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  •   Russia Draws Bleak Picture Of Its Security

    By David Hoffman
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Thursday, December 25, 1997; Page A29

    MOSCOW, Dec. 24—President Boris Yeltsin has signed Russia's first post-Soviet national security "concept," which describes a badly weakened state in which the chief threats are internal economic chaos, ethnic and regional strains, and social polarization of Russian society.

    The 37-page document, a copy of which was obtained today, offers a marked contrast to the global ambitions of the Soviet Union. It is largely inward-looking, acknowledging a host of problems bedeviling Russia, including the efforts of criminals to infiltrate the government, the prospect that Russia may not hold together as a single federation and concerns that many stretches of Russia's borders are unguarded.

    It also calls on Russia to use its assets -- such as its plentiful natural resources -- to help create basic institutions for democracy and a market economy and support a large scientific base as a means of putting the country back on its feet.

    The document also suggests that with its conventional military forces seriously weakened, Russia will rely on nuclear weapons if attacked. Officials said earlier this year that the new concept basically repeals a pledge made by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. The United States has never made a no-first-use pledge.

    Russia "reserves to itself the right to use all the means and powers it has in its possession, including nuclear weapons, if as a result of unleashing an armed aggression, there will appear a threat to the very existence" of the state, the document says.

    Yeltsin signed the national security concept on Dec. 17 after lengthy debate and revisions, but it has not been made public. It is not clear if the document will have any real impact on decision-making, but it offers a glimpse into the thinking of Russia's political leaders and policymakers about the direction of the country and the threats it faces.

    Andrei Piontkowsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies, said that Russian policy will continue "to be determined by day-to-day events, by crises," not by theoretical documents. But he said the national security concept is a "realistic" and "quite reasonable" description of Russia's situation. He said the document was largely inspired by a similar report to the Congress by President Clinton several years ago that was published here.

    The document acknowledges that Russia's influence in the world has "considerably decreased." It notes that Russia has opposed the expansion of NATO, which is proceeding anyway, and that multilateral organizations on which Russia relied, such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe "are still not very effective." The document says Russia "finds itself isolated" from the Asian-Pacific region and adds that "all of this is unacceptable for us as an influential European-Asian state."

    The document recounts Russia's economic woes: shrinking industrial production; falling investment and innovation; "lagging behind developed countries" in high technology; growing dependence on imports; brain drain from science and skilled fields; falling living standards; agricultural stagnation; widespread use of barter instead of money; collapse of public finances; and the prevalence of crime and corruption.

    "The crisis-like state of the economy is the major reason for the appearance of a threat to the national security of the Russian Federation," it declares. It warns that Russia is threatened by an economic model in which it relies only on raw materials exports while having to import its food, consumer goods and equipment.

    The document also warns that Russia, a federation of 89 regions, faces "centrifugal aspirations" among them that could tear the country apart. It notes that some regions already snub the Russian constitution and federal laws, and it expresses concern about the rise of nationalism and ethnic separatism.

    It warns that Russia's legal system is weakening in the face of an onslaught from criminals and that criminal groups are "merging" with official government organizations and have penetrated banking, industry, trade and consumer goods. "The criminal world has in essence cast a challenge to the state, having entered an open competition with the former," it declares.

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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