Here a fictitious little story.
In the summer 2007 the Russian conservative think tank “Alexander Nevskij” was tasked to evaluate Russian policies after the Cold War and also to suggest a plan that would strengthen Russia’s internal cohesion and international standing. The political leadership was briefed on the plan in late autumn 2007 and it was laid down as the main guideline for Russia’s future security and defence policy for the next ten years. Although, there should be one slight alteration. The cover names for the different plans regarding Ukraine and the Baltics should be changed. They were too obvious and could pose a security risk (the original cover names have been kept in this version of the document).
Below the text in a shortened version of the plan.
The “Alexander Nevskij” plan
The plan has been prepared by a working group consisting of experts from the institute and representatives from the Foreign Ministry, SVR, GRU, the arms industry and the General staff. The plan consists of: background, planning assumptions, suggested strategic goals and a more detailed description of methods on how to reach the desired end state.
Russia has steadily lost authority and respect in international quarters since the breakup of the Soviet Union, a geopolitical disaster. We have to a great extend lost our influence on global affairs. Our representatives have sometimes even been subjected to ridicule. This has also led to the rise of domestic groups that threaten the cohesion of the country. A totally unacceptable situation for a country as large as Russia and with its proud history.
The policies that we have pursued so far, to gain influence and status by cooperating with NATO, Partnership for Peace, and with the EU when it comes to economic matters has not led to any positive results. Rather the contrary. We have become marginalised and been pushed back. Both the EU and NATO have gained influence in our near abroad. In the long run it may lead to a situation where we will become just a provider of commodities to the West, like Africa was before. Russia may even break up into insignificant small states that will be pushed around by US, China and others.
We will never be able to compete with the West (or China) when it comes to economic power. It is also improbable that our type of society will be attractive to people in the West where ideas or egoistic interests promoted by different groups are seen as more important than the interests of the state.
Despite positive economic developments in recent years, due to a better run administration and good export earnings from gas and oil, we face serious problems.
Our population, just 140 million compared with 290 million in Soviet times, is declining. Wests influence in our near abroad is increasing. The West is becoming less dependent on Russian energy due to fracking technologies and the increased use of renewable energy. Our military capabilities have shrunk to a level where our armed forces no longer are a credible security policy instrument.
To sum it up. If we don´t take action soon we will have for ever lost the chance to become a leading player in global politics. Our only option is to weaken the West, and thereby increasing our relative strength.
Our overall goal should be that Russia is one of the three major players on the world arena around the year 2020. This we can reach by: radically increasing our influence in the near abroad, being able to influence policies in some major European countries and having reduced US influence in Europe. By doing this we will have also shown internally that any attempts to undermine Russia are doomed to fail.
We therefore suggest that our foreign, security and defence policy for the next ten years, to 2017, should aim at the six goals listed below.
1. Undermine US will and capabilities to engage in European affairs,
2. Stop EU and NATO expansion into our near abroad,
3. Increase our influence in our near abroad, and where suitable incorporate regions with Russian populations with the Motherland,
4. Undermine the cohesion of EU and NATO,
5. Drastically increase the capabilities of our armed forces,
6. Create stable and friendly relations to China, giving us freedom of action in the west.
What this means in practical terms when it comes to implementation is described below.
ImplementationOf course the suggested actions can´t be seen as an exact recipe. It is impossible to predict in detail what might happen in different parts of the world in the next ten years. Our moves will always have to be adjusted to the prevailing situation – this without losing sight of the ultimate goal.
The will and ability of the US to act in Europe will depend on which other problems it is facing. Therefore we should foment conflicts in regions where the US has vital interests. The Middle East is such a place. For example we should support: Iran on its nuclear policies, different terrorist groups, sectarian violence and other activities that could threaten US, or Israeli, interests. We should also support China in its disputes with Japan and other American allies in the Far East, forcing the US to pay more attention to that region – not even the resources of the US are endless.
EU and NATO expansion in our near abroad must be stopped as soon as possible. Today we don´t the means for any large scale military operations. Nevertheless it is important that we make some kind of demonstration that we will not accept future containment. Whatever course of action we chose it should not threaten any of West´s really vital interests, but it should create discord within NATO and EU regarding future enlargement. A limited military operation in Georgia would probably fulfil both these aims. Our present military capabilities ought to enough for such an operation. What more, it would also show different groups in Russia that any break away attempts would not be tolerated. To some extent the operation would have similarities with the American operation in Grenada 1983. It showed that the US had overcome the Vietnam trauma and once again was prepared to use its military to achieve political aims.
Influence in our near abroad is nothing absolute or static. It does not have to mean that large parts of the former Soviet Union have to be incorporated in Russia. Rather it is a question of being able to influence the policies of neighbouring countries, which means that they are drawn away from the US sphere of influence.
The regions where we run the greatest risk that they are irrevocably drawn into the West are Ukraine and the Baltics.
Ukraine offers the greatest opportunities for us to act and also represents the greatest danger if we don´t. If Ukraine becomes a part of the Western camp, our chances of regaining a strong global role probably would disappear forever. The West would dominate the most populous and probably also, in the long run, the strongest state our western border. It is likely that the Russian people and many others would have a reasonable understanding for the viewpoint that Russia has a legitimate role to play in Ukraine. Both of historical reasons and that large sections of the population are regarded as Russians, by our own population and also by many abroad.
Ukraine is not yet a member of any of the Western organisations and it is weak, politically, economically and militarily. All this can change if we wait too long. Ukraine should therefore be addressed prior to the Baltic States. As soon as we have rebuilt a sufficient military capacity, and the political conditions are right, we should launch an operation aimed at breaking Ukraine’s ties with the West and weakening it as a state. In the case of Ukraine, there are both military (Crimea/Sevastopol) and political (Russians) reasons to incorporate parts of the country with Russia. The ultimate decision for what we can achieve in Ukraine can only be taken when we see the results of our actions.
An exact date for when we can implement a plan "Potemkin" regarding Ukraine is difficult to predict, it depends on how well we succeed in reforming our armed forces and the then internal political situation in Ukraine. However, a reasonable assumption is that we will have the necessary military capabilities around 2013-2015. We hardly need to count on a powerful Western military reaction in this case.
The Baltic case is more complicated. The countries are already in many ways deeply integrated into the West, in contrast to Ukraine. They are members of both NATO and the EU and their economies are increasingly becoming a part the Western (EU) system. Therefore there might be grounds to avoid the risks and efforts needed to try to get decisive influence in those countries. But that is not the case. Instead they may be crucial to achieve a much more important goal than just increasing our influence in the Baltic Sea region. They can be the tool with which we can break up NATO.
Their small size and geographical location makes them extremely vulnerable to a military attack. They can easily be isolated and the distances are short, they could be occupied very rapidly. Today, however, we are militarily too weak to be able to counter even a limited response by NATO, and it would also be hard to isolate them from the outside world.
An operation against the Baltic States can therefore only be considered when we have regained our military strength. Interestingly enough, we will then have two options: either an outright invasion, or to isolate them from the West without having to wage war against NATO. The modern weapons systems, mainly anti-aircraft and anti-ship systems, which we are developing will make it possible to disturb NATO operations in support of the Baltic States, this already from Russian territory. If we can also use Swedish, and possibly Finnish – which is not absolutely necessary, territory we will, in practice, have made it impossible for NATO to "save" the Baltic States before it is too late.
In the latter case, it would mean that we would put NATO in a situation where the Alliance's ability to defend its members probably will be seriously questioned (both in Western Europe and in the Baltic countries). Probably to an extent that the Baltic Governments will be forced to adjust their policies according to our wishes. And most importantly, NATO's credibility as the guarantor of the security of their members will be drastically reduced. Will NATO survive? Also, how will countries as Japan and the Philippines react? Will they continue to trust the US? Definitely an argument for us to use when we seek Chinese for our policies (see below on reinsurance in the East).
The invasion option, open military confrontation with NATO, we believe, is only realistic in case we are reasonably confident that neither NATO nor the United States unilaterally will act early and very resolutely. The likelihood of that cannot be determined today. Such an assessment must wait until we have the military strength needed to carry out such an operation, i.e. around 2016/2017 (see the section below on re-creation of our military capabilities) and the then political situation can be evaluated. The most important factors regarding how and when we should act in the Baltic States is how well we succeeded in reducing the cohesion of NATO through various influence operations, and how NATO reacts to our early steps. For the Baltic States there should be two plans, one for isolating the Baltic States "Apraxin" and one for an occupation of the Baltics "Sheremetev" .
The reason that we haven't mentioned the Caucasus and Central Asia in the plan is that we think that they will quickly adapt to the new balance of power that emerges when this plan is implemented.
Reducing NATO and EU cohesion and willingness and ability to act can and must be addressed in several different ways. The possibilities to use economic means such as discounted energy rates to selected countries, beneficial loans etc. are not covered in this plan. The emphasis here is mainly on measures linked to how influence the minds of individuals and populations.
One of the most important means is to support EU- and NATO-critical groups, organisations and political parties in European countries. In the same way as during the cold war we infiltrated and financed the so-called peace movement. Here we an opportunity to use similar methods. It will take some time to change the policies of these groups, their arguments and actions, but our past experience says that it would be perfectly possible to achieve that within the ten years the plan covers. An especially important group to influence and exploit is the so-called "cultural elite", they have a high visibility in media. We should also, for one last time-they are getting old, reactivate the agents of influence that we recruited during Soviet times. In many cases a hint that we can reveal their past probably would be enough to make them argue for our case.
In parts of Europe, there are fairly strong anti US sentiments. That should be used at all possible occasions highlighting US contempt for international law and its willingness to use military means to achieve, egoistical, political objectives. The operations in Iraq and Kosovo are examples that could be used. We should also not forget to emphasize the United States as the main exponent of the capitalist system. There are left leaning groups in Europe that will react instinctively to a closer cooperation with the United States. Arguments of this type can be especially useful in countries that are not members of NATO, like Sweden and Finland "we will be forced to take part in American wars, protect US economic interests, etc.” In the case of Germany the deeply rooted pacifism in that country should be exploited.
When it comes to the near abroad, where the main aim must be to reduce EU and NATO willingness to support these countries, our efforts should focus on two main areas: to create an image that Russian-speaking groups are being discriminated and to portray the countries as hotbeds for neo-Nazism which poses a threat to Russia as well as to the rest of Europe. To portray them as Russophobes should also be part of our propaganda.
Today we lack suitable instruments for this type of psychological/influence operations. We therefore propose that we create international news channels modelled on Western media, in which European and American viewers recognize, and are comfortable with, the way the message is presented. This will be costly but considering the potential impact it is cheap. Our ability to use the so-called social media should be developed. In the near abroad the Russian-language programmes designed for these countries should not only present our view on various political events but also contain well-made entertainment programs, thus attracting large audiences.
A special area in the context of mentally influencing, mainly the Europeans, is show of military might. To create an impression that trying to oppose Russia with military means would be futile. It also plays on people's fear of war. Here nuclear weapons have a special role. If we can we make it credible that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons (regardless if we are or not) it can increase the “fear factor”, but above all create a discussion within NATO about the credibility of article 5. How far is NATO prepared to go to defend its members “start a nuclear war in Europe? ". Such a discussion will very likely create tensions within the alliance.
We must also launch a domestic campaign to show our own population what kind of threats we are facing, and also prepare it for the sacrifices that may be required. Measures regarding this area are not described here. That it requires strict control of our media, however, is obvious.
Restoring our military strength is a fundamental factor in order to achieve the objectives of this plan. We will never, in the long run, be able to win an arms race with NATO. We lack the economic and industrial means. It is therefore crucial that we create a temporary superiority, what the Americans call "window of opportunity", where we in some respects are superior to the West militarily. At least in some geographic areas.
Here we have several advantages. Most NATO countries continue to make extensive cuts in their military establishments. That will very probably continue as long as Western governments do not see any immediate military threat. Everyone sees an opportunity to introduce popular reforms at the expense of the defence budgets. Western governments will therefore quite likely react slowly on any danger-signals. This will be enhanced by slow decision-making processes. There are also good opportunities to mislead them about the real state of our armed forces – i.e. influence their perception of the threat.
We should be able to get a head start of several years before countries in the West, probably not all, start to take steps to strengthen their military capabilities. It is also likely that no extensive measures will be considered as long as the public doesn´t support them. Such pressure from the electorate will hardly occur as long as Russia is not perceived as a threat. When that can happen is uncertain, it will vary from country to country. Here the aforementioned influence operations is an important component to delay such reactions.
The Baltics and Poland will probably belong to those who react earliest. Possibly also the US, where there is an understanding of global power politics, something that the Europeans have largely forgotten. A military operation in Europe, however, may be a tipping point. We must, therefore, expect that the plan "Potemkin" in Ukraine can trigger more extensive reactions in Europe, and the United States.
The Group's estimation is that if adequate funding is allocated beginning from next year, 2008, our armed forces would be strong enough from around 2016/17 up until 2020, to be able to successfully meet virtually all NATO counteractions linked to a conflict in the Baltic Sea region. Or, which is not unlikely, deter NATO from intervening. We would also be able to maintain a reasonable guard in other directions where NATO could pose a threat. Mainly the Black Sea region and the Arctic. In the latter case, it is especially important to ensure the protection of our second strike capability on the Kola Peninsula.
Overall, it means that the time between the operation "Potemkin" and operation "Apraxin" alternatively "Sjeremetev" should be as short as possible. Only long enough to consolidate our position in Ukraine and strengthen our forces in the Black Sea area, preferably just one year, or two at the most.
In this context, it is important to deceive NATO military regarding our military strength over time, aiming at creating a good ability to carry out large-scale operations in the western parts of our neighbourhood around 2016/17.
As a part of such a maskirovka we should openly present an armaments program that appears to be geared toward 2020. We would thereby create an impression that they (NATO and others) have some time for countering our build-up. It will, still more, slow down their already long decision-making processes. We should also publicly present future weapons systems which could not be deployed before 2020. An apparent openness about our armaments plans, which may seem scary to the outside world, will become a weapon to slow down the reactions of our opponents.
This means that, in essence, we should give priority to modify and further develop already existing weapons systems, which we quickly can put into production and manufacture in large quantities. New systems that already are in the pipeline should of course also be introduced. The risk that our systems would be significantly inferior when it comes to quality is small. NATO has deployed very few advanced weapons system in the last twenty years (the United States is to a certain extent an exception). Our upgraded system will be able to measure up to what NATO will have. In the area of air defence, crucial considering the potential of American air power, we are convinced that the systems that we are presently developing will be a hard nut to crack for the Americans. Most of the new NATO systems, that we would have problems to face, are planned to be put into service around 2020 or beyond. A time when we ought to have achieved our political objectives.
The modernization of our nuclear weapons is also a vital component of the plan. They contribute both to create an uncertainty in the West under what conditions we might use them, and in addition, they contribute to consolidating our position as one of the leading world powers.
We will most likely also superior when it comes to training. The West has largely devoted its energy and funds after the cold war to conduct different types of “peace operations”. We think that this trend will continue for quite a long time. The war in Afghanistan will continue. Likewise, the conflicts in the Middle East or Africa will hardly disappear, especially if we can foment them. There is a great likelihood that NATO will continue to devote much of its resources and thinking to deal with these types of conflicts, while we can concentrate on regaining our ability to carry out large-scale conventional operations. In addition NATO, and other countries in the West, have also neglected many of the components in their organizations that are required for a conventional war. Abilities that it will take a very long time, and require large financial investments, to recover.
Our conclusion is that we could reach an adequate military capability, relative to NATO, within the time frame of this plan – ten years, or perhaps even a bit faster depending on how well we manage the different components in the plan and what our opponents do.
Finally something about reinsurance in the East. Our actions in our near abroad will sooner or later trigger different actions in Europe and the US. It is therefore important that we don´t have any problems to handle in the Far East for the next ten years. Our relationship with China is crucial in this context.
For two reasons. By developing deeper economic relations with China, we can partly mitigate possible onsequences of economic actions from the West. It is one of the few options they have that they can use on short notice and that would have reasonably large political acceptance.
Russian support for China's foreign and security policy aspirations, for example concerning the Taiwan question and the territorial disputes with Japan, will very likely be welcomed in Beijing in its efforts to reduce US influence in Asia. In exchange, we would get a sympathetic Chinese neutrality. Increased tensions in Asia would also coincide with our wish to divert US attention and assets from Europe to Asia.
Conclusion and recommendation
If we act resolutely and are prepared to have a long term view Russia has a good chance of regaining its position as one of the leading players on the global arena.
We therefore recommend that this plan is implemented as soon as possible. Otherwise we will forever remain a second or third-tier country, or, in a worst case scenario, Russia will break up and cease to exist as a nation.
The "Alexander Nevsky" working Group
 Grigory Potemkin (1739-1791) conquered large parts of today's Ukraine to Russia. Founded, among others, the towns of Sevastopol and Kherson.
 Fyodor Apraxin, Russian Admiral (1661-1728), had a large part in the creation of the Russian naval forces in the Baltic Sea, captured Viborg in 1710 and led the ravages against the Swedish coast in 1719.
 , Russian general Boris Sheremetev (1652-1719), conquered Nöteborg and Nyenskans in 1704 (present location of St. Petersburg) and thereby laid the Foundation for Russia's presence in the Baltic Sea.
 Alexander Nevskij a Russian national hero and saint, who won the battle of Narva 1240. Stopped Swedish and German influence spreading into Russia. Married Batu Khans daughter (protected his back to the east, see last part of this plan)