March 17, 2009

Russian president orders military rearmament

Tony Halpin, Moscow

President Medvedev ordered a major military rearmament today, warning that Russia faced the risk of "significant conflict".

In a stark assessment, Mr Medvedev said that Nato was still intent on expanding closer to Russia's borders and told military chiefs to raise the combat readiness of the country's armed forces.

NATO expansion remains the most significant matter blocking US-Russia relations, says Stephen Cohen a professor of Russian Studies at New York University, who believes there is a lot of dogma in the US about Russia.CLICK TO WATCH

Russia's Defence Minister also lashed out at the United States, accusing it of plotting to take control of energy and mineral resources in states bordering Russia.

Mr Medvedev called for modernisation of Russia's nuclear forces and said that "large-scale rearmament" of the army and navy would commence in 2011.

"Analysis of the military-political situation in the world shows that serious conflict potential remains in some regions.... attempts to expand the military infrastructure of Nato near the borders of our country are continuing," he told Defence Ministry officials.

"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 hawkish tone of the remarks came despite recent improvements in relations between Russia and Nato, and attempts by President Obama to ease tensions with the United States over missile defence in eastern Europe that built up under his predecessor George W. Bush. They also coincided with Gordon Brown's most progressive speech yet on nuclear disarmament, in which the Prime Minister called for a "forward plan" to be agreed by nuclear and non-nuclear states.

Anatoly Serdyukov, the Defence Minister, told the same meeting that the US was attempting to gain gain control of oil and gas resources in Russia's former Soviet neighbours in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Mr Serdyukov warned that "the likelihood of armed conflicts and their potential danger for our state are rising" as America sought to expand its influence around Russia's borders and push Moscow out.

"The military-political situation has been characterised by the US leadership's desire to attain global leadership and expand the United States' and their allies' military presence in regions adjacent to Russia," he said.

"America's aspirations have been aimed at getting access to mineral, energy, and other resources of CIS countries, and it has actively supported processes aimed at ousting Russia from the area of its traditional interests."

Mr Serdyukov admitted, however, that most of Russia's weaponry was "old and obsolete". Modern equipment acccounted for only 10 per cent of the army's existing arsenal.

Mr Medvedev ordered an increase in military exercises to improve combat readiness and told army chiefs that "no expense should be spared for that" despite the economic crisis sweeping through Russia.

The conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia last August had exposed weaknesses in Russia's weaponry and communications systems that had to be rectified quickly.

Mr Medvedev has stationed more than 7,000 troops in South Ossetia and Georgia's other breakaway region of Abkhazia. He recognised them as independent after the war, a move condemned by Nato, the US and the European Union.

The previous Republican administration under President Bush pushed hard for Nato to offer Membership Action Plans to Georgia and Ukraine, a move fiercely opposed by Moscow. Mr Obama has given no indication so far that he is as enthusiastic about Nato expansion.

He held out the prospect of a deal with the Kremlin over missile defence earlier this month in return for help with preventing Iran developing a nuclear bomb.

Mr Obama wrote to his Russian counterpart, saying that the plan to base interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic would be unnecessary if the nuclear threat from Iran was removed.

Mr Medvedev insisted that he would not engage in any "trade-off" but appeared encouraged at the time by what he described as the new signals coming from Washington. The initiative came shortly after Joe Biden, the US Vice-President, declared that the US wanted to press the "reset" button on relations with Russia.

NATO expansion requires Russia Army modernisation - Medvedev

17.03.2009, 12.40

MOSCOW, March 17 (Itar-Tass) - The enlarged meeting of the Defence Ministry leadership is held in Moscow for the first time with the participation of President Dmitry Medvedev, Itar-Tass learnt from chief of the public relations service of the Defence Ministry Alexander Drobyshevsky.

The agenda includes results of last year’s work, tasks for the present as well as the use of information and telecom technologies in military affairs.

The focal point of the discussion is the transfer of the Armed Forces to a new outlook, which started in 2008. In this connection, chief of the Russian General Staff, General of the Army Nikolai Makarov said earlier that while preparing the reform, the leadership “examined in detail the military and political situation and trends for its development, singled out threats for Russia which can emerge in foreseeable future”.

“The analysis of the military-political situation in the world has shown that a serious conflict potential remains in a number of regions, threats are persisting that cause both local conflicts and international terrorism, and the attempts at the enlargement of the NATO military infrastructure near the Russian borders are not stopping,” the president Medvedev stated.

“All this requires the quality modernisation of our Armed Forces and acquisition of a new advanced appearance by them,” believes Medvedev. “Despite the current financial difficulties, there are all the conditions for this today,” the president noted.

Medvedev stated that enhancement of the combat readiness of the troops, first of all of the strategic nuclear forces and advanced weaponry supply are the main tasks of the state.

According to Makarov, the main aim of the transfer of the Russian army to a new outlook is to form by 2015 modern, mobile, well trained Armed Forces, equipped with the latest samples of arms and military materiel; Armed Forces, capable of responding adequately to all possible threats. He noted that the reform had been perceived long enough, and the conflict with Georgia “was a catalyst which accelerated the adoption of the decision”.

It was announced last autumn of the start to form a new outlook of the Russian army. It provides for switching the military structure from the four echelon system of control (military district-army-division-regiment) to a three-echelon system (district-operational command-brigade), reshuffling of bodies of the central military administration, including the Defence Ministry and the General Staff, reduction of the commissioned officers component, abolition of the institute of non-commissioned officers and formation of a rapid response grouping.

Some military units and higher educational establishments will be disbanded during the reform.

Massive rearming of the Russian Armed Forces and the Navy will be started in 2011.

By 1012, it is planned to slash the Armed Forces from 1.13 million to one million servicemen, the central office of the ministry – to 8,500 people and the number of commissioned officers’ posts in the army and navy – from the present 355,000 to 150,000.

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