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Friday, February 09, 2007

The Bush legacy: Russia increasing its nuclear arsenal

Posted by: Hammer / 9:39 AM

Four years after agreeing to steep reductions in its nuclear arsenal, Russia is now announcing an expansion in its ballistic missile program:

Russia's hawkish defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, revealed an ambitious plan for a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and possibly a fleet of aircraft carriers. Moscow also intended to revamp its early warning radar system. This major overhaul of Russia's military infrastructure would cost $189bn (£97bn) over eight years, he said, adding that he wanted to exceed the Soviet army in "combat readiness".

...In his speech to Russia's parliament, Mr Ivanov announced that the military would get 17 ballistic missiles this year, compared with an average of four in recent years. The plan envisages the deployment of 34 new silo-based Topol-M missiles and control units, as well as another 50 such missiles mounted on mobile launchers by 2015, he said. Russia has already deployed more than 40 silo-based Topol-Ms.

...The modernisation of the armed forces has been made possible by Russia's spectacular economic resurgence based on oil and gas revenues. After the Soviet Union's demise, Russia's vast military economy collapsed. The squeeze continued in the 1990s, but since 2000 spending has gone up, with this year's budget of $31bn almost four times the amount spent in 2001.

Russian defence analysts point out, however, that defence spending is still well below that of the mid-1980s Soviet Union, and only a 20th of the US's current military budget.

Russian defense spending is up greatly over the last 5 years. This doesn't mean we need to spend more. To the contrary, we ought to spend less. At $6 billion a week for the occupation of Iraq, we spend more on our military in Iraq in a long month than Russia spends on its entire military for the year.

Even more, we are provoking increased Russian military spending and (in part) providing the capital for the expansion. We provoke Russian spending primarily by installing anti-ballistic missile defenses on Russia's front lawn. We provide the capital with our enormous appetite for oil and gas. We don't buy much directly from Russia, but American consumption drives world prices. High energy prices allow Russia to build more nuclear weapons to point at American cities.

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