Russia to rearm nuclear arsenal

RUSSIAN President Dmitry Medvedev last night ordered a large-scale Russian rearmament – including its nuclear arsenal – from 2011.

Mr Medvedev said Russia’s forces needed to be modernised to respond to international terrorism and NATO expansion.

Speaking before a meeting with defence chiefs, Mr Medvedev said a modern military “is a guarantee of our protection from any potential threat or attempts to put pressure on our nation”. 

“From 2011, a large-scale rearmament of the army and navy will begin,” he said in Moscow.

Russia has nearly quadrupled its defence spending in recent years, aiming to resuscitate the military forces that deteriorated in the post-Soviet period.

But problems remain, and Mr Medvedev said that last year’s war with Georgia — vastly outnumbered by Moscow but competitively rearmed by Washington — had “revealed our flaws”, despite Russia’s crushing victory.

He called for a renewal of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and added that NATO was pursuing expansion near Russia’s borders.

“Analysis of the military-political situation in the world shows that a serious conflict potential remains in some regions,” Mr Medvedev said.

He listed local crises and international terrorism as persistent security threats and also stated: “Attempts to expand the military infrastructure of NATO near the borders of our country are continuing. The primary task is to increase the combat readiness of our forces, first of all our strategic nuclear forces. They must be able to fulfil all tasks necessary to ensure Russia’s security.”

The comments came despite statements by the Russian leadership suggesting a thaw in relations with the US following the end of the George W. Bush administration and the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Some analysts have detected a softening of US support for NATO enlargement to ex-Soviet countries on Russia’s borders, such as Georgia and Ukraine.

The Obama administration has said it is weighing up what to do about a Bush-era project to build missile facilities in eastern Europe that has angered Moscow.

A bipartisan US commission recommended in a report yesterday that Mr Obama stop encouraging Georgia and Ukraine’s bids to join NATO in order to improve relations with Moscow.

Led by former senators Gary Hart, a Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, a Republican, the commission made 19 recommendations, taking aim at NATO’s expansion.

“Accept that neither Ukraine nor Georgia is ready for NATO membership and work closely with US allies to develop options other than NATO membership to demonstrate a commitment to their sovereignty,” it says.

While arguing that it was necessary to resist Russian efforts to re-establish the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union, the report urges the administration to “take a new look at missile-defence deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic”.

Russia, one of a handful of nuclear-armed states, is attempting to slim down and improve its military, which numbers about one million personnel.

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