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Russia To Spend $50 Billion Buying Arms In 2009

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia will spend nearly $50 billion in 2009 on buying weapons and hardware for its armed forces despite an economic crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on October 16.

President Dmitry Medvedev summoned Ivanov, who is responsible for the military-industrial complex, to demand that the defense sector be secured from the financial crisis raging in Russia.

"The military-industrial complex is starting to be affected by credit problems," Russian news agencies quoted Medvedev as telling Ivanov. "I believe we should support the defence sector first of all. We cannot allow a non-payment crisis here and we have the resources to do this," he added.

Ivanov reported that the 2009 defence order, due to be considered as part of the national budget by parliament on October 17, was 1,300 billion roubles ($49.32 billion).

No comparison with 2008 was available, but defense spending has been steadily growing in the past few years.

Russian leaders view strong armed forces as a symbol of the country's resurgence and an important instrument of its assertive foreign policy. The defence industry is also one of the few sectors where Russia is competitive internationally.

Russia's worsening relations with the West, which reached post-Cold War lows after Moscow's military intervention in Georgia in August, have added to the Kremlin's commitment to beef up national defence.

Medvedev has said Russia will spare no cash and efforts to modernise its armed forces. The defense ministry on October 14 unveiled plans for a radical military reform, which would enhance the battle-readiness of the armed forces.

He has specifically singled out the need to develop the strategic nuclear forces and navy. In a series of recent public statements, Medvedev has announced plans to build new nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

"This is one of the underfinanced sectors," Medvedev said, referring to military shipbuilding. "We should invest money there despite the global financial situation."