Russian Moves Show Military Ambitions
y GRAHAM BOWLEY
and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
Published: September 27, 2008
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stepped up efforts to project its increased might on the world stage on Friday, welcoming President Hugo Chávez
by signing a $1 billion military loan to Venezuela and announcing wide-ranging plans to modernize its nuclear deterrence.
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President Hugo Chávez, holding a replica Russian Tu-160 long-range
bomber, and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin in Orenburg, Russia, on
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The Russian Navy also
dispatched a warship to the Indian Ocean to try to intercept a
Ukrainian vessel carrying 30 battle tanks that was seized by pirates,
as the United States also sent a warship in hot pursuit.
After a military exercise in the southern city of Orenburg, near the border with Kazakhstan, the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev
declared that by 2020 Russia would construct new types of warships,
including nuclear submarines carrying cruise missiles, and an
unspecified space defense system.
"A guaranteed nuclear deterrent
system for various military and political circumstances must be
provided by 2020," Mr. Medvedev said, in comments reported by Reuters.
construction of new types of warships is planned, primarily of nuclear
submarines armed with cruise missiles, and multi-purpose submarines,"
he was quoted as saying. “A system of air and space defense will be
Russia, irritated by Western recognition of Kosovo’s independence, NATO
expansion into the former Soviet realm, and the United States’
insistence on establishing a missile defense system in eastern Europe,
has become increasingly keen to project its military might, defiantly
ignoring American and European warnings when it sent troops into
Georgia last month.
In a sign of increasing antagonism, Russia
has withheld some cooperation with other Western countries on
international efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The Russian government said Tuesday that it would boycott a meeting that had been scheduled at the United Nations
for Thursday to discuss a fourth round of sanctions to force Iran to
give up what many countries think is a program to develop nuclear
weapons. The session was to have included the five permanent members of
the Security Council and Germany.
The Russian announcement was viewed by many diplomats as retribution for a tough speech that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
delivered last week in which she denounced Russia’s behavior in the Georgian crisis.
Friday, Russia and the United States agreed to seek a new United
Nations resolution calling on Iran to comply with earlier demands to
suspend uranium enrichment — a sign that the two countries at least
were talking, but the statement only reiterated previous positions, The
Associated Press reported.British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said
the brief resolution will affirm the three previous ones, which imposed
progressively tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its
enrichment program and urged Tehran to comply, The A.P. reported.
Emboldened by lucrative oil revenues, and the United States’
distractions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia has also said it wants to
build alliances to stand up to American power in the world, and has
sought closer relations with Mr. Chávez, a longtime critic of the
Mr. Chávez, on his second visit to Russia in two months, met with Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin
on Thursday, and on Friday traveled to Orenburg to meet with Mr. Medvedev.
$1 billion loan for arms purchases and military development was
announced in a Kremlin statement released Thursday night. The statement
said Mr. Putin and Mr. Chávez had spoken on enhancing economic
cooperation and trade in commercial goods as well as military
The $1 billion loan will help finance programs
related to military-technical cooperation, the statement said. The
Kremlin would not elaborate on the details of the deal.
2005 and 2007 Venezuela has signed 12 contracts for weapons purchases
from Russia for a total of more than $4.4 billion, the Kremlin
The move is the latest gesture of military
friendship between Russia and Venezuela, two counties that have
increasingly positioned themselves as mavericks vis-à-vis the West.
Kremlin says its economic and political stability have allowed it to
broaden the scope of its military and economic cooperation beyond what
it calls its traditional sphere of influence.
month a pair of Russian Tu-160 long-range bombers capable of carrying
nuclear weapons received a warm welcome when they landed in Venezuela.
Russia has also dispatched a squadron from its North Sea Fleet to the
Caribbean to take part in joint naval exercises with the Venezuelan
Navy sometime in November.
“Latin America, of course, is
becoming an obvious link in the chain making up a multipolar world,”
Mr. Putin said during his meeting with Mr. Chávez. “We will allocate
more and more attention to this vector of our economics and foreign
Russia has already delivered Sukhoi Su-30 fighters,
Mi-17 transport helicopters, and thousands of Kalashnikov assault
rifles to Venezuela. There are also plans to build a factory in the
country that will manufacture these weapons under license.
Bowley reported from New York and Michael Schwirtz from Moscow. Neil
Macfarquhar contributed reporting from the United Nations.