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How does the Russian military doctrine work?

Russia developed its military doctrine on November 2 1993, two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. An inward-looking policy that mainly focused on keeping forces that sought to destabilise the Russian Federation through armed violence in check, the doctrine was changed seven years later soon after Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia as Prime Minister in 1999.  

On April 21 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new doctrine, which shunned the previous non-aggressive military approach and adopted a strong nuclear posture. 

The main highlight of the 2000 doctrine was Russia’s decision to deploy nuclear weapons in times of war. 

One of the significant passages of the doctrine read: “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons—weapons [used] against Russia and its allies—as well as in response to a large–scale conventional aggression in critical situations for Russia and its allies”.

Since then, Russia under Putin has revised its military doctrine on several occasions– the most recent one to be approved by Putin was in 2021.  

Unlike the previous doctrine, the latest one explicitly describes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a threat to the security of the Russian state and its allies. 

The fate of US-led order

Russian leaders perceive a greater threat from the United States and NATO since they tweaked its doctrine in 2014, citing trends such as economic sanctions, Russia’s anti-regime protests of 2004 and interstate conflict. With every passing year, the Russian leadership increasingly viewed China, Russia, and other rising powers as a challenge to the US-led global order. Ever since Russian officials have openly accused Washington and its allies of attempting to intimidate or bully Russia by shoring up NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe. 

As a result, the 2015 Russian National Security Strategy and 2016 Foreign Policy Concept illustrate a deepening distrust of the West.

The conflict in Ukraine has solidified the Russia-China alliance. Beijing has become a major buyer of discounted Russian oil and gas and a conduit for goods that are no longer available to Russia due to Western sanctions. While China does not directly provide arms to Russia, it does supply items that can be used to develop products for military applications. 

Similarly, as per the 2021 military doctrine, Moscow seeks to build stronger ties with India, which is taking advantage of the Ukraine conflict and buying much of the Russian oil at throwaway prices, bypassing US sanctions. 

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