Paris no guide for Moscow

MOSCOW. (Nikita Petrov for RIA Novosti) - These two documents appeared at about the same time. In June, Paris published a White Paper on Defense and National Security. Six weeks later, Moscow issued a so-called Concept for the Development of Russia's Armed Forces Through 2030.

Why "so-called?" Because, unlike the French White Paper, submitted to the French president at a ceremony attended by 3,000 top-ranking officials from the republic's military and political establishment and guests from other countries, the concept has no sponsors. Its authors are unknown, and no one in the Defense Ministry has commented on it. Not a word has been uttered in the Security Council or other agencies concerned with defense or security. It is almost as if it never existed. There is no official response, although the press has debated and commented on it at length. This is not surprising. The country's leadership had not even reacted to the new military doctrine published at the end of last year by the Academy of Military Sciences. What then can be said of the "new look for the armed forces," as the concept is described in the press? It has never been seriously discussed.

The French White Paper is different. It is an example of how a country's leadership and society view their security. To begin with, French President Nicolas Sarkozy instructed Jean-Claude Mallet, a member of the Conseil d'Etat, to set up and head a commission to draft a new paper on defense as soon as he was inaugurated on July 31, 2007. The commission included 35 leading specialists. In addition to representatives from the Defense Ministry and other government agencies, figures from the military industry, parliament and independent experts were invited. Wide-ranging debates, TV and online conferences, and closed and open round tables attended not only by French experts, but also by professionals from other countries, took place. A special Internet website was opened for everyone to contribute their proposals on "how to organize our army," what it should do, and how it must go about its mission. In eleven months of the commission's work, more than 250,000 people visited the site. The response was nation-wide.

In Russia, such a method of addressing matters of state significance has yet to be established. We will not discuss the concept, which appears to be an orphan. Instead we will go back to 2003, when the Defense Ministry issued its own "white paper on defense", printed on high-quality paper and lavishly illustrated. Although published in a small number of copies, the print run was enough for experts and foreign military attaches. It was called "Current Tasks for the Development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation." President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov presented the paper. True, no one had discussed it previously. Discussions followed only after it had been approved by the country's leadership, although there was by then nothing to discuss, the order of the day being its fulfillment. The tasks must have had little public support. Five years later, few if any can recall them either among the expert community or in the Defense Ministry itself.

The French White Paper looks farther ahead. It lists five basic functions that the national armed forces and government agencies must fulfill.

The first is to be informed and able to foresee developments. In other words, to have the ability to know in advance what possible threats exist and which potential adversaries pose the greatest danger to the country and its army. Attached to this is the country's readiness to counter and prevent such threats from becoming a destructive reality.

The second concerns pre-emptive initiative. It provides for the use of all possible means, ranging from diplomatic through legal to military, to forestall the escalation of a possible threat into a serious conflict involving arms.

The third principle is deterrence, including nuclear deterrence. It is one of the key factors for national security and, in the opinion of the authors, the most reliable guarantee of France's independence. Its prime aim is to prevent acts of aggression by any other country and protect the state's national interests. The paper gives a detailed list of the type and number of France's nuclear weapons, and envisages the core of the nuclear deterrent in future being formed of new-generation nuclear submarines with new strategic missiles, as well as air-launched cruise missiles carried by Rafale and Mirage multi-role fighters.

One more basic principle is defense. Or, to give a fuller description, the direct protection, by military and police methods, of the security of the population and the territorial integrity of France, and society's ability to recover from a severe crisis and go on living as before. To fulfill this function it is planned to create a variety of engineering and information and communication networks, including in space, and early warning systems, and to second 10,000 troops to the civilian services when it is necessary to respond to emergencies and natural disasters.

The French armed forces will also use the principle of intervention. Importantly, no distinction is made between warning and intervention. They are seen here as one undivided action, especially in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Gulf, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, eastern and western African coast, and French Guiana, which France views as its regions of national interest. The document stresses, though, that the armed forces will be used abroad only when and where "proposed measures of a different nature have failed to bring the desired result or the emergency requires the immediate application of the 'duty to defend' principle."

The White Paper also dedicates a lot of space to cooperation with the European Union and NATO. For France, the EU comes first. Paris wants to make this organization the preferred tool for resolving critical situations, and for this a common system of European security must be set up. At the same time, however, the Elysee Palace believes the European Union should cooperate with NATO, a key player in ensuring international security. NATO is itself in need of drastic reform, and France is prepared to work more closely at all levels with the North Atlantic Alliance, while preserving the three main conditions set out by General de Gaulle: full independence of strategic nuclear forces, freedom of action, and freedom of decision making (no troop contingent of the republic may be under the control of a unified NATO military command in peacetime).

The White Paper has many other interesting things to say. But its defining feature is that it sets forth a clear-cut program for the medium-term development of the country's armed forces. It even lists all purchases of combat equipment by the Defense Ministry, including the number of infantry equipment sets. Such openness in the military establishment can only be dreamed of in Russia.

Nikita Petrov is a military commentator.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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