Volume XIV Number 2 (January-February 2004)


The Ivanov Doctrine

By Pavel Felgenhauer

Last October, Russia’s top military brass, President Vladimir Putin, administration officials, ministers, security chiefs, parliamentarians, and leading journalists gathered in the Defense Ministry to hear Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov detail a document that was first presented to the press as "The Public Part of the Military Doctrine." Ivanov’s 45-minute presentation was accompanied by graphs, maps and keynote phrases appearing on big color screens – not your typical Soviet-style doklad; in fact, it was more like a Western C.E.O. giving a Power Point address to investors. A colorful brochure with the text of the so-called doctrine (printed Western-style on glossy paper) was handed out, complete with the explanatory maps, graphs, etc.

Ivanov’s Defense Ministry aides, advisers and officials seemed to have done their utmost to break free of Soviet traditions and produce some modern P.R. material that would capture the imagination of journalists, promote the "doctrine" and, with it, Ivanov.

But if the style of the presentation and brochure was modern and catchy, the text itself and Ivanov’s speech were not. Several of the generals present began to doze off after five minutes, followed by many others. Putin also was visibly struggling to maintain his concentration.

Ivanov’s text was extremely dull. But worse than that, it was so contradictory that it was almost impossible to keep track of the arguments. Ivanov declared NATO a close partner and, at the same time, a potential enemy. Ivanov stated categorically that in future armed conflicts airpower would be decisive and—a section later—that "too much reliance on air power is detrimental."

In another section, Ivanov stressed the need to acquire long-range modern weapons to win battles and, several lines later, that Russian troops should prepare to fight hand-to-hand pitched battles to win wars. Ivanov announced that Russia would prepare Special Forces equipped with modern weapons to prevail in anti-guerrilla and anti-terrorist campaigns. At the same time, the nation will keep a mass conscript army to defend its external borders – with the greatest danger coming from the West, from NATO.

Ivanov’s "doctrine" has a wordy official name: "The actual objectives (or goals, or tasks) of the development of the armed forces of the Russian Federation." It’s important to note that in Russian the word "actual" (‘actualni’) predominantly means urgent and meaningful at the same time.

As so often happens inside big bureaucratic institutions, hundreds, maybe thousands of officials from different Defense Ministry departments prepared Ivanov’s White Paper on Defense, each writing their bit. Then the thing was slapped together, glossed, but apparently edited only superficially, if at all. Recently, three star General Yuri Baluyevsky (Number Two in Russia’s all-powerful Prussian-style General Staff of the Armed Forces) told NATO military representatives that it was he who did some editing of Ivanov’s "doctrine." Baluyevsky added that he was too preoccupied with other tasks to do the edit well, so the document turned out rough with lots of contradictions and loose ends.

In Soviet times, the Defense Ministry prepared tomes bound in red leather for the Communist leaders of the U.S.S.R. to consider. Those defense-related texts were also extremely dull, but they were at least consistent and well-edited.

Ivanov’s "doctrine" is a typical New Russian bureaucratic document: It combines a Western exterior with Soviet-style contents. However, since the demise of the U.S.S.R. the Soviet military bureaucracy has degenerated organizationally and intellectually, so the contents come out half-baked.

The awkward document that was presented by Ivanov on October 2, 2003, has since been called by many different names: White Paper on Defense, Ivanov’s Doctrine and so on. The diversity in names reflects the uncertainty of the legal status and the real meaning of this document. It is unclear whether the work on this "doctrine" will be continued; will the document be expanded, improved and legalized? Or will it fade into oblivion as did many other previous Russian defense-related policy documents, doctrines and concepts—officially adopted only to be forgotten weeks after publication, to be truly remembered, read, discussed and enthusiastically considered only by Western scholars, spooks and militaries?

Legally, Ivanov’s doctrine is not a "doctrine" at all. The Russian Constitution states that this country should have an official military doctrine and that it has to be signed into law by the President. Today Russia has such a doctrine that was prepared at the end of President Boris Yel’tsin’s second term and signed by Putin into law in 2000.

Putin encouraged Ivanov politically at the October 2003 meeting in the Defense Ministry, when the "doctrine" was presented. This is hardly strange -- Ivanov is Putin’s personal and political cohort. Many in the Moscow elite believe that in the future Putin may promote Ivanov to become Russia’s Prime Minister and then groom him to be his successor as President of Russia in 2008.

Still the presentation of Ivanov’s White Paper did not overturn the 2000 doctrine since Putin did not endorse it formally. An official military doctrine is an imperative document that guides the defense activities of all the parallel Russian armies, also known as siloviki or power ministries and departments (the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry, Border Guards, FSB, MChS, Justice Ministry and others). Only the Defense Ministry endorsed the glossy brochure presented on October 2, 2003, and it did not actually have the required formal requisites to make it an official military order issued by the Defense Minister. Ivanov’s "doctrine" to a large extent is a wish list -- not a concrete plan to "build" a modern military.

In October 2003 after the "doctrine" was published, Ivanov traveled to a NATO Defense Ministers’ summit in Colorado Springs. NATO officials interrogated him to get clarifications about parts of the "doctrine" concerning possible Russian "preventive attacks" on neighboring countries and some seemingly hostile passages concerning NATO. In reply the Russians did their best to dispel possible Western concerns and to downplay the significance of the new "doctrine." Ivanov told reporters in Colorado Springs: "The doctrine does not specify any preventive nuclear strikes, it merely implies that Russia retains the right to use military might for prevention, CIS countries included."

During informal discussions in Colorado Springs, Russian officials told their Western counterparts that they should not take the White Paper seriously. In Moscow in October 2003, during an informal meeting, one of Ivanov’s military advisers gave me the same message: "We try to promote new ideas, but it’s a hard job and only maybe five percent of what we want to promote gets into the final result."

But despite its informal status and conspicuous inconsistencies the White Paper is an interesting and significant document. It’s a reflection of the variety of ideas and prejudices that dwell within our ruling elite and the top brass in our Defense Ministry.

Immediately after Ivanov’s presentation a well-known Moscow think-tanker Sergei Karaganov, president of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, described the text as "not a doctrine, but a collection of ideas from the Defense Ministry on this and that–a mix of rhetoric, of new ideas and old ones."

The White Paper contains Soviet-style statements: "Survival of NATO as a military alliance with its current offensive doctrine will require a drastic reorganization of the Russian military planning and principles of development of the Armed Forces including amendment of the Russian nuclear strategy." The same document also reflects Putin’s newest pro-Western foreign policy trends: "Russia supports the war on international terrorism within the framework of the existing counter-terrorism coalition, which is an element of global stability and a means of establishing a fairer world order." And further: "Russia expects a broader cooperation with the United States in political, military-political, and economic spheres."

The White Paper contains a reasonably good analysis of recent armed conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. There are calls to modernize the Russian military, so it may benefit from the military-technical revolution happening in the West. But the majority of our top brass are still deeply entrenched in the legacy of World War II. Most of our generals believe that only a mass multimillion conscript army with tens of thousands of tanks can guarantee Russian territorial integrity and basic national interests. The Kremlin has many times announced that it wants to create a "smaller, more able armed force." It was also declared that in the future, Russia’s Armed Forces will be professional and will have modern arÜ–ments. Simultaneously however, it has been announced that drastic personnel cuts are over, which apparently means that the present staffing level of over 2 million servicemen in the combined parallel armies will stay as it is. All in all there are today over 4 million persons on the payroll of the "power ministries," including different paramilitary forces and some 700,000 civilian Defense Ministry personnel.

Aleksei Arbatov, deputy head of the Duma Defense Committee, from the liberal Yabloko party (in the December 2003 Duma elections Yabloko lost its representation in parliament) told a meeting of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow in October 2003 that according to calculations made by Defense Committee staffers, if Russia tries to rearm its entire military with new weapons by 2020, as stipulated in Ivanov’s doctrine, while keeping present numbers of personnel, it should, over the coming years, procure annually at least 800 tanks, 150 aircraft and 30 war ships. At present virtually no new weapons are entering the arsenal.

The "doctrine" does not provide any economic/financial estimates of what will be the cost of the military modernization stipulated by the White Paper, nor does it specify where the money will come from. Arbatov implied that if the rearmament program begins in earnest and if the payroll expenses of the Defense Ministry quadruple by 2010, as specified by the "doctrine," the Russian defense budget from 2010 to 2020 should be at least 15 percent of GDP. (That is, if Putin succeeds in doubling our national GDP by 2010.) Today defenrq×Ä(ending in Russia is 2.7 percent of GDP; the overall budget of all the power ministries is roughly 5 percent of GDP.

If Ivanov’s doctrine is economically impossible to implement, what was the purpose of the stage show on October 2, 2003? Ivanov indicated that Russia might use nuclear weapons for "preventive" attack "to stop acts of aggression." This rhetoric alarmed diplomats from small neutral nations, but a high-ranking U.S. diplomat, talking on conditions of anonymity, dismissed Ivanov’s "doctrine" as a "PR document for internal use during Putin’s presidential re-election campaign."

Indeed, the central message of Putin’s remarks at the meeting was that there will be no more cuts in military personnel and that military reform has been successfully completed. Putin emphasized that from now on the already reformed military will be "transformed" into something very modern, effective and professional without any further major changes. Russia also will maintain a strong nuclear deterrent to keep the Americans out of its sphere of influence.

This is a message the military and security chiefs were glad to hear. At the same time, Ivanov’s generally incoherent report contained some reasonable points, such as a pledge to begin creating a corps of professional sergeants that may bring some discipline to the military’s disgruntled divisions. Since Ivanov’s "doctrine" legally is just a discussion paper, any part of it may be implemented or not, which makes it a fine election manifesto on defense.

The gap is swiftly growing between the image of Russia that the Kremlin is promoting and the miserable reality. Our official military doctrine states that the United States, the West and NATO are prime enemies, while Putin pronounces that we are almost "allies."

The Russian military continues to prepare to fight NATO and performs major military exercises simulating such encounters. In 1999, after the NATO bombardments of Yugoslavia, the Russian military staged large exercises, "Zapad-99" (West-99), centered on the Kaliningrad region in the Baltics. The scenario was that NATO imposes an air/sea blockade of the Kaliningrad enclave and then begins an air offensive against Kaliningrad with bombers and cruise missiles. The Russian conventional defenses are breached and to resolve the situation Moscow carries out a "preventive" nuclear strike, launching four long-range cruise missiles by strategic bombers. Two nuclear warheads hit targets in Western Europe, two—-in North America. The decision to use specifically air-launched nuclear-tipped cruise missiles is made because even a limited launch of ICBMs could trigger a simultaneous launch of U.S. nuclear ICBMs.

The scenario of Zapad-99 ends with Russia victorious: Baffled by the Russian limited preventive nuclear strike and faced with the option to either go for an all-out global nuclear war or back down, the NATO "aggressors" stop their attack on Kaliningrad. After Zapad-99, the strategy of "preventive nuclear strikes" was recognized as the best way for Russia to stop an "aggression" that our weak conventional forces could not possibly repulse. This strategy of "preventive strikes," aimed primarily against the West, is an important part of Ivanov’s doctrine.

In May 2003, a Russian naval task force in the Indian Ocean conducted a war game that included the interception and sinking of a U.S. aircraft carrier group. At the same time Russian strategic bombers simulated an attack with nuclear long-range cruise missiles on the U.S. base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. This exercise was performed to demonstrate Russia’s ability to stop a U.S.-led attack against a Russian ally in the region. But it came too late to save Saddam Hussein.

Russian bureaucrats and military chiefs are getting conflicting signals from the Kremlin and do not know for sure what policy—partnership or confrontation with the West—is the official one. Bureaucrats in such a fix tend to postpone serious decisions indefinitely.

Several years ago Russia and the United States agreed to establish in Moscow a joint center to monitor ballistic launches worldwide and exchange information online. The United States is ready to provide the lion’s share of finance to run the center, but wants a tax exemption (so it doesn’t have to pay VAT or other taxes and duties on its investment in the program). The Russian side will not provide the tax exemptions.

This is not a mere "technicality," but a case of strategic indecision: How far West should Russia go? On what terms? Before lifting a finger, every Russian official must be sure he will not be sent to the gallows for being too pro-Western.

After the presentation of the "doctrine" Ivanov told Svetlana Babayeva of the Izvestia newspaper (his favorite reporter in Russia) that "all sorts of roundtable conferences and forums will follow." Some public discussion of the defense paper did indeed take place after October 2nd, but it soon died down, because the Defense Ministry did not actively participate in the deliberations. Soon all public discussions ended as the defense expert community in Moscow in essence dismissed Ivanov’s doctrine.

Ivanov also told Babayeva that in October 2003 Putin gave the General Staff six months to come up with revised plans on combat usage (deployment) and the development of the armed forces. These two documents (on usage and development) have been, in Soviet times, and are today, the principal directives that regulate our military in peacetime and in war. These plans are regularly revised by the General Staff and carry the highest state secrecy classification. Because of the veil of secrecy we will not know for sure if Ivanov’s doctrine will indeed be used to help rewrite General Staff defense plans and if so, to what extent.

If (as many in Moscow expect) Putin, after reelection in March 2004, promotes Ivanov out of the Defense Ministry, the glossy "doctrine" may be Ivanov’s last major P.R. action in his present capacity. A newly-appointed Defense Minister may in the future use some of the diverse ideas included in Ivanov’s doctrine, but the overall fate of the glossy document continues to be vague.


Copyright ISCIP 2004
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