Tag Archives: Military Threat

A Swedish Defense Debate

Two Swedish observers recently engaged in an exchange of opinion pieces regarding the connection between a supposedly more muscular and threatening Russia on the one hand, and an allegedly feckless Swedish defense policy on the other.

Here we are, of course, more interested in their divergent views of Russian military power rather than in (as they are principally and rightly concerned) its affect on Sweden’s defense.

Stefan Hedlund

Stefan Hedlund

Uppsala University professor Stefan Hedlund wrote first.  His article appeared originally in Svenska Dagbladet.

Hedlund concludes the Swedish legislature is radically changing its long-held view of Russia as relatively benign to one of Moscow as a growing threat to Sweden’s national security.  Proponents of this view, he says, point most often to Russia’s militarization and its increasingly autocratic political system.

However, he says President Vladimir Putin himself basically admitted the government’s 20-trillion-ruble State Armaments Program is failing.  Failing because the OPK, on the whole, cannot produce weapons and equipment of requisite quality, in necessary quantities, according to specified deadlines.

He cites the Bulava and Yuriy Dolgorukiy.

Just one good example among many he could have picked.

Then Hedlund concludes:

“Perhaps it was simply naive to think that the Russian military industry could pick up where it left off two decades ago, after standing at a virtual standstill, and all of a sudden produce weapons system [sic] at high international standards.”

He turns to politics, and the fragmentation of the Russian political elite just beneath Putin.

He sees it this way:

“These political developments don’t add up to the picture of an every [sic] more strong-fisted leader [Putin] who hasn’t ruled out waging war on his neighbours.  It is much more probable that Russia will be paralyzed by infighting for a long time to come, and an ever degrading economic outlook will mean the government may have to retrace it steps on promises to keep up salary developments and shore up pensions.  There might simply not be money left for the military.”

Hedlund hits key elements of the problem with Russia’s alleged militarization:  the OPK’s inability to deliver arms and a clearly evident Finance Ministry rearguard action to rein in military procurement spending.

Finally, Hedlund concludes it’s essential to discuss Sweden’s defense policy problems “without muddling it up with incorrect perceptions about the development [sic] in Russia.”

Political science PhD candidate Annelie Gregor responded to Hedlund with this essay.  Ms. Gregor neglected to add that she is, apparently, an employee of the Swedish Armed Forces.

Annelie Gregor

Annelie Gregor

Gregor argues Hedlund claims Russia is not in the midst of a military build-up and is turning away from authoritarian rule.

This is not at all what Hedlund said. 

Hedlund maintains Russia’s militarization isn’t effective and Putin’s autocratic style masks concerns about domestic politics that are more important to him than building up the armed forces or attacking a non-contiguous Nordic country.

Gregor’s first point about the recent surprise readiness evaluation in the Far East simply has to be ignored.  Not because of her primarily, but because of how others have futzed it up. 

She says it “involved” 160,000 troops.  Others have said Russia “mobilized” or “deployed” this number.  The entire manpower contingent of the Far East Military District (probably some 160,000 men) certainly wasn’t “involved” in those exercises, and those troops certainly weren’t “mobilized” or “deployed.”  They already actively serve in the region where the exercise took place. 

It is true to say recent Russian exercises have featured some re-deployments and equipment movements from other districts, but they are limited to what Russia’s strategic mobility resources can manage.

Difficult as it is to believe, Gregor cites Russia’s performance in the five-day war with Georgia as evidence of a threat to Sweden.

The same Russian Armed Forces that were caught off guard, and initially acquitted themselves so poorly that a major military reform program started immediately afterwards to improve their readiness and capabilities.

As more evidence, Gregor recalls this spring when “two Tu-22M3 Backfire heavy bombers simulated a large scale aerial bombing on Sweden.”

Two Backfires with nuclear-armed cruise missiles would be more than enough to ruin Sweden’s day.  But one notes they are not “heavy bombers” nor do two constitute anything “large scale.”  The incident was, perhaps, more about flying time and asserting Moscow’s right to use international airspace.

Gregor then argues with Hedlund about whether revenues from oil, gas, and arms sales will be adequate to support Russia’s “militarization” in the future.

This part of Hedlund’s article was, unfortunately, not translated.

One contends, however, that if Hedlund said the Russian defense budget will decline as its oil earnings decline, he’s right.  In fact, one could go further and say the budget is irrelevant.  What does matter is what Moscow actually buys or gets for it.  

The Russians are getting more training (because they can buy more fuel), but they aren’t getting new weapons on the schedule they originally laid down.  

And corruption remains a huge tax on the budget, just check on the criminal cases against former Defense Minister Serdyukov’s former deputies. 

And it’s obvious to serious observers that arms sale profits don’t go to the big white building on the Arbat.  They go to Rosoboroneksport which is connected more to high-level political infighting than to the Defense Ministry.

Hedlund never said Russia is turning from authoritarian rule as Gregor alleges.  Hers is a classic “straw man” fallacy.

Hedlund responded to Gregor’s response.

He argues Moscow’s “increasingly bellicose [anti-Western and anti-NATO] rhetoric is for domestic consumption” and its “aggressive actions, such as simulated nuclear strikes on Warsaw, indicate weakness and a desperate clamoring for attention.”

Anti-U.S. and anti-NATO speech will probably always be popular in Russia.  Simulated nuclear strikes are warnings to Europeans of the consequences of cooperation with the U.S. in missile defense (or anything else for that matter).

Hedlund says he’s done anything but argue that Russia is turning from authoritarian rule.  He concludes:

“What I have argued is that there is a very large difference between present-day Russia and a truly militarized authoritarian regime that would constitute a true danger.”

Eloquently put.  Putin’s regime is a clumsy, capricious, and ineffective brand of authoritarianism.  It recalls the late years of the Tsars more than Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s USSR.  Dangerous to a degree, but not an existential danger.

Perhaps there’ll be yet another installment in this debate.

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New Doctrine on Dangers and Threats

At last, the long awaited new military doctrine.  It’ll take a bit to digest it.

The new doctrine doesn’t hem and haw in an introductory section the way the old one did.  It just jumps right in to General Propositions–what the doctrine is and what it’s based on.  Unlike its predecessor, it gives 11 key definitions of terms ranging from military security to military planning.

It defines military danger as a condition of interstate or internal state relations characterized  by an accumulation of factors, capable under certain conditions of leading to the rise of a military threat.

It defines military threat as a condition of interstate or internal state relations characterized by the real possibility of the rise of a military conflict between opposing sides with a high degree of readiness of some state (group of states), of separatist (terrorist) organization for the employment of military force (armed violence).

Section II. covers Military Dangers and Military Threats.  The new doctrine sees a world somewhat changed.  Gone is the unipolar world of a lone superpower and it now describes a world of reduced economic, political, and military influence of single states (or groups of states) and alliances and the corresponding growth of influence of other states, aspiring to all-around domination [are we talking China here?!], of multipolarity, and of globalization.

Unresolved regional conflicts near the Russian Federation remain a problem and the existing architecture (system) of international security doesn’t provide equal security to all states.  This is much gloomier on the U.N. than the old doctrine.

Now, the list of 11 Fundamental External Military Dangers…(the old doctrine addressed only threats, not dangers):

  1. NATO’s globalization and expansion to the RF’s borders.
  2. Destabilization of states and regions and the undermining of strategic stability.
  3. Deploying or building up foreign military forces on territories or in waters adjacent to the RF.
  4. Development and deployment of strategic missile defense systems which undermine strategic stability and upset the missile-nuclear correlation of forces, space militarization, and deployment of strategic nonnuclear precision weapons.
  5. Territorial claims on the RF and interference in its internal affairs.
  6. Proliferation.
  7. Violations of international arms limitation or reduction treaties.
  8. Use of force on the territories of states adjacent to the RF or its allies.
  9. Presence or rise (escalation) of military conflicts on the territories of states adjacent to the RF or its allies.
  10. The spread of international terrorism.
  11. The rise of interethnic or interconfessional tensions, the presence of international armed radical groups near RF borders, territorial disputes, and the growth of armed separatist (religious) extremists in regions of the world.

Then there are just three Fundamental Internal Military Dangers:

  1. Forceful attempts to change the RF constitutional order.
  2. Undermining the RF’s sovereignty, violation of its unity and territorial integrity.
  3. Disruption of the functioning of the RF organs of state authority, important state, military facilities and information infrastructure.

These were a little different in 2000.  The RF’s unity and territorial integrity were explicitly threatened by extremist nationalist, religious, separatist, and terrorist movements.  There were three additional ones as well–the establishment of illegal armed formations (a la Chechnya), illegal arms trade on RF territory that abets sabotage and terrorism, and large-scale organized criminal, terrorist, and contraband activities.

The new doctrine lists 5 Fundamental Military Threats:

  1. Sharp aggravation of the military-political situation (international situation) and creation of the conditions for using military force.
  2. Impeding the work of the system of RF state and military command and control, disturbing the functioning of its strategic nuclear forces, missile attack warning system, space monitoring, nuclear weapons storage facilities, nuclear power, chemical industry, and other potentially dangerous facilities.
  3. The establishment and training of illegal armed formations, their activity on RF territory or that of its allies.
  4. Provocative demonstration of military force in the course of exercises on territories adjacent to the RF or its allies.
  5. Activities of armed forces of other states to mobilize partially or fully, transfer state and military command and control to wartime conditions.

The old doctrine didn’t deal with dangers, giving just 11 Fundamental External Threats (in very abbreviated form):

  1. Territorial claims on the RF, interference in its internal affairs.
  2. Armed conflict near the RF.
  3. Building up troops near the RF or its allies.
  4. Expansion of military blocs.
  5. Presence of foreign troops adjacent to RF territory.
  6. Creation of military formations near RF territory with the aim of using them on RF territory.
  7. Attacks on RF facilities abroad.
  8. Attacks on RF government or military systems, strategic forces, missile early warning, missile defense, space monitoring, or nuclear storage.
  9. Hostile information operations.
  10. Violations of the rights or RF citizens abroad.
  11. International terrorism.