As of December 16th, Dmitri Medvedev has the right as Russia’s president, without the consent of parliament’s upper chamber, to use his military abroad and initiate conflict.
In protecting Russians on foreign soil or combating piracy on the high seas, Medvedev may give the orders for engagement without hesitation.
The lower house or state Duma substantially widened the reasons for giving the president such powers in pursuing military conflict abroad. Prior to these changes Russian troops were only to be used for defensive purposes or as designated in international agreements.
Now the decision can be based on an attack against a Russian unit abroad, the repelling of military force against another country, the protection of Russian citizens, the fight against piracy and the maintenance of safe sea routes.
The legislation outlines the procedure for a decision to be made for Russian military operations abroad – basically to be made in tandem with the council of the Federation. However, no mention is made of the timeline when the president must get agreement from the council.
It is thought that this was deliberately left open after Russia’s attack against Georgia, when Medvedev gave orders for the use of troops without consulting the federation council and thus violating the law of the time.
Taking advantage of the seemingly indeterminate situation Medvedev forwarded his proposal to the council which stated that the president has a right to order military operations “to defend the rights of the Russian Federation and its citizens and to guarantee peace and security in the world.” It is quite an extraordinarily broad and inclusive mandate for single individual to have.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant quoted a source who said that Medvedev actually wanted to the right to go to war without ever having to consult the Federation council. This would be the ability to operatively find solutions to problems such as piracy. But the newspaper Vedomosti, quoting a defense ministry source, stressed that the primary reasons for obtaining such powers is to provide rapid protection for Russian citizens on foreign soil. Estonia has been previously mentioned as a likely location for this protection.
Legal expert Mihhail Krasnov has said that these presidential powers are in direct violation of the Russian constitution. One of the authors of the constitution, Viktor Seinis, stated that by giving the president this new right the council is making a blatant political decision that is not allowed by the constitution. Even one of the leaders of the Communist party, Viktor Iljuhin, said that such a decision would be unconstitutional.
But observers have indicated that Medvedev will get his way in spite of the illegality of the decision.
Russian president has individual power to start war (1)