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Moscow announces buildup of nuclear deterrent

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-12-10

Dmitry Medvedev has announced that Russia intends to build a space defence system and a new fleet of nuclear submarines by 2020, gearing up its nuclear deterrent at a time of heightened tensions with Washington.


Russia said on Friday it would build a space defence system and a new fleet of nuclear submarines by 2020, beefing up its nuclear deterrent at a time of heightened tensions with Washington.


Announcing the biggest defence initiative in Russia for at least a decade, President Dmitry Medvedev said this summer's war with Georgia -- which opened up new rifts between Moscow and the West -- showed the need for Russia to have a strong military.


The plan for a stronger deterrent also comes against the backdrop of fierce Russian opposition to the United States' plans for a missile defence shield in eastern Europe, a project the Kremlin says is a threat to its national security.


"A guaranteed nuclear deterrent system for various military and political circumstances must be provided by 2020," Medvedev said after viewing a military exercise in the southern Urals.


"Large-scale construction of new types of warships is planned, primarily of nuclear submarines armed with cruise missiles, and multi-purpose submarines. A system of air and space defence will be created," said Medvedev.


Medvedev was speaking at what one military commander said were Russia's largest combined arms live fire exercises in 20 years.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an ardent foe of Washington who has aligned himself with Moscow, met Medvedev 75 km (45 miles) from the site of the exercises earlier on Friday.


"Just recently we have had to rebuff an aggression unleashed by the Georgian regime and, as we found, a war can flare up suddenly and can be absolutely real," Medvedev said.

Georgia rifts

Russia launched a massive counter-attack to crush an attempt by Georgian forces to retake the separatist region of South Ossetia. Moscow said it had to act to prevent a genocide, but Western states said its response was disproportionate.


The conflict over Georgia worsened tensions with the United States that had been building since Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy and Medvedev's predecessor, came to power in 2000 and began re-asserting Russia's status as a world power.


In the past month Russia has sent two TU-160 nuclear-capable bombers on a mission to Venezuela and a naval flotilla is on its way to the Latin American country for joint exercises in November, the first such manoeuvres since the Cold War.


Russia's military endured years of under-funding following the collapse of the Soviet Union, with its warships and aircraft sitting idle for long periods because of a lack of cash for fuel and spare parts.


Analysts say the nuclear deterrent did not suffer the same neglect and remains effective, making Russia dependent on its nuclear forces to compensate for the shortcomings in its conventional capabilities.


The Kremlin, now sitting on a large cash pile after several years of high prices for its main exports, oil and gas, has already injected large sums into reviving the military.


Putin, who is now a powerful Russian prime minister, announced earlier this month that nearly $95 billion will be allocated to defence and security in 2009.


That is a 27 percent increase on the previous year, but still a fraction of total U.S. defence spending, which this year was more than $600 billion.


Russia has already been spending heavily on enhancing its nuclear deterrent. The Topol-M, a new land-based mobile nuclear rocket, has entered service and the Bulava submarine-launched missile is in development.


Date created : 2008-09-26