Jan 30 2015
Russia's top general has pledged to use a strengthened arsenal to ensure military superiority over the West. NATO, meanwhile, has urged its member states to invest more in defense.
A statement issued by the head of Russia's military on Friday said that despite the country's economic woes due to European and US sanctions as well as a sharp drop in oil prices, the armed forces were to take delivery of 50 additional ballistic missiles by the end of this year.
"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,"General Valery Gerasimov's statement said.
The new missiles are just part of a plan to modernize Russia's armed forces by 2020. President Vladimir Putin has pledged that Russian defense spending will remain stable despite a growing economic crisis that has forced budget cuts at other government ministries.
Gerasimov said Russia had no choice but to modernize its military due to threats from beyond its borders.
"Western countries are actively using new forms of aggression, combining military as well as non-military means. Political, economic and information methods are also being used," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
The view from NATO
The Western military alliance, NATO, however, sees the threat as coming from Russia, particularly since it annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula last March, something that lead both the EU and the US to impose sanctions on Russia.
Since then, tensions between Russia and the West have only risen further, with the EU and the US accusing Moscow of actively supporting pro-Russia separatists fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine, a charge the Kremlin has denied.
NATO's eastern European member states in particular have been on edge since Russia took Crimea. NATO's response has been to deploy more aircraft ships and personnel not just to the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but also to Poland.
On Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels that the alliance was working on plans to deploy forward military units to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. These he said, would comprise only a few dozen personnel, but be responsible for organizing exercises and planning for the arrival of reinforcements if required.
Presenting NATO's annual report Stoltenberg also called on NATO allies to step up spending on defense, in light of the current threats.
"It is not possible to get more out of less indefinitely. That is the reason why we have to stop the cuts and gradually start to increase defense spending as our economies grow," he said, noting Russia's commitment to increased defense spending.
He also highlighted the increased presence of Russian warplanes in European skies over the past year, saying NATO fighter jet had been scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft more than 400 times over the past year.