further its interests.

The doctrine remains defensive in nature, the Russian Security Council stressed, and regards use of military force only as a last resort.

As well as possessing a nuclear arsenal to rival that of the US, Russia maintains one of the largest conventional armies in the world, numbering just over 766,000 active officers and soldiers as of last year, compared to America's 1,370,000.

Russia's strained relations with Nato

  • 1994 Russia joins Nato's Partnership for Peace
  • 1996 Russia takes part in Nato-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia
  • 1997 Nato and Russia sign Founding Act respecting territorial integrity of all states
  • 1999 Nato admits Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; then in 2004 admits Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia
  • 1999 Russia and Nato forces in standoff at Pristina airport in Kosovo; Russia earlier angered by Nato air strikes on Serbia
  • 2003 Russia allows German forces through its territory to join Nato-led force in Afghanistan
  • 2007 Russia suspends observance of 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE) that limits heavy weapons, amid anger at US plans for missile defence system
  • 2008 Nato briefly halts contact over Russia's war with Georgia
  • 2011 Russia accuses Nato of going beyond UN mandate after air strikes on Gaddafi forces in Libya
  • 2014 Nato accuses Russia of sending troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine; proposes rapid response force

More on this story