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Russia’s New National Security Strategy – An Analysis

Raj Kumar Sharma writes: The strategy assesses the state of international affairs, Russia’s interests in a fast changing world, its relations with the major powers and its political, cultural, security and economic situation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed new national security strategy for Russia on the eve of New Year. Russia’s National Security Strategy is updated every six years, the last version coming out in 2009. The strategy assesses the state of international affairs, Russia’s interests in a fast changing world, its relations with the major powers and its political, cultural, security and economic situation. It also details the likely future course of action that Russia would take to bolster its defense and economy.

Due to continuous downslide in Russia’s relations with the West, it was important for Putin to update the 2009 strategy as it was not in sync with contemporary realities for Russia. According to the strategy, national priority of the Russian Federation is to consolidate its position as one of the leading world powers. National priorities include strengthening the country’s defenses, protecting its constitutional system, sovereignty and territorial integrity, strengthening the national consensus, raising the quality of life, preserving and developing culture, improving economic competitiveness, and other principles of national security.[1]

While the Russia-West differences were manageable in last decade, the Ukraine crisis led to bitter fallout after which the US and its allies imposed economic sanctions on Russia. NATO has been designated as a threat in new strategy which was not the case with the 2009 version. It says that “independent domestic and foreign policy” from Russia has triggered a “counter-action” from the US and its allies, who wish to dominate global affairs. NATO has been expanding in Eastern Europe as Albania and Croatia joined in 2009 while in 2011, it recognized Bosnia, Georgia, Macedonia and Montenegro as aspiring members.[2] Presence of NATO close to Russian borders impinges on Russian security. Ever since the end of Cold War in 1991, Russia has been demanding that its near abroad should be seen by the West as its sphere of influence and NATO should not expand in the post-Soviet space. The strategy also states that the US is expanding its network of military-biological laboratories in the countries bordering Russia.

Russian interests in Syria too go against the West and its intervention in Syrian war to prop up beleaguered President Assad has further irked the US. The new strategy targets “bloc based approach” to solve international problems saying its does not help reducing threats and challenges the world faces today. The document says that in response to NATO, Russia will promote the idea of transforming of the CSTO into the “universal international organization able to withstand the regional challenges and threats of military-political and military-strategic nature,” including international terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal migration.[3]

Color revolutions have been also singled out as one of the most important threats to Russian state and societal security. The NGO’s and private individuals funded by foreign countries could destabilize the internal situation in the country which would destroy traditional Russian spiritual and moral values.”[4] Color revolutions have taken place in post-Soviet space (Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan) and Russia has accused the Western funded NGOs of creating instability in these countries in the name of promoting democracy and human rights.

The document also talks about threats to Russian economy which depends on export of mineral resources and raw materials. “A lag in the development of advanced technologies, the vulnerability of the financial system, the imbalance of the budgetary system, the economy going offshore, the exhaustion of the raw materials base, the strength of the shadow economy, conditions leading to corruption and criminal activities, and uneven development of regions.” Economic restrictions, global and regional crises, as well as the misuse use of the law, among other things, will have a negative impact on the economy, and in the future could lead to a deficit of mineral, water, and biological resources, says the document.[5] It lists food security as a strategic task to be achieved by ensuring Russia’s food independence and accelerated development of Russia’s agriculture. The document also signals Russia’s Pivot to Asia as it says Russia will work to strengthen relations with India, China, BRICS and RIC groupings, G20, APEC, CIS and SCO. It also says that Russia will work with Latin America and Africa to enhance its ties. Though critical of the West, the document does list out areas like new collective security system, disarmament, counter-terrorism efforts solution of regional conflicts as areas where the West and Russia could work together.

Implications for India

The present stagnation in Russia’s relations with the West does not augur well for India. It is a throwback Cold War days where India had to make choices between either of the blocs. The growing distance between the West and Russia brings Russia closer to China. It is not in Indian interest to see Russia depending too much on China. India benefits if Russia and the US have a workable relationship. At the same time, the present situation also offers India opportunity to enhance its business and trade links with Russia. India-Russia trade is mainly dominated by defense sector and both sides have shown willingness to expand the scope of the trade. India would require careful balancing between Russia and the West as both of them play an important role in its military modernization program.


[1] Russia Adopts Updated National Security Strategy, Jan 1, 2016 URL:

[2] Russia security paper designates Nato as threat, Dec 31, 2015 URL:

[3] Russia Announces Foreign Policy Priorities for 2016, Dec 31, 2015 URL:

[4] Russia Adopts Updated National Security Strategy, Jan 1, 2016 URL:

[5] Russia’s national security strategy for 2016 in 9 key points, Dec 31, 2015 URL:

Raj Kumar Sharma is a Research Associate at USI, New Delhi.

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