Russia needs to modernise its military hardware to protect it from foreign attempts to grab its resources, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said today. While Putin didn’t name any specific nation eyeing Russian mineral riches, in the past he has repeatedly accused the United States of trying to weaken Russia in order to sideline a rival.
‘We mustn’t tempt anyone with our weakness,’ Putin wrote in the government daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta in an article intended to burnish his image as a strong leader before a presidential election on March 4.
He said the government plans to spend around 23 trillion roubles ($768.46billion) over a decade to modernise its armed forces.
It will purchase more than 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 600 combat aircraft, dozens of submarines and other navy vessels and thousands of armoured vehicles.
‘New regional and local wars are being sparked before our very eyes,’ Putin wrote.
‘There are attempts to provoke such conflicts in the immediate vicinity of the borders of Russia and our allies.’
Putin gave no details of specific threats but said Russia needed to develop weapons that were better than those of any potential enemy and called for making Russia’s armed forces more professional and versatile.
Russia’s once-mighty armed forces underwent a decade of spending cuts after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, although Putin tried during his 2000-08 presidency to slow the decline. The military now has about one million personnel.
He said that Russia will respond to the planned U.S. missile defense by developing weapons capable of penetrating it.
Putin has dismissed the U.S. claim that the prospective shield is intended to counter the Iranian missile threat, saying that its real goal is to erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
Putin said Russia also needs to look 30 to 50 years ahead to foresee threats posed by prospective new weapons technologies.
While a nuclear conflict looks unlikely, scientific progress leads to the emergence of new weapons that could change the character of war, Putin said.
He specifically referred to precision long-range non-nuclear weapons, saying they emerge as key instrument of modern warfare.
While Putin on Monday stopped short of naming any nation developing the technology, Russia has long voiced concern with U.S. plans to re-equip some of its long-range nuclear missiles with conventional warheads.
Experts have warned that the obsolete equipment and aging workforce at Russian defense plants put a challenge to the ambitious weapons modernisation programme.
Putin said the government would need to focus on modernising weapons-making plants, promising to encourage private investments in arms production.