MOSCOW (IHT)–Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Tuesday that Russia would begin a "large-scale rearming" in 2011 in response to what he described as threats to the country’s security.
In a speech before generals in Moscow, Medvedev cited encroachment by NATO as a primary reason for bolstering the military, including nuclear forces.
The Russian President did not offer specifics on how much the budget would grow for the military, whose capabilities deteriorated significantly after the fall of Soviet Union.
Russia has increased military spending sharply in recent years, but with the financial crisis and the drop in the price of oil, the country’s finances are under pressure, suggesting that it would be hard to lift these expenditures further.
Even so, Medvedev’s timing was notable. He is expected to hold his first meeting with President Barack Obama in early April in London on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing countries.
In recent weeks, he has said he is looking forward to the meeting, and both he and Russia’s paramount leader, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, have been expressing some optimism about improving relations with the United States under the new administration.
Medvedev’s commen’s Tuesday, though, indicated that Kremlin did not want the United States and its NATO allies to presume that Russia was coming to the table from a position of weakness.
"An analysis of the military-political situation in the world shows that there are a range of regions where there remain serious potential for conflicts," Medvedev said. "Threats remain that can bring about local crises and international terrorism. NATO is not halting its efforts to widen its military infrastructure near the borders of our country. All of this deman’s a quality modernization of our armed forces."
Medvedev emphasized that Russia would not be deterred in this plan by the financial crisis.
His announcement comes as the Kremlin has already begun an effort to overhaul the operations of the armed forces, which are still run largely according to Soviet-style dictates.
While Russia’s far larger military easily triumphed over Georgia’s in the conflict in August, the fighting exposed what many experts described as flaws in training, weapons and equipment.