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Arctic strategy documents


Russian national security strategy to 2020, by Katarzyna Zysk, senior fellow at the IFS (15 June 2009)

On 12 May 2009 President Medvedev approved the Russian national security strategy for the period until 2020. The document replaced the security concept from 1997 (modified in 2000), thus reflecting Russia’s evolved security environment. Contrary to what was widely expected, the new security concept has stronger conciliatory character.

The broad and detailed document depicts a complex and integrated picture of Russia’s security situation. It describes current world trends and defines Russia’s national interests and strategic priorities. Unlike the previous documents, it goes far beyond the classical definition of national security with a predominantly military approach. The new strategy identifies threats and challenges within a broadly defined concept of security under chapters defined as ‘National defence’, ‘State security and civil protection’, ‘Improvement of living standards’, ‘Economic growth’, ‘Research, technologies and education’, ‘Healthcare’, ‘Culture’, ‘Ecology’, and ‘Strategic stability and partnership on equal terms’. Much less attention is devoted to hard security threats. National defence tasks are described relatively vaguely. The document avoids as well any broader discussion of Russia’s nuclear policy, confirming only its further reliance on nuclear deterrence and nuclear parity with the United States.

The new strategy points at failure of the current global and regional security architecture, as it is disproportionately weighted in favour of NATO. It voices Russia’s long-standing opposition to any future eastward enlargement of the Alliance and plans to move its military infrastructure to Russian borders, as well as attempts to give the organisation global functions. At the same time, it expresses Russia’s readiness to negotiate and develop relations with NATO on the condition of equality and respect for Russia’s interests. Contrary to expectations based on the anti-Western rhetoric frequently used by the Russian leadership in recent years, the United States is not mentioned in the document as a security concern. It refers though to attempts of a range of leading states to achieve military supremacy as a threat to state’s security.

The economy has a prominent place in the document as a major security factor. The dependence of the Russian economy on export of raw materials has been recognized as a threat, together with foreign involvement in the national economy. The global economic downturn has left a footprint in the document, which states that consequences of such crisis may be comparable with the devastation left by large-scale use of military force. One of Russia’s objectives is to become one of the five biggest economies in the world in terms of GDP. Similarly to other newly updated documents, such as the new Arctic strategy to 2020, particular attention is devoted to infrastructure development aimed at reducing economic differences among Russian regions, in particular in the Arctic and Far East.

The document highlights the role of energy security. It associates Russia’s international position and strength with its energy reserves, and states that a pragmatic policy and political use of its natural resources has strengthened Russia’s influence on the international stage. The strategy asserts that in a long term perspective the attention of international policy will be focused on access to energy reserves, including on the continental shelf in the Barents Sea and other parts of the Arctic, in addition to the Middle East, the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. In the next article the document points that the critical state of physical safety of dangerous materials, in particular in states with unstable domestic political situation, as well as proliferation of conventional weapons, can lead to exacerbation of existing and provoking new regional and international conflicts. The strategy maintains that it cannot be excluded that problems resulting from the competitive struggle for dwindling resources worldwide may be solved with use of military force.

As many other Russian documents and official statements, the new security strategy does not omit to clearly emphasise the country’s commitment to international law in pursuing its foreign policy objectives and protecting national security interests.  

To se the official document (in Russian), please click here: Strategia natsionalnoi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii do 2020 goda


Russia's Arctic strategy: ambitions and constraints,
by Katarzyna Zysk senior fellow at the IFS.

The Russian government adopted a new Arctic strategy in September 2008. The document, entitled “The fundamentals of state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic in the period up to 2020 and beyond” (Osnovy gosudarstvennoi politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii v Arktike na period do 2020 goda i dalneishuiu perspektivu, was published on the Russian Security Council’ website in the end of March 2009. 

The strategy clearly emphasizes the region’s importance to Russia’s economy as a major source of revenue, mainly from energy production and profitable maritime transport.
A main goal is to transform the Arctic into Russia’s top strategic base for natural resources by 2020, and preserve the country’s role as a leading Arctic power.

The Russian authorities consider the region as crucially important for Russia’s further wealth, social and economic development and competitiveness on global markets. Defining the limits of the country’s continental shelf by 2015 is listed as a top priority. Among other strategic goals the document points at developing the transport and communication infrastructure in the region, particularly connected to the Northern Sea Route as a national, wholly integrated transportation route and a central element in maritime connections between Europe and Asia. The strategy reveals that one of Russia major goal is to establish special Arctic military formations in order to protect the county’s national interests in various military and political situations.

The Russian authorities underscore, however, that the main purpose of such military preparations is to combat terrorism at sea, smuggling and illegal migration, and protect aquatic biological resources. Hence, the FSB (Federal Security Service) will get a central role in protecting national interests in the region. The Russian authorities clearly underscored the document’s cooperative character by emphasizing the need to preserve the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation, and underlining the role of regional bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Link to Russian Arctic strategy document of September 2008 (in Russian)



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