President Dmitry Medvedev said today that Russia planned to boost its conventionally armed and nuclear forces to counter a growing threat from Nato, raising the spectre of a military confrontation between Moscow and the west.
In a hawkish speech to Russia’s top generals, Medvedev said Russia intended to upgrade its army and navy from 2011. Russia would also overhaul its strategic nuclear forces in an effort to guarantee the country’s “security”, he said.
The modernisation was necessary because of the danger posed by the west’s transatlantic military alliance, he said. “Attempts to expand the military infrastructure of Nato near the borders of our country are continuing.”
Medvedev’s remarks come two weeks before his first meeting with President Barack Obama, at the G20 summit in London on 2 April. The Obama administration has said it wants to “reset” its troubled relations with Moscow – but has so far received mixed signals from the Kremlin.
Russia has offered to assist the US in the transport of non-military supplies to Afghanistan. At the same time, however, Moscow agreed a backroom deal last month with Kyrgyzstan which is likely to lead to the closure of the US’s key military base in central Asia.
At issue is what Moscow regards as the west’s creeping encroachment into Russia’s backyard. Russia vehemently objects to Nato membership for Georgia and Ukraine, and is also bitterly opposed to the deployment of the US’s proposed missile defence shield in central Europe – currently under review.
Today, Russia’s defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, said the world situation meant the “likelihood of armed conflicts and their potential danger for Russia” was rising. “The military-political situation is characterised by the US leadership’s desire … to expand its military presence and that of its allies in regions adjacent to Russia,” he declared.
America was actively trying to steal energy and mineral resources in central Asia and other post-Soviet countries on Russia’s borders, he complained, adding that the US was “actively supporting processes aimed at ousting Russia from the area of its traditional interests”.
Medvedev said today that Russia’s security council was drawing up a new national security strategy for the period up to 2020. The strategy is likely to identify the main threat to Russia as western military expansion and the growing struggle for energy resources, analysts suggest. The old strategy identified the biggest challenge as terrorism.
“The primary task is to increase the combat readiness of our forces. First of all, our strategic nuclear forces,” Medvedev said. “They must be able to fulfil all the necessary tasks to ensure Russia’s security.”
Medvedev also said another task on Russia’s agenda was to transfer all combat units to a state of “permanent readiness”.