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Cablegate: Medvedev's Draft Amendments to Law On Defense

VZCZCXRO4858
RR RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2349/01 2571128
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141128Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4789
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002349

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR MCAP PREL PGOV RS

SUBJECT: MEDVEDEV'S DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON DEFENSE

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Provisions
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1. (U) On September 9, the Duma passed the first reading of
President Medvedev's draft amendment the Law on Defense. Medvedev's
proposed amendment addresses the operational use of Russia's armed
forces outside Russia. Current legislation only allows the use of
the armed forces outside Russia for missions against international
terrorism and for fulfilling tasks under Russia's international
agreements and treaties. The presidential draft law would allow
units of the Russian armed forces to be used outside Russia to
"repel an attack on the Russian armed forces or other troops
stationed outside Russia, to repel or prevent aggression against
another state, to protect citizens of Russia abroad, to fight piracy
and ensure the security of navigation."

2. (U) If the bill passes two more readings and becomes law, the
president would be authorized to order the use of armed forces
outside the country, based on a Federation Council resolution. In
emergency situations, Federation Council approval could apparently
be obtained within two days after the armed forces have been
committed. The president would determine the number of troops, the
areas of their deployment, the mission they would have to carry out,
and the time of such operations. The Defense Ministry would be
responsible for the composition and logistic support of troops to be
sent abroad.

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Justifications
--------------

3. (U) While Medvedev himself said that his initiative was due to
the "well-known events that took place a year ago," Defense Minister
Anatoly Serdyukov said that the amendment had become even more
urgent after the Georgian conflict. He defended the amendment as
"part and parcel of state obligations to protect its citizens
abroad."

4. (U) In addition to referencing the August war with Georgia, Duma
Defense Committee first Deputy Chairman Yuri Savenko said the
seizure of the "Arctic Sea" by pirates was a further justification
for the amendment. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Zavarzin
argued that the brevity and suddenness of modern wars and armed
conflicts made it necessary to adapt the Law on Defense.

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Analysts
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5. (SBU) Moving past the official statements linking the draft
amendment to the events in Georgia, many pundits consider the
effects of the amended law to be most likely felt in other CIS
countries. Military observer Aleksandr Golts expressed the view
that Medvedev intended the amended law to secure Russia's "zone of
privileged interests," while Colonel Anatoliy Tsyganok from the
Center for Military Forecasting suggested that the amended law might
push CIS countries away from Russia and into the arms of NATO. In
this context, he questioned Russia's practice of issuing passports
to inhabitants of CIS countries. Both Kommersant's Vlast' journal
and Vzglad fingered Ukraine as the most likely addressee of the new
amendment, while Leonid Radzikhovskiy in Rossiskaya Gazeta argued
that "a policy based on the use of force is senseless."

6. (SBU) Stanislav Minin in Nezavisimaya Gazeta went even further,
noting that preventing aggression "against other states" could apply
to Africa, the Middle East, or South America, while "preventing
aggression" implied Russia could initiate the use of force. Minin
also argued that the "check and balance" nature of the provision for
Federation Council approval was meaningless for an organization that
served only to sanction authorities' decisions. Aleksandr Gabuev of
Kommersant suggested Russia was concerned about the situation in the
Caucasus and central Asia, explaining that "should the Americans
fail in Afghanistan, the Islamic militants might move into Russia."


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Next steps
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7. (U) While so far unscheduled, the second and third readings of
the draft amendment could occur very soon, possibly even on the same
day. If it is passed by the Duma, the draft would then go to the
Federation Council for approval and from there to signature by the

MOSCOW 00002349 002 OF 002


President. Experts expect the amendments to be approved within a
few weeks.

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Comment
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8. (SBU) The broadened scope of possibilities for using Russian
troops abroad, coupled with Russia's practice of issuing Russian
passports to former Soviet Union citizens in places such as the
Crimea or Transnistria, could be the recipe for new armed conflicts
to erupt, whether by accident or by design.

BEYRLE

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