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Russia Adopts New Nuclear Doctrine – West A Threat

The dreams for a new Millennium of peace and goodwill so amply demonstrated around the world on New Years Eve, seems dashed within days as Russia publishes a revised security policy document broadening the terms for use of nuclear weapons. John Howard writes.

Over the weekend there was so much news about that it was hard to know what subject our readers might be most interested in.

A 5 cents tax per-email, the AOL/Time Warner merger, worldwide political strife, the Vietnamese military making a $600 million profit. The choice was wide.

But for me, it really became no choice at all. The awakening Russian Bear just had to be the one - because in the end it is probably the story which may affect us all more dramatically than any other.

A newly published 21-page official Russian document entitled Concept of National Security, broadens the possible scenarios in which Russia would use nuclear weapons.

A 1997 document had used the vague definition which called for the use of nuclear weapons "in case of threat to the existence of the Russian Federation as a sovereign state."

But the new document says nuclear weapons can be used "in the case of the need to repulse an armed aggression, if all other methods of resolving the crisis situation are exhausted or have been ineffective."

"....have been ineffective" seems to be a direct inference to Russia's ineffectiveness in Chechnya.

The 1997 document was signed by then-President Boris Yeltsin and changes to it last year were drafted at a time of tension over the NATO attack on Yugoslavia and at the beginning of the conflict in Chechnya which has drawn Western condemnation.

Significantly, the revisions were overseen by Vladimir Putin, now Russia's acting president, but at the time of drafting was then head of the Kremlin Security Council. Now, as acting president, he signed the new document on January 10.

The document codifies much of the language used in Russia's objections to the NATO attack on Yugoslavia.

For instance, the 1997 document notes the emergence of a " multi-polar" world after the Cold War. But the new one goes further and criticises the US for trying to create "unilateral" solutions to global problems with military force, "sidelining the basic founding standards of international law."

The 1997 document suggested there was no serious threat outside Russia, but the new one says, "the level and scale of threat in the military sphere is increasing."

The document also says that NATO's use of force outside the alliance's borders without the sanction of the UN and the incorporation of it into NATO's doctrine last year, "is fraught with the threat of destabilisation of the whole strategic situation in the world."

While the old doctrine included the prospect of Russia working in "partnership" with the West, the new one instead talks about "cooperation."

In another change, "military" has been substituted for "defence" throughout the document. It also speaks about increased defence spending saying it has been neglected and Russia's readiness has reached a "critically low level."

In another dramatic move, Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, have also rejected appeals from the US for Moscow to end aid to Iran's missile and nuclear programmes. They describe the relationship between Teheran and Moscow as vital.

They have reassured Iran their government would not halt the flow of technology to Iran's missile programme. They said the aid would continue despite the prospect of additional US sanctions.

Russia regards Iran as a key ally in confronting what they term as US hegemony. Officials say other key Russian allies include China, and India.

Perhaps one of the most important changes in Russia's new policy is that the West, for the first time, is openly described as a potential threat to Russia's security which was not part of the of the 1997 document or even an earlier doctrine prepared in 1993.

Col. Gen. Valery Manilov, deputy chief of Russia's general staff, said the new language is an effort to describe "more clearly and specifically the conditions of usage of nuclear arms."

But the scenarios of the possible use of nuclear weapons are considerably broadened and that does not bode well for the start of the 21st Century.

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