Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Russia fears NATO-BUSH more than terrorism

Russia fears NATO more than terrorism
Guardian News & Media Luke Harding in Moscow March 8, 2007

RUSSIA is to replace its military doctrine with a more hawkish version that boldly identifies NATO and the West as its greatest danger.

In a statement posted on its website, Russia's powerful Security Council said it no longer considered global terrorism to be its biggest danger. Instead, Russia was developing a new national security strategy that reflected changing "geo-political" realities, and the fact that rival military alliances were becoming "stronger" - "especially NATO".

"There have been changes in the character of the threat to the military security of Russia. More and more leading world states are seeking to upgrade their national armed forces. The configuration has changed," the council said.

Though the President, Vladimir Putin, ordered his generals to revise the military doctrine in June 2005, the blueprint reflects the sudden deterioration in relations with the West. In particular Russia has been incensed by the Bush Administration's plans to site two missile interceptor and radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Senior figures in the Russian military said on Tuesday that they were infuriated by what they regard as NATO's "relentless expansion" into "post-Soviet space" - the countries of former communist Eastern Europe and the Baltic. Russia felt increasingly "encircled" by hostile neighbours, they said.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that Washington had failed to explain why it wanted to site missile bases on Russia's doorstep. Mr Putin has ridiculed the US claim that the bases were designed to shoot down rogue missiles from Iran or North Korea, claiming their real target is Russia's nuclear arsenal.

It is not clear when Russia's new doctrine will be in place. But the council is likely to recommend a new strategy by the end of the year, military sources said. The doctrine follows a big increase in military expenditure announced last month.

Analysts said the new doctrine would be "much tougher" than the one adopted in 2000.

"It will be much harsher towards the US and NATO. The doctrine will reflect Russia's concerns about NATO enlargement and the ABM [anti-ballistic missile] system deployment close to Russia's borders," Sergei Kortunov, a former member of the council, and professor at Moscow's School of Economics, said. He added: "Russia is concerned about the US's creation of new arms systems. It is also worried about the dangers to Russia from the US and other Western countries, and their political role in the countries of the post-Soviet space."

The chairman of Russia's academy of military science, Mahmoud Garayev, said Russia could no longer afford to ignore the threat from NATO. Drugs and terrorism were an irrelevance, he said.

The doctrine comes as the Bush Administration has reportedly decided to step up its arguably erratic bilateral engagement with Moscow.

The New York Times has reported that the White House intends to "reach out more often and more intensively" to Russia, an acknowledgment in effect that it has not always consulted Russia on foreign policy and national security plans.