RUSSIAN ELECTIONS : Nato may feel the chill from wind of change

VIEW FROM THE WEST

Yesterday, 44 ships under the command of a US Admiral aboard the cruiser USS Hue City, among them the Russian destroyer Nastoychivy, were practising the manoeuvres they would use in multi-national peace-keeping and humanitarian aid operations.

The exercise is taking place under the Partnership for Peace initiative, designed to bind Nato and eastern European countries together and pave the way for some to join Nato. Just 200 miles to the east, Russia's 100 million electors were preparing to go to the polls on Sunday.

Western strategists do not believe the result will have any fundamental effect on Russian security policy. But a victory for the communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, would probably cool the cosy climate of co-operation which has evolved over the past five or so years and resulted in exercises such as this.

If Zyuganov wins, next year there may be no Russian destroyer, while the participation of the Poles and Baltic states alongside Nato may be seen not as an expression of international solidarity, but as a threat.

Most Western analysts agree the new President will inherit an economic crisis, heavy dependence on investment from abroad, and a massive law and order problem, and that military expenditure is not a high priority. Many believe Russia cannot afford to alienate the West, and rely on that as a guarantee of security: some disagree. Boris Yeltsin has already begun the process of "reintegration" of former Soviet states into a new military alliance, and whether he or Zyuganov wins, such efforts will undoubtedly continue.

But even if Russia's deep-seated policies do not change, a switch from Mr Yeltsin, whom Western countries know and support, to a new leader will undoubtedly affect the climate in which the Russian military - still the second most powerful in the world - deals with the West.

Anton Surikov, a civilian defence adviser to both Yeltsin and Zyuganov, said in a recent paper that the greatest danger from the US and her allies was posed by "interference in the internal affairs of Russia with the aim of diverting them into directions favourable to the West". It cited interference in the transfer of Russian expertise to Iran and India as an example.

While Nato's eastward expansion is seen as a threat, Surikov admits "there is no real possibility of hindering this by force. But threats, not supported by actions, only discredit the state." He cites Russia's ineffective opposition to the bombing of the Bosnian Serbs in September last year as an example.

To counter Nato expansion, a "reintegration" of former Soviet states, within the CIS, is proposed, which has already begun with the conclusion of a new alliance between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The CIS recently produced its first joint statement on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. According to Surikov, Western attempts to foster confrontation between Russia and Ukraine must be resisted, and Russia must aim to establish a new alliance with Ukraine.

The CFE treaty, recently revised to enable Russia to put more forces on its flanks, provides Moscow with another means of countering Nato expansion. Russia may now argue that if Poland and other East European countries become part of Nato, their troops should count as part of the alliance, thus placing Nato in violation of the treaty. Such an attitude would be consistent with what one commentator last week called "a more bloody-minded approach".

Irina Issakova, an analyst at the London-based international Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), believes the Russians "can't afford to cut themselves off from the world community", and that whatever internal measures may be taken in the event of a Communist victory, they are not of great concern to the West.

The image of Russia being broke, and therefore compliant, is widespread. But Professor John Erickson of the University of Edinburgh, warned "Russia is not broke. It is an illusion that they are very poor - a fiction, which they are very keen to encourage. In spite of all the hype about privatisation, they have taken great care to protect core military industries."

Prof Erickson cited renewed Russian naval activity as evidence that strategic priorities were directed in two ways: to the sea, and to central Asia. Russia has also been concentrating on the development of small, rapid- reaction forces to preserve its ability for global intervention at a fraction of the former cost. The outcome of tomorrow's election is unlikely to affect these trends significantly.

Zyuganov profile, page 17

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test