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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Plan Gets Yeltsin's Approval

President Boris Yeltsin has given his approval to a sweeping policy document on national security that downplays external threats to Russia and focuses on rebuilding the economy and democratic institutions.


Under the guidance of Yeltsin's former national security adviser, Yury Baturin, a group of leading political scientists and philosophers developed a plan for national security, unveiled in April, which served as the basis for a policy statement that the president sent under his signature to parliament June 13.


Sergei Oznobishchev, a member of the expert group, hailed the document in an interview Friday as "the first of its kind in the history of the Soviet Union and Russia. And for the first time, discussion of national security policy in the planning stage was held openly with all the government agencies involved, and the press."


The attitude of Alexander Lebed, Yeltsin's new and powerful national security adviser, remains unclear.


Lebed has himself indicated he will be developing his own national security doctrine and has assembled a staff to prepare it.


The document, which charts policy for the period 1996 to 2000, states that the threat of military attack against Russia had been "significantly reduced" in recent years.


It identified the "crisis related to our deliverance from the old, outmoded system" as the "chief negative factor in the internal state of the country."


Given the lack of a massive foreign military threat, Yeltsin stated, "Russia is able to use the strength and means at its disposal to achieve our highest priority goals -- to finish building the bases of a constitutional, democratic system and of the country's spiritual and economic revival."


Yeltsin "closely linked" national security with the bolstering of democratic institutions in Russia, and stated that the improving Russians' quality of life was the "main priority of government actions."


According to Oznobishchev, this policy shift away from the military to the social sphere, and from foreign to domestic policy, was necessitated by Russia's current economic and political situation.


"During this interim period, both the possibilities and resources available to Russia are quite limited, and this fact must dictate the country's policy," according to the document.


Acknowledging this reality, "Russia does not strive to maintain numerical parity in weapons and men under arms with the leading countries, and adheres to the principle of realistic restraint" in military policy aimed at meeting actual threats.


"As much as we might call ourselves a great power and wish to have this status recognized in the international arena, our current capability to realize this status is strictly limited," Oznobishchev said.


The document repeated Russia's opposition to NATO expansion.


"For me and the overwhelming majority of experts in Russia, the declaration of NATO expansion to the east demonstrates a definite crisis in Russia's partnership with the West," Oznobishchev said.


"Russia is not seen to have equal rights in the process of determining European security policy."


The jury remains out on just how well Yeltsin's new approach, especially in its reduced emphasis on the armed forces, will be implemented.


Although the document has the status of a policy statement, by which all government agencies should conduct their affairs, it is not clear what part it plays in Yeltsin's or Lebed's current thinking.


Oznobishchev allowed that government cooperation on the new policy still had a way to go.


"It is still too early to say how national security policy will now be divided up in practice, and this will be done by the ministries and agencies involved in this question," he said, adding that Lebed's role in this process also remained unclear.