The Disquieting Voice of Russian Resentment 


From Parameters, Summer 1998, pp. 39-55.

Foreword: Some American readers may wonder if this article is a caricature of the Russians, thinking that surely no one would still talk like this. Likewise, some might wonder if this really represents the views of the "man in the street" in St. Petersburg or Irkutsk or Khabarovsk. In fact, it does not represent the concerns of the average Russian citizen. However, it is important to note that for at least the last 1000 years, the views of the man in the street have counted for little with those who actually make and implement Russian policy. In the fictional monologue that follows, every effort has been made to portray accurately, based on official and other statements, the views of many of the senior decisionmakers in the Kremlin and in the Duma. Let us consider, then, through the eyes and voice of a Russian military officer, Russia's reaction to the expansion of NATO.--Author

Comrades, as an officer and a member of the State Duma, it is a great pleasure to be able to present to the Anti-NATO Faction of the Duma,[1] as you requested, an assessment on the military dangers posed to the Motherland by the aggressive eastward expansion of NATO into the territory of our former allies.

You have heard the leaders of the government declare that no country or group of countries poses a threat to us at this time,[2] and watched as they have used this to justify the virtual destruction of our armed forces. The comments of these politicians are clever, ignoring as they do the fact that our military doctrine differentiates between "military threat" and "military danger." As you know, Comrades, the term "military threat" is limited to those nations or alliances in geographic proximity to Russia who have an offensive capability and an offensive intent.[3] Even with the full resources of the former KGB, it was always difficult to determine NATO's true intentions, so they are correct to say that we cannot determine accurately whether it poses a "military threat." However, the fundamental lesson of the Cold War years was that military capabilities, rather than political intent, are what must be taken into account. Capabilities take years to evolve, while intent can change overnight.[4]

The second term, "military danger," is the proper description for countries or alliances in geographic proximity to Russia which have offensive capability.[5] As you requested, Comrades, this briefing rightly covers the "military danger" posed by the enlarged NATO, focusing on the offensive capabilities of an alliance that is now positioned much closer than ever to Russia. It is only prudent that we focus our assessment on the danger that these capabilities pose to our Motherland. It is heartening to realize that--despite all the attempts by the government to portray our national situation as devoid of danger--there is universal opposition across our entire political spectrum to NATO's aggressive expansion into our legitimate sphere of interest.[6] Though the collapse of virtually every social security system in the country means that many of our countrymen are so busy trying to make ends meet that they have no time to realize our peril, it is also clear that most influential leaders still realize that the American-led NATO is the greatest threat we face.[7]

To the everlasting glory of our Motherland, we have taken unprecedented steps since 1987 to reduce the tensions that the world had faced following the end of the Great Patriotic War. As the Defense Minister has recently said, our country has fulfilled all international treaties and obligations that we inherited from the Soviet Union--and has even put forth new initiatives in the fields of nuclear security and arms reductions.[8] Compared to Soviet times, the armed forces of the Ministry of Defence have shrunk from 5.2 million soldiers to approximately 1.2 million, the number of tank, motorized rifle, and airborne divisions has declined from 211 to fewer than 60 (half of which are mobilization units), and the defence budget has been cut by almost 80 percent.[9] NATO statements about how much those countries have reduced their armed forces under the CFE Treaty ring hollow compared to the reductions we have made. When you recall the forces defending the Motherland just a decade ago, we have cut 85 percent of our armored vehicles, more than 60 percent of our artillery, more than 50 percent of our combat aircraft, and more than 40 percent of our naval surface combatants.[10] However, these sincere efforts to reduce tensions and hostilities were not met with reciprocal peaceful steps, but with insults and injuries.

Despite the fact that the dismantling of the Cold War systems began with unilateral Soviet initiatives, the Americans boasted that they had "won" the war. The West required us to stand by idly while Russian minorities in the Baltics faced harsh discrimination. The West promised a utopia if we abandoned Communism and embraced capitalism, but we found ourselves faced with declining living standards, reduced international prestige, and the criminalization of our society. The West promised to aid us in converting our economy, but its aid has been paltry. While America poured two percent of its GDP into the reconstruction of Europe after World War II, it has never committed more than 0.005 percent of its GDP to aid the new, democratic Russia. Western investment in Russia is still only one-tenth of that in China.[11] By now it must be clear to even the most ardent fan of the West that America has decided that a strong Russia, capable of standing up for its own interests, is something that must be prevented at all costs.[12]

As you recall, the Motherland's first echelon of strategic defense previously consisted of our four Groups of Forces in Central Europe. These were the best-equipped and best-trained units in the Soviet military. Behind these, the second strategic echelon comprised the six westernmost Military Districts, from the Baltic MD in the north through the Belarussian, Carpathian, Kiev, and Odessa MDs, and into the Transcaucasus MD in the south.[13]

In 1989, we unilaterally agreed to begin the complete withdrawal of our Groups of Forces from the fraternal socialist states of Central Europe.[14] The Americans did not reciprocate by withdrawing their forces from Western Europe. As part of the agreement under which we allowed the reunification of Germany (and for the united Germany to remain in NATO), Chancellor Kohl and other Western leaders promised not to expand NATO eastwards.[15] They have repeatedly demonstrated that these promises were meaningless. By 1991, the Warsaw Pact had disintegrated and all four of our Groups of Forces had been withdrawn to the western Military Districts. In exchange for this unilateral withdrawal from our first strategic echelon, the leaders of these former "allies" agreed to remain neutral.[16] By the end of that year, the Soviet Union had come apart, and the Motherland lost her second strategic echelon. Our most capable units were suddenly in the newly independent states that we call the Near Abroad. For the first time since 1943, the Moscow Military District became our front line of defence.[17] However, even with the demise of the so-called "Soviet threat," NATO remained a predominantly military alliance.

Given the fact that Russia will be unable to project military power beyond our state borders for at least a decade, the decision to expand NATO aggressively to the east to "enhance stability" and "improve security" against a threat that does not exist can only be viewed as anti-Russian.[18] NATO's leaders conveniently ignore the fact that "security" and "stability" are not synonymous. By definition, stability is inclusive--every country in Europe should be offered the opportunity to enjoy stable political, economic, and defensive systems which are integrated. Security, however, is by definition exclusive--NATO is trying to "secure" Eastern Europe from some external threat, and Russia finds itself on the outside. NATO continues to ignore the warnings of Russian leaders that its expansion into our traditional legitimate sphere of interest to "secure" Eastern Europe against the so-called Russian bear will inevitably lead to the very instability it professes to want to avoid.[19]

Comrades, it is not that we want NATO to dissolve. Years ago a Western statesman said that the three missions of NATO were to "keep Russia out, the US in, and Germany down." The first two missions have been accomplished. Given the current weakness of our Motherland, we have a vested interest in seeing that NATO continues to accomplish the third. It is not so much that we fear the Bundeswehr invading our Motherland, but the Bundesbank dictating what we will be able to do in the future. We need a functioning NATO as a political entity to keep the newer, larger, more powerful Germany well under control--but NATO need not expand to do this. In fact, a larger NATO is less likely to be effective in this respect.[20]

We have repeatedly stated that NATO is anachronistic in today's world. The idea that Europe--which now includes more than 50 nations--should have its security issues decided by an organization that represents only 16 nations and under the leadership of a country not even in Europe, makes no sense. It would be much better if the security of Europe should be under the supervision of an international body that includes all the countries of Europe--like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--rather than one dominated by the United States.[21]

Our representatives have repeatedly tried to prevent the splitting of Europe's strategic space into counterpoised poles. The NATO apologists, however, are set on rebuilding a new dividing line--but only after they have moved it a few hundred kilometers farther to the east.[22]

We are constantly told that we have nothing to fear. We are told that NATO is not just a military alliance, but a political one in which decisions to act are taken only after approval by all the national parliaments, and that this means public debate before action is taken. Where was the parliamentary or public debate when NATO made the military decision to bomb our brother Slavs in Serbia in 1995? These massive air strikes were all out of proportion to the so-called provocation and had nothing to do with the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers or the lifting of blockades around the security zones. They were clearly designed solely to cripple the Serbian army. Likewise, where was the parliamentary or public debate when NATO decided to deploy an Implementation Force of three divisions to Yugoslavia for a "temporary" peacekeeping mission--and then decided to extend that mission with a so-called Stabilization Force? NATO is rapidly moving to replace the UN as the world's decisionmaking body and to ensure that Russia has neither input nor veto. NATO has proven that it is neither impartial in its actions nor inclined to have military operations impeded by inconvenient debate.[23] Unfortunately, by the time the pro-Westerner Kozyrev was finally dismissed from the Foreign Ministry in January 1996, his naive beliefs about the West had seriously undercut our ability to defend Russia.

Rather than disbanding, NATO has now offered membership to three of our former allies. No one seriously thinks that these countries want to join NATO as a political organization--they want the security guarantees of the US nuclear umbrella. Unfortunately, this means that NATO will share a common border with Mother Russia, not only for a few miles on the far flanks of the northern tip of the Kola Peninsula or across the Black Sea, as was the case before 1991, but also against the Kaliningrad Oblast, our only ice-free port on the Baltic Sea. NATO forces will soon be only a few hundred kilometers from the western border of the Moscow Military District. As our military spending has dropped to a fraction of what it was, NATO is telling the Hungarians that they should double their defence budget to meet the standards of membership in the Alliance.

Yet even this is not enough for NATO. Its arms industries, shaken by the loss in military orders due to the end of the Cold War, are anxious to sew up new markets in Central and Eastern Europe.[24] Comrades, such a move would effectively spell the end of the ability of our Motherland to maintain the military industrial complex that we will need to reassert our rightful role in the world. The destruction of our own country's military by Yeltsin's government has forced many of our factories to turn to the export market to survive. Without Central and Eastern European countries turning to these factories for replacement parts for their tanks, artillery pieces, helicopters, and aircraft, many will simply shut their doors, throwing thousands of workers out into the streets. Do you think it is just a coincidence that luring our former allies to purchase Western weapon systems will also just happen to ensure that Russia's armament industry is driven into a deeper crisis?

Not satisfied with this provocation, NATO promises to extend its reach not only to the rest of the former Warsaw Pact states. The Alliance also wants to expand to include such former Soviet republics as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This would put NATO forces within 75 miles of St. Petersburg. Again, where is the debate of this momentous issue in the Western parliaments? If we allow that to happen, where will the Alliance stop its expansionist grab? Will it eventually want to incorporate Ukraine and the Central Asian states to complete its encirclement of Russia? NATO is already demonstrating its desire to penetrate these areas and threaten our southern flanks. In 1997 NATO forces conducted a major naval exercise in the Black Sea--including combined operations with the Ukrainian navy.[25] The Americans also flew elements of their 82d Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Turkmenistan for a "peacekeeping exercise." What sort of peacekeeping operation requires American paratroopers to fly 13 hours and conduct a combat parachute jump into a former Soviet republic?[26]

The fact is that the West is again trying to isolate Russia from its legitimate sphere of geopolitical interest--to encircle us and achieve overwhelming strategic superiority.[27] They ignore the fact that our influence on this region did not begin after our defeat of the fascists during the Great Patriotic War in 1945, nor even with the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917. We all know, Comrades, that the Russian army had conquered the tribes of the North Caucasus before the United States ever existed. Poland became part of Russia in 1772-95 during the reign of Catherine the Great. Central Asia was incorporated into the Russian Empire between 1815 and 1876--the same time as the Americans were settling their western plains. How would America react if Texas and California were declared to be no longer in the "legitimate sphere of interest" of the United States, since they once belonged to Mexico--or if we demanded the return of Alaska?

The West does not limit itself to ignored pledges or political insults. Western nations are taking specific steps to cut us off from our historic spheres of geopolitical influence. One example is the attempts by Western governments and their oil companies to divert the Caspian Sea's oil and natural gas to pipelines over which we will have no control. Another is the attempt to lure not only our neighbors in the Caucasus and Central Asia, but even those in the Far Eastern region of the Russian Federation itself with promises of lucrative funds if they will only sign over control of our natural fuel reserves to foreign companies.[28] The Security Council has approved an energy security doctrine which clearly stipulates that access to the energy reserves of the Caspian basin and Central Asia is central to safeguarding the national security of our Motherland, and we must maintain a say in the production, processing, and transportation of energy throughout the Near Abroad.[29] The Americans and their allies shipped more than a half million soldiers halfway around the world to fight a war in the Persian Gulf to ensure they had access to oil. By what right can the West conspire to deny us access to energy resources in the Near Abroad?

To add insult to injury, NATO treats Russia as if she were nothing more than a fourth-rate power. If NATO were truly interested in founding a new security system to ensure peace in Europe, then why is Russia's counsel not sought and her opinion dismissed so lightly? Rather than being offered a membership in such a security system, Russia is offered only the so-called "Partnership for Peace"--a "junior NATO" for former Communist countries in which Russia is treated no differently from Albania or Estonia.[30] Our efforts to establish a special bilateral relationship have been rebuffed with the sop of the "Founding Act Between Russia and NATO." The pretext given is that NATO does not wish to insult or offend any of its other new partners by treating Russia as the great power that she is. But NATO does not hesitate to insult and offend Russia.

Comrades, it is clear that the West has no intention of affording our Motherland the respect she is rightly due. The Western states never dared to act this way in the past. Looking at recent history, we see that their change in demeanor is directly in proportion to the deteriorating correlation of forces over the past decade. NATO seeks to perpetuate this state of affairs by insisting that the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty be left virtually unchanged. This treaty is another anachronism of the Cold War years. It was negotiated when there were two major blocs facing each other across the so-called Iron Curtain and signed in 1992 just as the USSR was disintegrating. The only bloc left is NATO--and Russia now finds herself facing that Alliance virtually alone. The West admits that the Cold War days are long gone, but insists on keeping the limits imposed on Mother Russia. Russia is even limited on where we can station our armed forces in our own country--an indignity not imposed on any current NATO member or any of the nations invited to join the Alliance during the Madrid summit! Could you imagine the outcry that would be raised if we dictated how many forces the Americans could station along their border with Mexico? To make matters even worse, the expansion of NATO into the former fraternal socialist countries of Central Europe will tip the balance even further against us.

During the long years that we protected the Great October Socialist Revolution from the imperialists, our armed forces developed excellent scientific tools to measure the correlation of forces. However, it is unnecessary to use these to demonstrate the current disparity. We can use figures prepared within the NATO Alliance itself. The Armed Forces University of the Federal Republic of Germany developed a means to calculate the probability of successful defence, and applied it to 50 different conflict scenarios between NATO and Russia. As shown in Figure 1, the CFE Treaty ensured virtual parity between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact in the area from the Atlantic to the Urals. The Warsaw Pact had a 99 percent probability of successfully defending against a NATO attack at the end of the Cold War--and NATO had a similar probability of successful defence.


Offensive : Defensive
Combat Power Ratio

Probability of
Successful Defence



Forces Only

Land + Air

Forces Only

Land + Air

(End of Cold War)

Warsaw Pact
(End of Cold War)

0.82 : 1

0.82 : 1



Warsaw Pact
(End of Cold War)

(End of Cold War)

0.91 : 1

0.92 : 1



NATO (Today)

Russia (Today)

2.41 : 1

3.78 : 1



Russia (Today)

NATO (Today)

0.31 : 1

0.20 : 1



NATO + Visegrad*

(WOU Only**)

2.91 : 1

5.18 : 1



NATO + Visegrad

+ 25% EOU***

2.09 : 1

2.95 : 1



NATO + Visegrad

+ 50% EOU

1.63 : 1

2.05 : 1



NATO + Visegrad

+ 100% EOU

1.13 : 1

1.27 : 1



* The Visegrad countries include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.[31]
** Includes only those forces stationed west of the Urals (WOU) under the CFE Treaty.
***Includes all forces west of the Urals and percentages shown of those stationed east of the Urals (EOU).

Figure 1. The threat to Russia today, compared to that at the end of the Cold War.

However, the objective truth has changed. As you can see, NATO now has nearly a 4:1 superiority over Russia in the correlation of forces. As a result, the German study shows that our forces west of the Urals currently have only a one percent chance of successfully defending against a conventional NATO ground and air attack. Once NATO expands, the correlation of land and air forces against us rises to more than 5:1, and our chance of a successful defence falls to zero. You know full well that our doctrine requires a 90 percent probability of success in defending the Motherland from aggression. We could achieve only this if we had sufficient time to mobilize and deploy 100 percent of our forces currently stationed east of the Urals.[32] Of course, this would leave Siberia and the Far East completely defenseless. Yet Western propaganda machines are trying to convince our leaders and our people that we face no military danger from NATO. How would they feel in Brussels or London or Washington if the Warsaw Pact had survived the fall of NATO and enlarged to the point where their individual countries had less than a one percent chance of repelling an attack?

As you know, by 1993, the objective reality of our inferiority in conventional forces required us to abandon our pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.[33] For the foreseeable future, only nuclear weapons provide us the ability to deter any potential foes from taking advantage of our temporary weaknesses. In the early 1950s, as the countries of Central Europe decided to join the progressive forces represented by the Soviet Union, NATO forward-deployed American nuclear weapons, arguing that its members could not afford the conventional forces needed to deter an attack by the Warsaw Pact. Now, with NATO rapidly advancing its borders to the east, we must reconsider our unilateral pledge to withdraw all our tactical nuclear weapons from our naval forces and from our forward bases. Only these weapons can provide a credible deterrent force to forestall any ill-considered adventurism by those in the West who seek to ensure that our present situation becomes a permanent state of inferiority.

But we cannot take too much comfort in our nuclear deterrent force. Even more dangerous than the imbalance in conventional forces is that in nuclear weapons. NATO now has a clear-cut superiority in both tactical and strategic forces.[34] While we have destroyed our intermediate-range nuclear weapons, we now find that NATO will soon be able to attack Moscow and St. Petersburg using tactical aircraft operating from airfields in Poland. NATO refuses to guarantee that it will never station nuclear-capable forces there, saying only that it has "no intention, no plan, and no reason" to do so. Comrades, history has shown that "intentions" can change and "plans" can be quickly developed. We have only to remember what happened on 22 June 1941, when the armies of a former so-called "ally," who had benefited from a nonaggression pact with us, crashed across the border and fought to within sight of the spires of Moscow. Twenty million Russians died as a result. The reality, from our perspective, is that tactical aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons or modern precision-guided munitions can now be based less than an hour's flight from Moscow and St. Petersburg. This puts us in a position where the time to assess a potentially hostile situation and adopt a sensible solution is reduced to a minimum or disappears altogether.[35]

The situation is no better at the strategic level. As you know, Comrades, our strategic nuclear bombers, submarines, and missile forces are rapidly deteriorating. Strategic systems are being withdrawn at a rate much faster than was originally planned.[36] The Minister himself has stated that in a few years we will have fewer than 2000 warheads with which to deter our opponents,[37] well below the level of the proposed START III Treaty. Even this number may be optimistic. The strategic aviation forces of the Russian Air Force are practically nonexistent, less than one-fourth of our ballistic missile submarines are capable of combat duty, two-thirds of the satellites that had been the responsibility of our Military Space Forces are beyond their normal operational life, and our early warning system is outdated. At the present rate, by 2010 it is quite likely that we will have only 1500 warheads.[38] Yet our proposal to agree now to cut US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to 1500 each has been ignored, as has our unilateral decision to reduce our nuclear arsenal by one-third.[39] In fact, the US Congress has gone so far as to forbid the US military to reduce its strategic arsenal below the levels of START I until we ratify the flawed provisions of START II--despite the American President's assurances that he would be willing to negotiate lower levels of nuclear weapons.[40] How would the American Senate react if we tried to blackmail its members into ratifying a treaty with which they disagreed?

Comrades, we must seriously ask ourselves what we will do if the Americans decide to unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty in the year 2010. By that time, our Motherland will no longer have sufficient forces to assure that we could overcome even a modified Star Wars system, and the United States and NATO may expose Russia to nuclear blackmail with impunity.[41]

As we look westwards, we find ourselves dramatically outnumbered in conventional forces; facing the prospect that aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons or modern precision-guided munitions could suddenly be stationed within striking distance of our major cities; and unable to deter the Americans with our strategic nuclear systems.

The situation is obviously bleak, Comrades. President Yeltsin and his so-called "reformers" have shown themselves not very serious when the reform in question concerns our Motherland's armed forces. In fact, they cannot even provide the funds that the Duma has approved in the defense budget. In 1997, the Defence Ministry received only 49 percent of the amount the Duma allocated; in the first quarter of 1998, it received only 33 percent of the allocated amount. And the defense budget this year has dropped to only $13.4 billion--a fraction of that of Germany, England, or even Italy. Yeltsin and his government have yet to explain where they will get the billions of rubles needed for the destruction of chemical weapons, strategic missiles taken out of service under the provisions of the START Treaty, and conventional weapons withdrawn under the CFE Treaty.[42] The Russian military is rapidly losing the ability to defend the vital strategic interests of the Motherland.

NATO's budgets are staggering by comparison. NATO spends ten times as much as Russia per soldier, and 35 times as much on force modernization. NATO's defense purchasing power dwarfs what Russia can afford.[43] Last year, only 16 percent of the money allocated for military research and development reached its destination, and only 13 percent of arms purchase funds was even released. Things are not likely to get better before 2005.[44]

Even more chilling is the fact that the danger is not limited to the overt and aggressive expansion of NATO. One need only look to the south and consider what will happen if Iran or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Turkey continues its support of movements and policies which destabilize our allies in Central Asia and the North Caucasus.[45] Looking beyond the Urals, we must contemplate the continued strengthening of our neighbors--and compare that to the few forces we have defending the resources of Siberia and the Far East. We assess that by 2005 China will have become the strongest power in the Asia-Pacific region.[46]

However, that is still in the future. NATO currently is the only country or alliance that poses a military danger of great magnitude to our country. The "worst-case scenario" of a hostile NATO bolstered by some of our former Warsaw Pact allies[47] is becoming a reality. What can we do? In the near term, there is nothing that will be effective. Though almost half of our military requirements still revolve around contingency planning for a major war with the United States and NATO,[48] we are far too weak to bring about the end of the NATO military alliance by direct military confrontation. Even if we were much stronger, such a strategy would prove counterproductive. It is an unfortunate fact that some of our actions in opposing NATO's expansion had the effect of accelerating Polish efforts to gain membership in the Alliance.[49] It would be far better to appear completely benign, while enhancing our efforts to depict the United States' monopoly on global power as generally unwelcome. There are many other nations willing to join us in this view. Our success late in 1997 in preventing the Americans from resorting to force against Iraq is a good example of how we can divide the United States from its allies-- especially those in NATO.[50]

Likewise, we must continue to develop our own relationships with our historic partners--such as China, Iraq, Iran, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Libya--who can help counterbalance the military danger posed by NATO and by America's global hegemony.[51] Comrades, I urge you not to underestimate the importance of such relationships, especially with China and Iran. NATO would be unable to consider actions against our Motherland without also considering the reaction of such allies. We should also continue to encourage the sale of Russian weapon systems to such countries as Cyprus, Iraq, Syria, and Bosnia. We have already seen that actions such as the sale of the S-300 air defense missile system to Cyprus have exposed the fragility of the Alliance now that the "Russian threat" has vanished. We should also work bilaterally with individual NATO nations on projects of common interest. To date, our initiatives with France and Germany, both bilaterally and as a troika of the three major European powers, are paying great dividends.

To counterbalance American hegemony, we must also work with our partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States to ensure that we are as integrated as possible, both economically and politically, and able to take our rightful place in the international community.[52] After all, these countries have much more in common with Russia than with any other country,[53] not only in how their military forces are trained and equipped, but in everything about the structure of their political and economic system, as well as a common history and culture.

For now we have no choice but to rely on our remaining nuclear forces to deter any adventurism by the West. This was clearly the focus of the reform measures implemented during 1997.[54] By ensuring that our forces pose no overt threat to NATO, we can prevent the Western nations from increasing their own forces. The cost of expanding NATO will soon enough become a reality for the taxpayers of the West--most of whom would prefer that those funds be spent on reducing unemployment, cutting taxes, or improving other social benefits in their own countries.

In the meantime, it is appropriate that we continue to limit our participation in the so-called "Partnership for Peace." You are well aware that this is, in fact, nothing more than an opportunity for Western intelligence agents to gain access to our military. Most of my fellow officers believe that PfP is simply an endless series of irrelevant, expensive exercises which at best produce very little and at worst produce embarrassing humiliation for our decimated and impoverished forces.[55] Likewise, the Russian-NATO Permanent Joint Council does not give us an adequate decisionmaking role in matters that affect our national security. However, we must continue our efforts to control the agenda of that council, and through that, to influence the agenda of the NATO Alliance as a whole. It also provides us a venue for presenting persuasive arguments to those NATO nations with which we have developed bilateral relationships[56] in order to convince them that NATO's expansion will simply polarize and destabilize Europe, while strengthening America's hegemonic role.

For the time being, therefore, our contacts with NATO should continue to be formally correct and take advantage of every opportunity. We should ensure that only the most reliable officers are assigned as liaisons to the various NATO headquarters. Attendance at Western military courses should be restricted to ensure that the officers sent are not recruited by their intelligence services. Of course, once these officers return to Russia, we must continue to be very watchful, and to ensure that they do not have access to sensitive information or critical posts.[57] Later, after we have rebuilt our armed forces, NATO will begin to treat us with the dignity that we are due.

We must also continue to demand the modernization of the CFE Treaty. This past summer, we proved that we could make NATO "blink," as they say in the West. The NATO nations demonstrated a willingness to grant concessions rather than risk having us completely withdraw from the treaty.[58] However, the revision to the stationing limits on the flanks does not solve the overall imbalance in the correlation of forces. We must continue to work with those Western nations which have shown their willingness to accept that changes in the CFE Treaty are not only essential to bring it in line with the objective realities of the modern world, but also necessary and inevitable. NATO will eventually concede rather than risk our withdrawal from the treaty. Should it not concede, we will be able to reposition our forces from east of the Urals, which will put us in a stronger position to negotiate an entirely new treaty.

Many in this chamber have argued that we should refuse to ratify the START II Treaty.[59] They are correct when they say it would be less expensive to extend the lifespan of our current arsenal of heavy R-36M2 missiles with multiple warheads than to deploy even 90 of the new Topol-M single-warhead missiles. They are also correct that we should worry that the United States may unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty once Russia destroys its MIRVed missiles, leaving Russia in an extremely vulnerable position.[60] However, I must agree with the Defense Minister when he stated his opinion that such thinking is wrongheaded. He and other experts have tried to convince the State Duma to ratify this treaty quickly, and then to ratify START III. Our missiles are rapidly aging, and START III is the only way that we will be able to ensure that the United States is forced to reduce its nuclear arsenal to the same lower levels that we face.[61] Then, as we deploy the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile and the new Borey ballistic missile submarine,[62] we will gradually be able to replace our aging strategic systems with more modern weapons during the first decades of the next century without the concern about an overwhelming American strategic superiority.

Turning to internal matters, it is up to those of us who care about our nation to act now to preserve our ability to defend the Motherland. The government has virtually abandoned the military. Comrades, you know that our armed forces formerly operated under the strict civilian control of the Communist Party. This has now disappeared.[63] The current government has proven itself both unwilling and unable to provide even the most basic support and leadership. The recent attempt by President Yeltsin to reinvent his government will not solve these problems. The new prime minister has no experience with military reform, nor interest in saving our armed forces or defending the Motherland. These technocrats are only concerned with how they can make more money for themselves.

Furthermore, the government is trying to prevent members of our officer corps from expressing their opinions. Most of our officers have no faith in the government, as shown by the rapid growth of the local collectives of Comrade General Rokhlin's organization. At the same time, our best and brightest young officers are leaving the service in droves. The government believes that so long as it can ensure that wages are paid from time to time, General Rokhlin's movement will have no future.[64] Those who believe so seriously underestimate the depth of resentment within the officer corps. We can use the government's fear of the military to pressure it to live up to its promises to provide for servicemen.

Over time, our armed forces will regain their strength. This has already begun. We are stripping away the outdated vestiges of former times and keeping a small core of our most capable formations, and the core of our military-industrial complex. We must also preserve large stockpiles of our most modern weapon systems.[65] This is not a new phenomenon. Our army has undergone this process many times throughout history, beginning in the time of Ivan the Great.[66] And as our resources grow, this core will provide the basis on which the Motherland's military can be rebuilt. The weakness of the West is that its leaders think only about short-term results--what will gain them votes in the next election. We know that our plan must be based on a slow but steady increase in capability for the next several decades.

The fact remains that Russian is and always will be a great power. It occupies a strategic geographic location, has immense resources, and cannot be ignored in Europe or Asia or the United Nations Security Council. Throughout history, Mother Russia has recovered from far worse reverses--beginning before any Europeans even tried to settle in North America when our forebears threw off the Mongol yoke in 1480. As in the past, we will eventually recover and arise stronger than before.

Our leaders at all levels have repeatedly told our "partners" in the West that they can either have the "special partnership with Russia" they say they desire, or they can expand NATO. But they cannot have both.[67] It is clear that NATO has chosen expansion over any special relationship with us. For now, we are unable to prevent this, and we will make the best of this bad situation. But we have made clear to the West that there will inevitably be consequences for this ill-conceived act. Russians will never accept an arbitrary and unfair subordinate relationship forced on us by those who seek to keep us from our rightful place on the world stage. We will bide our time and concentrate on making the military reforms necessary to preserve our core strengths. Eventually our economy will recover, our military will be rebuilt, and we will once again take our proper role in global affairs. When that time comes, we will not forget those who have helped us, nor those who tried to kick us while we were down.


Returning to his office after addressing his comrades in the Duma, the General's eyes scanned the maps and pictures on the walls. For as long as anyone could remember, the main threat to Mother Russia had come from the West. His father had died in the defense of Stalingrad in 1942; his grandfather had been wounded during the Russo-Polish War in 1920; his great-grandfather had fought the British and French invasion of the Crimea; and his ancestors had defended Russia from Napoleon before that. In his heart, the General was sure that the West still posed a danger. He knew that Russia needed time to rebuild its strength, and the price of buying that time was forging alliances with China and other nations. But as he sat at his desk, his eyes wandered to the photograph of his son, now a captain serving in the Far Eastern Military District along the Chinese border. For a dark moment, he worried about the price his children and grandchildren would have to pay.


1. The Russian parliament is composed of two houses. The lower house is the State Duma and the upper house is the Federation Council. The Duma is dominated by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) and their allies, who oppose President Yeltsin's government. The Anti-NATO Faction, headed by Sergei Glotov, unites over 300 deputies, including a majority of both the Duma and the Federation Council. Discussions between the author and Dr. Alexandr Konovalov, 10 December 1997; Anatoly Yurkin, "Duma Leader Says NATO Expansion Threatens Russia," ITAR-TASS, 24 December 1997. During the last Duma elections in December 1995, 10 active duty and 11 retired officers were elected. Timothy L. Thomas, "The Russian Military and the 1995 Duma Elections: Dissatisfaction Continues to Grow in the Armed Forces," Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 9 (September 1996), 541-43.

2. Alexi G. Arbatov (Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma in the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation), The Russian Military in the 21st Century, US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, report of the Eighth Annual Strategy Conference, April 1997.

3. Osnovniye snabzheniye voennikh doktrina rossiiskoi federatsii (Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation), adopted by President Yeltsin as Presidential Edict No. 1833 on 2 November 1993 (Section 1).

4. Arbatov, The Russian Military in the 21st Century.

5. Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, 1993.

6. Alexandr Konovalov, lecture given in Brunssum, Netherlands, on 15 April 1996. (At the time of the lecture, Dr. Konovalov was Director of the Center for Military Policy and System Analysis of the Russian Academy of Science's prestigious Institute of the USA and Canada, and an adjunct professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.) Also, Alexei Arbatov, "As NATO Grows, Start 2 Shudders," The New York Times, 26 August 1997; Benjamin Schwarz, "Why Russians Are Worrying," Boston Globe, 21 October 1997, p. 21; Marc Nordberg, "Limiting a Larger NATO: Diverging Views From Russia and Belarus," Jane's Intelligence Review, August 1997, p. 343.

7. Nordberg, citing the 300-1 vote by the Duma in March 1997 strongly criticizing NATO expansion; John Helmer, "Russia Still Suspicious of China," Straits Times, 11 November 1997 (citing a survey in March 1997 by the US Information Agency which found that among 400 Moscow officials, politicians, businessmen, military officers and journalists, the United States was named as the greatest threat [29 percent], and a poll taken in August as to which countries might start a war, to which 32 percent of a national sample of Russians said the United States).

8. Alexander Mineyev and Mikhail Shevtsov, "Netherlands: Sergeyev to Outline Russian Vision of European Security," ITAR-TASS report, 1 October 1997

9. R. Craig Nation (Director of Russian and Eurasian Studies at the US Army War College), Beyond the Cold War: Change and Continuity in U.S.-Russian Relations, US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, report of the Eighth Annual Strategy Conference, April 1997; Yuri Baturin stated in October 1996 that Russia would have 20-27 active divisions and additional mobilization divisions; Alexandr Lebed stated in July 1997 that Russia would have 23 active ground force (and five airborne) divisions and 27 mobilization divisions.

10. Soviet figures for 1987 were 113,750 tanks/IFVs/APCs; 48,400 artillery pieces; 10,942 combat aircraft, and 280 surface combatants (Soviet Military Power 1988, US Department of Defense, March 1998, pp. 14-15). Russian forces in 1997 included 17,650 tanks and armored vehicles; 19,150 artillery pieces; 5160 combat aircraft; and 166 surface combatants (US Congressional Research Service study cited by Stacy Evers, "Main Russian Threat Is Internal, Says US Report," Jane's Defence Weekly, 10 December 1997, p. 6).

11. Nation, Beyond the Cold War (citing Deborah Anne Palmieri, "American-Russian Economic Relations in the Post-Cold War Era," in Sharyl Cross and Marina A. Oborotova, eds. The New Chapter in United States-Russian Relations [Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1994], pp. 71-85).

12. Nation, Beyond the Cold War (citing V. L. Frolov, "`Global'noe liderstvo' SShA I perspektivy `strategicheskogo partnerstva's Rossiei" ("`Global Leadership'--the USA and the perspective of `strategic partnership' with Russia"), SShA: Ekonomika, politika, ideologiia (USA: Economics, Politics and Ideology), No 7 (1996), p. 60.

13. Harriet and William Scott, The Armed Forces of the USSR (3d ed.; Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1984), ch. 6.

14. Alexei Arbatov, "As NATO Grows . . . ."

15. Ibid. Konovalov's lecture; Schwarz, "Why Russians Are Worrying."

16. Konovalov's lecture.

17. Arbatov, The Russian Military in the 21st Century.

18. Konovalov's lecture; "Clinton Responds to Senators' Questions on NATO Enlargement," US Information Service, US Embassy, Brussels, 15 September 1997, p. 3.

19. Konovalov's lecture; "Estonia: Russia Will React if NATO Policy Contradicts Founding Act, Warns Yeltsin," ITAR-TASS report, 4 October 1997; "Russia: Chernomyrdin Repeats View that NATO Enlargement Is Unwise," Interfax News (Moscow), 4 October 1997; Larisa Smetankina, "Russia: Russia Wants NATO to Stop Being Military--Yeltsin," ITAR-TASS report, 3 October 1997; Oleg Falichev, "Russia: Russia's Cooperation With NATO Must Become Important Element of Security in Europe--Says Defence Minister Sergeyev," Russica Izvestia, 3 October 1997; Valentinin Volkov and Gennady Yezhov, "Russia: Chernomyrdin--NATO Should Cut Military Component," ITAR-TASS report, 2 October 1997; Volkov and Yezhov, "Russia: Premier Confirms Russia's Opposition to NATO Expansion," ITAR-TASS report, 1 October 1997; Alexander Mineyev and Mikhail Shevtsov, "Netherlands: Sergeyev to Outline Russian Vision of European Security," 1 October 1997.

20. Konovalov's lecture.

21. Ibid.; Schwartz, "Why Russians Are Worrying."

22. John Steinbruner, "Russia Faces an Unsafe Reliance on Nukes," Los Angeles Times, 3 March 1997, p. 11; Larisa Smetankina, "Russia: Russia Wants NATO to Stop Being Military--Yeltsin," ITAR-TASS report, 3 October 1997; "Estonia: Russia Will React If NATO Policy Contradicts Founding Act," ITAR-TASS report, 4 October 1997.

23. Konovalov's lecture.

24. Christopher Donnelly, lecture given 10 December 1997.

25. Timothy Heritage, "Russia: Focus--Russian Hopes High for Joint NATO Council," Reuters (Moscow), 23 September 1997.

26. "Central Asia: Multinational Peacekeeping Exercises Completed," Interfax News Agency (Moscow), 21 September 1997.

27. Alexei Arbatov, "As NATO Grows . . . ."

28. "Russia Champs at the Drill-bit," The Economist, 15 November 1997, pp. 71-72; "The Combustible Caspian," The Economist, 11 January 1997, pp. 27-28.

29. Elaine Holoboff, "Russia's Draft Energy Security Doctrine," Jane's Intelligence Review, January 1997, pp. 19-22.

30. Ibid.

31. The term "Visegrad" originally included Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Once Czechoslovakia split apart, the term included both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Consequently Slovakia is included here, even though its armed forces are small and it is not being offered NATO membership.

32. Reiner K. Huber, "NATO Enlargement and CFE Ceilings: A Preliminary Analysis in Anticipation of a Russian Proposal," Institut für Angewandte Systemforschung und Operations Research, Fakultät für Informatik, Universität der Bundeswehr München, April 1996.

33. Ivan Rybkin, President Yeltsin's national security advisor, quoted in "Russia: Unequal Abroad, Punchier at Home" The Economist, 22 March 1997, p. 39; Joint assessment by the CIA, DIA, and State Department released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as quoted by Barbara Starr in "NATO Growth `Increases Russian Nuclear Threat,'" Jane's Defence Weekly, 17 December 1997, p. 4.

34. Arbatov, The Russian Military in the 21st Century.

35. "Russia: Air Defense Chief Says NATO Expansion Threatens Security," NTV (Moscow), 3 October 1997.

36. "Russia: Defense Minister Sergeyev Discusses Progress of Military Reform," Federal News Service (Moscow), 14 November 1997.

37. "Russia: Defense Minister Sergeyev Urges Ratification of START-2, Signing of START-3," RIA News Agency (Moscow), 2 September 1997.

38. Gennady Khodyrev, "Russia: What Minister Sergeyev Keeps Silent About," Pravda, 17 December 1997.

39. Ibid.

40. Dmitry Zaks, "Russia: Analysts Say START-III The Key to Arms Cuts," Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Press), 18 September 1997; "Sops for Russia," The Economist, 29 March 1997, p. 32.

41. Khodyrev, "Russia: What Minister Sergeyev Keeps Silent About."

42. "Russia: Defense Minister Sergeyev Discusses Progress of Military Reform." Martin Nesirsky, "Russian Armed Forces in Critical Shape," Reuters (Moscow), 20 April 1998.

43. The R&D budgets for the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France alone total $35 billion per year ("A Shrinking Arms Market," The Economist, 22 November 1997, p. 18). Russia's allocation for military R&D in the 1997 defense budget was $2 billion, but less than half the amount authorized was actually received by the Defense Ministry ("NATO Growth `Increases Russian Nuclear Threat,'" Jane's Defence Weekly, 17 December 1997, p. 4). "Acting Defense Minister Sergeyev Urges More Investment in Armed Forces," ITAR-TASS (Moscow), 10 April 1998.

44. Khodyrev, "Russia: What Minister Sergeyev Keeps Silent About."

45. Arbatov, The Russian Military in the 21st Century.

46. John Helmer, "Russia Still Suspicious of China," Straits Times, 11 November 1997.

47. Arbatov, The Russian Military in the 21st Century.

48. Ibid.

49. Konovalov's lecture.

50. "Russia's Primakov Warns Against U.S. Domination," Reuters (Moscow), 29 December 1997; Dmitri Gorokhov, "OSCE Forum Rejects `NATO Centrism'--Primakov," ITAR-TASS, 19 December 1997; Valeria Sycheva, "NATO Was Not Entrusted with Exclusive Responsibility for European Security," Sevodnya, 20 December 1997; "Iran: Ties with Russia Hailed," IPR Strategic Business Information Database, 22 December 1997.

51. Konovalov's lecture.

52. "Politika natsional'noi bezopasnosti rossiiskoi federatsii, 1996-2000, (National Security Policy of the Russian Federation, 1996-2000)," Nezavisimaia gazeta: Stsenarii (Independent Press), No. 2, May 1996, p. 3.

53. Donnelly's lecture.

54. "Russia: Defense Minister Sergeyev Discusses Progress of Military Reform."

55. Donnelly's lecture.

56. Ibid.

57. Following the defection of one of the first Russian officers to attend a Western military school, the Russians have greatly limited such attendance. The last Russian officers graduated from the Army Command and General Staff College in 1993; the last graduated from the Army War College in 1994. Since 1995, the Russian Defense Ministry has refused to send officers to attend the Marshall Center's courses. At those locations, such as the Air University and the Naval War College, where both senior service and staff schools are collocated, they insist that officers attend only in pairs. Similarly, the current plan is for two Russian officers to attend the Army War College in 1998-99, since the Army's staff college is not collocated in Carlisle. Likewise, the Russians have generally refused to permit their officers to attend any courses taught at the NATO School (SHAPE) or the NATO Defense College in Rome. Unlike many former Warsaw Pact officers whose attendance at Western military courses has been a springboard to more responsibility, most Russian graduates of Western military courses are either retired or stuck in dead-end positions.

58. Marc Rogers, "CFE Deal Eases Russian Worry on NATO Growth," Jane's Defense Weekly, 21 May 1997, p. 19.

59. Anton Surikov, "Russia: Give Heavy Missiles a Start," Russica Izvestia (Russian News), 6 September 1997; Vladimir Lukin (Chairman of Russian Duma International Affairs Committee), "Russia: Farewell to Arms," Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), 28 August 1997; Alexei Podberezkin (Deputy Head of Russian Duma Foreign Affairs Committee), "Russia Must Back Out of START-2," Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Press), 22 August 1997.

60. Anton Surikov quoting Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Gennady Zyuganov in "Russia: To Keep the National Nuclear Shield," Russica Izvestia, 8 October 1997.

61. "Russia: Strategic Missile Troops Commander in Favor of START-3." ITAR-TASS, 24 April 1997; "Russia: Sergeyev Says 1998 Military Budget Will be 3.4 percent of GDP." Interfax News (Moscow), 2 September 1997; "Russia: Defense and Foreign Ministers Urge Parliament to Ratify START-2." ITAR-TASS, 16 September 1997.

62. Bronwen Maddox, "Russia `Puts Its Trust in Nuclear Arsenal,'" The Times, 18 October 1997, p. 15; Andrew Duncan, "Time of Consolidation for Russia's Military," Jane's Intelligence Review, October 1997, p. 456.

63. Arbatov, The Russian Military in the 21st Century.

64. "Russia: Defense Minister Sergeyev Discusses Progress of Military Reform." General Lev Rokhlin, then the chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, founded a movement aimed at military officers and workers in the defense-industrial complex. He traveled throughout the Russian Federation encouraging officers to join local collectives of the Movement in Support of the Army. The number of these local collectives mushroomed, since many officers have gone months without pay or have inadequate housing for their families.

65. Arbatov, The Russian Military in the 21st Century.

66. Multipart series in Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) during 1997 on the historic lessons learned from military reform, from the time of Ivan the Great to the present.

67. Konovalov's lecture.

Colonel Frederick P. A. Hammersen is a Field Artillery officer currently serving at Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe, in his alternate specialty of Russian Foreign Area Officer. He holds two master's degrees from the University of Virginia, in Russian history and in Soviet and East European Area Studies, and he is a graduate of the US Army Russian Institute and the US Army War College. Before his assignment with AFCENT, he served at Headquarters, US European Command, where he was responsible for beginning our military-to-military contact programs with the new democracies of Eastern Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. During that time, he took the first US general officers to Moscow to establish military-to-military contacts with the Russian Federation Armed Forces, and participated in the first US-Russian Bilateral Working Group. He was also the primary USEUCOM staff officer for establishing the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, and subsequently taught at the Center. As with all Parameters articles, the views expressed in this article are those of the author; they do not represent those of the US Army, Headquarters Allied Forces Central Europe, NATO, or any government agency.

Reviewed 21 May 1998. Please send comments or corrections to