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Medvedev Says Financial Crisis Will Not Harm Army Modernization

Medvedev tours the "St. George the Victorious"

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, Russia (Reuters) -- President Dmitry Medvedev has said that Russia's plans to modernize its armed forces will not be affected by financial crisis.

"Regardless of any crisis, we should build new submarines, should simply deal with the modernization of the armed forces," Medvedev told the crew of "St. George the Victor" nuclear submarine during a visit to its Pacific home base at Kamchatka Peninsula.

"Our country has means and resources for that," he said in comments showed on national television.

Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin, made the revival of the armed forces, neglected in the first post-Soviet decade, a symbol of Russia's resurgence and an additional argument in Moscow's assertive foreign policy.

Medvedev, who took office in May, faces a financial crisis and a confrontation with the West over Russia's invasion of Georgia in August.

The crisis has threatened the gains of an unprecedented economic boom overseen by Putin, now prime minister.

Military Budget To Grow

Medvedev has said the war in Georgia showed Russia needed to equip its army with more up-to-date weapons. Putin has said the military budget will grow by 28 percent next year.

As opposed to Putin, who has flown a supersonic jet, made a short underwater trip on a nuclear submarine, and appeared publicly in military uniform, Medvedev has previously stuck to a more civilian style during his visits to military installations.

On September 25, the 43-year-old former corporate lawyer known as a keen Internet user and a yoga fan appeared at the Vilyuchinsk navy base in a navy uniform.

Medvedev, accompanied by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and top brass, toured the submarine built in 1978 and armed with intercontinental missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and joined the crew for a tea party.

He told the sailors the government was committed to providing them with better social conditions, including housing.

"We are talking about tens of billions of roubles [billions of dollars]," Medvedev told the sailors. "I think we will finally solve the problem of proper housing for the military."

Medvedev said neither Western pressure, nor economic woes could affect Russia's commitment to have strong armed forces.

"As far as other global problems are concerned, we have a sustainable economy," he said. "We have enough material and intellectual resources not to depend on anyone."

RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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