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Russia Says It Will Bolster Forces In 'Strategic' Areas

  • RFE/RL

Russian Defense minister Sergei Shoigu said that "the task set by the president -- to prevent military superiority over Russia -- will be fulfilled unconditionally."

Russian Defense minister Sergei Shoigu said that "the task set by the president -- to prevent military superiority over Russia -- will be fulfilled unconditionally."

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Russia will strengthen its forces in "strategic areas" as part of efforts to ensure no other country can dominate it.

Shoigi made the remarks at a meeting with the Defense Ministry board on January 30.

He said that "the task set by the president -- to prevent military superiority over Russia -- will be fulfilled unconditionally."

Shoigu said that Russia plans to "strengthen our troops and forces in strategic areas" in response to the "military-political situation" near its borders.

Russia must focus "on developing the quality of the strategic nuclear forces, on increasing military staff and the capabilities of the army and navy, and also on developing new types of armed forces, namely aerospace," he said.

Russia's ties with the West are severely strained over the conflict in Ukraine, where NATO and Kyiv say Moscow has sent troops and weapons to help separatists fight government forces.

President Vladimir Putin portrays Russia as a country under constant threat from the West. He said this week that Ukrainian troops were acting as a "foreign NATO legion," an assertion dismissed as "nonsense" by the head of the alliance.

The chief of the armed forces General Staff said that despite economic problems facing Russia, the military would receive 50 new long-range nuclear missiles this year.

General Valery Gerasimov said a strong nuclear arsenal and improvements in conventional forces would prevent it from becoming vulnerable to the West.

"Support for our strategic nuclear forces to ensure their high military capability combined with...growth of the military potential of the general forces will assure that [the United States and NATO] do not gain military superiority over our country," Gerasimov said.

Russian officials have said expenditures through 2020 under a 20 trillion ruble ($287 billion) military modernization plan conceived by Putin will not be reduced despite a growing economic crisis that has cut the budgets of other ministries.

"We plan to fulfil the government armament program and reach by 2020 the intended quantities of modern weapons systems," Shoigu said at the meeting.

The ruble has lost half its value in a year and Russia's economy is forecast to shrink this year for the first time since 2009, in part due to falling world prices for its key export, oil, and the effects of Western sanctions over its interference in Ukraine.

Gerasimov said that "Western countries are actively using new forms of aggression, combining military as well as nonmilitary means. Political, economic and information methods are also being used."

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and TASS
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