Circling the Lion's Den

Security Council of the Russian Federation

Official site

Secretary - Nikolai Patrushev (appointed 12.05.2008)

The Security Council of the Russian Federation is a consultative body of the Russian President that works out the President's decisions on national security affairs. Composed of key ministers and agency heads and chaired by the President of Russia, the Council was established to be a forum for coordinating and integrating national security policy by the President decree on June 03, 1992 No. 547 "for provision of Russian Federation Presidents functions on the state administration, on formation of internal, external and military policy in the sphere of security, on reservation of State Russian sovereignty, on maintenance of social and political stability in the society, on protection of citizens rights and liberties".

Since 1993 its membership has varied, at the discretion of the president, from seven officials in 1996 to more than twenty-five since 2000, when it included the prime minister and the heads of the "power ministries" (defense, foreign affairs, interior, emergencies, Federal Border Service, and Federal Security Service) plus the justice minister, the procurator-general, the heads of the two houses of parliament, and the governors of the seven federal districts created by President Vladimir Putin.

After its statutory establishment, the Security Council became part of Yeltsin's presidential apparatus. To distinguish his Security Council from earlier councils, Yeltsin presented the new body as an open organization that would obey the constitution and other laws and would work closely with executive and legislative bodies. He said the new council was based partly on that of the United States National Security Council. By statute, the Security Council is a consultative rather than decision-making body. It has the authority to prepare decisions for the president on military policy, protection of civil rights, internal and external security, and foreign policy issues, and it has the power to conduct basic research, long-range planning, and coordination of other executive-branch efforts in the foreign policy realm.

The Security Council draws up crucial documents defining conceptual approaches to national security. Regular meetings of the Security Council are held according to a schedule set by the Chairman (the President of Russia); if necessary, the Council can hold extraordinary meetings. The Chairman defines the agenda and order of the day based on recommendations by the Secretary of the Security Council. The Chairman presides over meetings, while the Secretary holds working meetings with Council members on a regular basis.

Back in 1992 the Security Council was supervised by State Secretary Gennady Burbulis, and its first secretary was the industrialist Yuri Skokov. It was seen as a conservative counter-balance to the liberal foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev. By mid-90s it apparently lost influence in competition with other power centers in the presidential administration. However, the June 1996 appointment of former army general and presidential candidate Alexander Lebed to head the Security Council improved prospects for the organization's standing. In July 1996, a presidential decree assigned the Security Council a wide variety of new missions. The decree's description of the Security Council's consultative functions was especially vague and wide-ranging, although it positioned the head of the Security Council directly subordinate to the president.

Under Putin, the Security Council was turned into a pure advisary body staffed by former KGB and FSB generals. The new National Security Concept drawn up by the council in 2000 stressed internal threats, such as Chechen terrorism, over traditional security concerns, such as nuclear deterrence.

In 2008 the new Russian president Dmitry Medvedev approved the new composition of the Security Council. According to his decision, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov, head of the presidential administration Sergei Naryshkin, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Foreign Intelligence Service Director Mikhail Fradkov were appointed as the Security Council's permanent members. Former FSB director Nikolai Patrushev was appointed the secretary of the Council.

On February 9, 2010 Nikolai Patrushev declared that NATO continues to pose a serious threat to Russia, not least because of its desire to expand closer to Russia's borders. "We have grave doubts [that Russia will be more secure due to NATO expansion]," the Russian Security Council secretary said at a news conference in RIA Novosti. "NATO represents a rather serious threat to us."

On May 12, 2009 Medvedev signed a decree approving the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2020 (NSS). The NSS replaced the National Security Concepts of 1997 (Yeltsin) and 2000 (Putin). The document took a wide view of security and included chapters on developments in international security, national interests, priorities and threats, ensuring national security in the field of military security and defence, social security, the welfare of citizens, the economy, science-technology-education, health care, culture, and the environment. As to threats, Medvedevs strategy pointed out the policy of a number of leading countries, which seek military supremacy by building up nuclear, as well as conventional, strategic arms, unilaterally developing anti-ballistic missile defences and militarizing space, which may trigger a new arms race. Another threat is NATOs expansion near Russias borders and attempts to grant the military alliance a global role. Non-compliance with international arms control agreements represents another threat. Energy security was now also brought in as a threat, backed by the claim that competition for energy resources might create tension, which could escalate into the use of military force near Russian borders and those of its allies.