Vladimir Putin took Russia a step closer to full-blown conflict with the west on Friday, putting his presidential stamp on a new update of Russia's official military doctrine naming NATO and the United States as the top threats to Russia's security.
While it comes as no surprise to observers of Putin's new, heavily militarized direction for Russia that he considers NATO and the U.S. serious threats to his country, the new military doctrine now makes direct opposition to those two powers the official, written policy of the Russian military.
The new doctrine enacted by Putin names the expansion of NATO, which Putin fears is "surrounding" Russia, as well as the new U.S. Prompt Global Strike program as primary threats to Russia. Though critics noted that his fears of NATO may be blown out of proportion.
Putin says NATO is "surrounding" Russia: of Russia's 20,241 km of land border, 1,215 km -- 6 % -- is with NATO countries, only in north-westNonetheless, the new doctrine signed by Putin accuses NATO of "violations of international law," a serious and inflammatory charge.
— Michael MacKay (@mhmck) December 27, 2014
The U.S. Prompt Global Strike initiative aims to give the U.S. the ability to launch an attack with conventional weapons with just one hour's notice, a capability that so far is limited to the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.
But the United States is now developing "hypersonic" non-nuclear missiles, which defense experts say could wipe out potential threats such as North Korean nuclear weapons, before an attack on U.S. interests could be unleashed.
But Putin and the Russian military see the Prompt Global Strike program as a new weapons capability designed to give the U.S. the ability to launch an attack on Russia before the Russian military can respond.
NATO officials, not surprisingly, responded to the new Russia military doctrine by denying that NATO has any intentions to attack Russia and potentially unleash World War 3.
"NATO poses no threat to Russia or to any nation," one official told the Voice of American radio network. "Any steps taken by NATO to ensure the security of its members are clearly defensive in nature, proportionate and in compliance with international law. In fact, it is Russia's actions, including currently in Ukraine, which are breaking international law and undermining European security."
But the Russian military doctrine also specifies that Russia's military is purely "defensive" in nature, and over the objections of some top Russian generals, rules out the possibility of Russia launching a nuclear first strike.
At the same time, the new Vladimir Putin doctrine directs the Russian military to adopt a policy of "non-nuclear deterrence," which according to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS means that the Russian military will remain in a "high degree of combat alert."