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Security Defense

Russia’s New National Security Strategy: Familiar Themes, Gaudy Rhetoric

Putin stencils, courtesy by Jonathan Davis/flickr

This article was originally published by the War on the Rocks on 4 January, 2016.

On the last day of 2015, Vladimir Putin put his signature on the decree adopting Russia’s new National Security Strategy out to 2020. Inevitably it is something to pore over looking for clues about Putin’s future intentions and the Kremlin’s assessment of the risks and opportunities ahead. The document can be downloaded as a PDF from the Kremlin website, and there is a pretty decent overview of the main points from RT.

In comparison with the last strategy, adopted in 2009, it comes across at first blush as pretty extreme. The new document contains fiercer and more explicit criticism of the West. The key issue is what Moscow calls the West’s efforts to “levers of tension in the Eurasian region” in order to undermine Russian national interests. In particular, the strategy condemns “the support of the United States and the European Union of an unconstitutional government coup in Ukraine which has led to a deep schism in Ukrainian society and the outbreak of armed conflict.”

Categories
Government Security Foreign policy

‘Hybrid War’ and ‘Little Green Men’: How It Works, and How It Doesn’t

Masked soldiers in Crimea. Image: E. Arrott/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 16 April 2015. It is an excerpt from E-IR’s Edited Collection “Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives”.

When Russian special forces seized Crimea at the end of February 2014, without their insignia, but with the latest military kit, it seemed as the start of a new era of warfare. Certainly, the conflict in Ukraine has demonstrated that Moscow, in a bid to square its regional ambitions with its sharply limited resources, has assiduously and effectively developed a new style of ‘guerrilla geopolitics’ which leverages its capacity for misdirection, bluff, intelligence operations, and targeted violence to maximise its opportunities. However, it is too soon to declare that this represents some transformative novelty, because Moscow’s Ukrainian adventures have not only demonstrated the power of such ‘hybrid’ or ‘non-linear’ ways of warfare, but also their distinct limitations.

Categories
Security Conflict

Pragmatism, Fear and Geopolitics: Why Moscow Still Backs Assad

Syrians hold photos of Assad and Putin during a pro-regime protest in front of the Russian embassy in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, March 4, 2012.
Syrians hold photos of Assad and Putin during a pro-regime protest in front of the Russian embassy in Damascus, Syria, 2012. Photo: Freedom House/flickr.

This post originally appeared on the World blog at Blouin Global News.

Russia has been Bashar al-Assad’s staunchest protector. Although the British parliament’s decision not to intervene militarily in Syria has disappointed Washington, as of writing it seems unlikely to affect its resolution to strike against the Assad’s regime. When it does so, it will inevitably anger Moscow and further contribute to its belief that the United States seeks to be a “monopolar” power that acts however it wants on the world stage.

But why has Moscow been so stalwart in its support of an undeniably odious regime? It is possible to talk glibly of a natural affinity between autocrats (although Vladimir Putin clearly still commands the support of a clear majority of Russians) or a fear of some global swing against authoritarian regimes (though there are many dominos between Damascus and Moscow that would fall first), the answer is a mix of pragmatism, fear and geopolitics.

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Uncategorized

Russia and “Elastic Power”: Will the Burgeoning Private Security Industry Lead to Private Military Companies, Too?

Private security guards in Russia.

I’ve just written a short piece for Blouin News on the news that already-relaxed restrictions on the security forces of gas giant Gazprom and oil pipeline corporation Transneft are to be lifted, allowing them increased access to lethal weapons and rules of engagement for their use. The represents a rolling back of the trend during the early Putin years, when the private security sector–which had become pretty much out of control in the 1990s–was reined in dramatically. The days of untrained corporate goons toting assault rifles in Moscow shopping centers are, I’m glad to say, pretty much over, even if the vigilante spirit they embody (in other words, a reluctance to trust the state and its agents to provide reliable, impartial security) is alive and well. The private security industry these days is a dynamic, extensive and growing sector, but also one under rather great legal and regulatory control.