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Moscow Times
February 8, 2007
Military to Get $189Bln Overhaul
By Simon Saradzhyan
Staff Writer

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov unveiled an ambitious spending plan Wednesday allowing Russia to maintain its nuclear deterrent while developing its conventional forces.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers and an early warning radar system will figure prominently in the Defense Ministry's eight-year, $189 billion plan, Ivanov said in comments before the State Duma.

The plan also makes it easier for the military to launch rockets into space from Russian territory, said the defense minister, who is considered a leading contender for president in 2008.

Ivanov boasted that the spending plan he outlined Wednesday gives the country the capacity to fight "wars of the future," Interfax reported.

Indeed, nearly half -- 45 percent -- of military hardware now being used would be replaced in the course of the 2007-2015 procurement program.

This year alone will see $11.3 billion spent on new arms.

The modernization of the armed forces reflects Russia's economic resurgence over the past several years: This year's defense budget of $31 billion marks a nearly fourfold increase from the $8 billion spent in 2001.

Ivan Safranchuk of the Center for Defense Information called the build-up evidence that Russia seeks to "expand its military-political influence across the globe."

In a further sign of the country's assertiveness, Ivanov also said Russia retained the right to launch a pre-emptive, conventional strike, and he ruled out any personnel cuts.

The military now has 1.1 million soldiers. Ivanov confirmed Wednesday that the fraction of professional, or volunteer, soldiers would continue to grow.

In the coming years, military planners are looking to replace military-command districts with regional districts.

Turning to the early-warning system, the defense minister said Russia would build "cheaper and more efficient" radar stations than those constructed during the Soviet era.

The new stations, which are to be built on Russian territory, are meant to fill in holes in the military's warning capabilities -- created by the 1991 Soviet collapse -- and to decrease dependence on former Soviet republics.

Russia's nuclear defense relies on data from early warning radar stations not only in Russia but also Belarus, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The defense system also includes a fleet of satellites, but there are said to be too few to keep an eye on the whole world.

In 2007, Ivanov said, the armed forces will acquire four satellites and four "launch vehicles."

In keeping with Russia's move to be more independent, the plan envisions building launch pads for the Soyuz-2 and Angara rockets at the Plesetsk station in the Arkhangelsk region. For now, Russia launches its so-called heavy satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Russia rents the cosmodrome from the authorities in Astana, Kazakhstan.

And the military will continue spending nearly $38 million yearly on a new base for its Black Sea fleet, now based in Ukraine's Crimea in accordance with an agreement that expires in 2017.

Procurement of intercontinental ballistic missiles will jump markedly in the coming years: In 2007, 17 ICBM's will be bought, compared to no more than 10 in previous years.

Russia will also continue operating 50 long-range Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers, Ivanov said. And the country will buy Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missiles. A series of launch test failures had delayed purchase of the SLBM's and a new generation of atomic submarines.

While the procurement plan is not enough to replace all the obsolete nuclear missiles in the next five years, Safranchuk said, it "would still allow the country to maintain its strategic military capability at an acceptable level."

Between 2012 and 2015, Russia must decommission almost all of its Soviet-built ICBM's, given that the missiles' service lives will have expired.

In the arena of conventional, or non-nuclear, forces, Russia plans to buy 31 ships, including aircraft carriers. Also, additional arms will be bought for tank, infantry and airborne battalions.