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Putin announces withdrawal from Cuban and Vietnamese bases
Source: Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1300 gmt 17 Oct 01

[Presenter] Today Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting at the Ministry of Defence on ways of raising the country's defence capability. The Russian president said it was important now to increase the financing of the army, above all the remuneration of servicemen. To this end, it was necessary to abandon less important spending and to close certain military bases abroad. Our correspondent Petr Ravnov, who is in the Rossiya studio, is now on the line to "Vesti". Hello, Petr. How did the president's unscheduled meeting on national security start?

[Correspondent, reporting live] Hello, Mariya. Well, first and foremost, you were right to point out that this was an unscheduled meeting. When journalists asked why the unscheduled meeting with the country's top generals was being held, Vladimir Putin himself answered the question at the start of his remarks at the Defence Ministry. Vladimir Putin noted that some changes, connected with funding of the Russian armed forces, had to be made to the 2002 budget before it was adopted. Furthermore, the president also noted that the situation in the world was so complex and was changing so quickly that some changes had to be made to the concept of all military doctrine and to reform of the armed forces. In this connection Vladimir Putin said the following:

[Putin, addressing military chiefs and ministers] The world situation, as you know, is changing very rapidly.

Standing up collectively to international terrorism has considerable military implications. Nothing further need be said here about it, as you will all know what I mean.

This all compels us to look anew at the progress of the military reform, the technical condition of our forces, and the very military organization of our state alike.

[Correspondent] The military should be reformed, the president said, not through a quantitative increase in the armed forces, but through quality, through new types of armaments, through those factors which actually do raise the effectiveness of the armed forces.

In addition to that, the president also noted that the social aspect of military reform had to be considered from the point of view of those people who really bear the entire burden of military reform. The president spoke of increasing the remuneration of servicemen.

Furthermore, in order to determine the main directions of reform, some matters connected with the concept of funding the armed forces needed to be reviewed. Secondary areas of expenditure, superfluous expenditure needed to be abandoned. When he addressed the [Defence Ministry] collegium, Defence Minister [Sergey] Ivanov said that last year 70,000 posts had been cut at the ministry - in the Russian armed forces as a whole.

But President Vladimir Putin noted that, despite the need for reform, one needed to make sure that the armed forces' combat readiness was not impaired. Otherwise, the army simply will not be able to carry its function of guaranteeing the state's security. Here is what Vladimir Putin said on this.

[Putin] We must not allow a further reduction in the level of operational and combat training. Otherwise the army may turn into a military school where the soldiers know very well how to fight, but can't fight. The most obvious example, one that you are well aware of, is the fact that the average flying hours of pilots and the average time spent at sea by sailors are now no more than 10 per cent of the necessary total. Our task, in this sense the state's task, is to fundamentally change the situation where this is concerned.

[Presenter] But, Petr, most importantly, where is the money going to come from? What sources of funding is the head of state proposing?

[Correspondent] Quite right. This is probably why [Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister] Aleksey Kudrin and Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov attended the meeting. The meeting did actually discuss where the money for these essential reforms which the president spoke about was to come from. After all, it is no secret that new technologies and new types of armaments are very expensive and Russia does not have sufficient financial resources at the moment. Therefore, the president made what is, I think, a very important announcement. He said Russia intended to reduce its military presence abroad. International cooperation with certain countries, ones like Vietnam and Cuba, would continue. Contacts would, of course, remain at a good level. But Russia would be withdrawing, reducing its presence, closing its bases at Cam Ranh in Vietnam and its radar station at Lourdes on Cuba.

[Putin] It has been decided to withdraw the military contingent from the Cam Ranh base in Vietnam. We will start implementing this decision on 1 January next year. In addition, after a profound and comprehensive analysis of the situation and lengthy talks with our Cuban partners, it has been deemed expedient to withdraw the radioelectronic centre from Cuba. The president of Cuba's Council of State [Fidel Castro] has been informed of this. I wish to stress straightaway that, of course, these decisions do not in any way signify a reduction in the level of our cooperation with these countries.

[Correspondent] Thank you, Petr. That was a live report for "Vesti" by our correspondent Petr Ravnov.

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