Is Russia a world power or a world leader?

Despite its bravura, Russia’s new security strategy shows the country’s weakness

Maria Dubovikova
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Russia’s new National Security Strategy was announced on Dec. 31. Its predecessor, published in 2009, was supposed to remain in place until 2020, but had to be updated due to global developments and changes in Russian foreign policy. The National Security Strategy is a fundamental document on internal and external policy, updated in accordance with the Kremlin’s political and geostrategic vision.

The previous one saw Russia as a world power. The new strategy sees it as a world leader, and is more defensive than offensive. According to the document, Russia faces many challenges and dangers from terrorists and unfriendly global players.


It underlines that hard power has not lost its usefulness, despite expectations, but that to protect national interests, Russia will have an “open, rational and pragmatic foreign policy that excludes costly confrontation,” including an arms race.

Mention of NATO as a threat to national security has made much noise in the media, but the message is nothing new. NATO’s expansion toward Russia’s western borders has always been considered a threat. The changing role of the alliance, from a regional to a global player, raises deeper concerns. The rivalry between NATO and Russia is inevitable given the alliance’s history and purpose during the Cold War.

Despite its bravura, Russia’s new security strategy shows the country’s weakness

Maria Dubovikova

However, the new strategy states the importance of partnership with the United States “on the basis of common interests, including economic ones.” Russia understands that confrontation with Washington will harm not only its national security and stability, but that of the world.

Strengthening the state

The document considers the strengthening of the state as key to ensuring national and public security. In contrast to the previous strategy, in the new one democracy and civil society are mentioned in passing. This raises concerns over the future of civil liberties in Russia, as the government could go too far in exerting its control.

The new strategy stresses the importance of culture regarding national security, and “traditional spiritual and moral Russian values,” including prioritizing the spiritual over the material, family, service to the motherland, and the historical unity of the country’s peoples. The government recalls the value of the spiritual over the material during the deepest economic crisis since the 1990s, which has severely hit citizens’ purchasing power.

Russia will introduce censorship and control to ensure “cultural sovereignty.” It will develop domestic tourism and state production of cinema, TV, internet and print products. It will use culture as a soft power and an instrument of expansion.

Despite its bravura, the new strategy shows the country’s weakness. The drop in oil prices, economic sanctions, the failure to diversify the economy, and the rise in global instability make Russia vulnerable. Nevertheless, it will remain a global player. The international community needs a stable Russia, and should partner with it for the sake of world peace. For partnership, all players need common sense and respect.

Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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