Russia Builds Up Its Military
Russia's recent resumption of strategic bomber flights is viewed by many analysts as more evidence of President Vladimir Putin's determination to build up his country's military might. The Russian leader has cited security concerns for strengthening the military, but the move also is reviving memories of the Cold War, when Moscow used its military capability to project its power. For producer Ivana Kuhar, VOA's Bill Rodgers narrates. Grand entrances are perhaps symbolic of President Putin's growing stature in the world -- a stature he is trying to enhance by strengthening Russia's military might. Mr. Putin earlier this year signed a $200 billion spending plan to rebuild the Russian military -- and has taken steps to modernize his country's long-range missile arsenal. Earlier this month, he announced the resumption of strategic bomber flights around the world -- reviving a Cold War practice by the former Soviet Union. Mr. Putin says security threats are forcing Russia to strengthen its military. But these moves puzzle analysts, such as Russian expert Stephen Sestanovich. "Take the restoration of strategic bomber patrols at long distances from Russian territory. I think the Russians would find it rather hard to tell you what the purpose of that was. Why are they circling around Guam -- an American island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? What's the connection between that and the Russian national interest?" Yet many Russians support Mr. Putin's projection of strength -- and power. They believe Russia's international stature has grown, according to Russian TV news anchor Alexei Pushkov. "Putin created an impression that Russia can get even with the world leaders after a long period of weakness. Russians do like a strong leader." While few expect a revival of Cold War-type military interventions, it is unclear what foreign policy goals Moscow is trying to achieve with its tough posturing. "They want very much to show a kind of assertive independence, but I don't think they've clearly identified for themselves the goals of that assertive independence," said Sestanovich. Russia's military muscle was on display at the recent airshow outside Moscow -- a showcase for military modernization. Rebuilding an aging military would seem to be a logical step now given Russia's oil wealth, according to foreign policy analyst Richard Weitz. "Some of this is to be expected. The Russians have always had a series of nuclear forces to deter the United States and for other purposes. Their naval component was a weaker component and so it makes sense for them to try and build it up." The White House has downplayed the buildup, saying through a spokesman it is not surprising that militaries around the world engage in a variety of activities. But others believe the Kremlin's buildup needs to be watched very carefully. Sestanovich adds, "Sometimes, countries give themselves a new foreign policy rhetoric and they give themselves new foreign policy instruments, and then they take it from there. Sometimes, this can be an unfortunate and dangerous process." But for now, Russia's military buildup is likely to continue.
Contracts signed at MAKS-2007 air show outside Moscow top $3 bln
The value of contracts signed at the MAKS-2007 air show outside Moscow has exceeded $3 billion, the organizers said Sunday, citing preliminary results. MAKS-2007 is an aviation exhibition held every two years in the town of Zhukovsky, which hosts a military airbase. The air show, which opened August 21 and is coming to a close August 26, has gathered over 540 Russian companies and 247 foreign firms from 39 countries this year, the organizers said. The MAKS-2007 air show has attracted more than 600,000 visitors who have been able to see over 260 aircraft, most of them made domestically, and watch 35 types of planes to perform about 200 demonstration flights, the organizers said.
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Jerusalem worried by Iranian owned anti-ship missile
The recent delivery of an advanced Russian-made anti-ship missile to Iran has defense officials concerned it will be transferred to Syria and Hizbullah and used against the Israel Navy in a future conflict. Called the SSN-X-26 Yakhont, the supersonic cruise missile can be launched from the coast and hit sea-borne targets up to 300 kilometers away. The missile carries a 200-kilogram warhead and flies a meter-and-a-half above sea level, making it extremely difficult to intercept. Its closest Western counterpart is the US-made Tomahawk and Harpoon. The missile homes in on its target using an advanced radar guidance system that is said to make it resistant to electronic jamming. The Yakhont is an operational and tactical missile and can be used against both a medium-sized destroyer and an aircraft carrier. It would pose a serious threat to the Israel Navy, according to defense officials. "This is certainly a threat to the Navy," one defense official said. "There is a real fear that if this missile is in Iran it will also be in Syria and Lebanon." During the Second Lebanon War, the IDF was surprised when the INS Hanit was struck by a Chinese-made ground-to-sea missile, which was not known to have been in Hizbullah hands. At the time, the IDF suspected Iran had assisted Hizbullah in the attack, which killed four sailors. While officials could not confirm that the missile had reached Syria or Hizbullah, the growing assumption is that any weapons system or missile that can be taken apart and fit into a shipping container can easily be transferred.
Officials worried Iran will give their Russian anti-ship missile to terrorists
Defense officials have expressed concern about the recent delivery of an advanced Russian-made anti-ship missile to Iran, saying they will likely be transferred to Syria and Hezbollah, the Jerusalem Post reported. If they fall into the hands of Syria and Hezbollah, they will be used against the Israeli navy in a future conflict. "This is certainly a threat to the Navy," one defense official said. "There is a real fear that if this missile is in Iran it will also be in Syria and Lebanon." The defense establishment's fears are in part due to the IDF's surprise during the Second Lebanon War last summer at the content of Hezbollah's arsenal. The INS Hanit was struck by a Chinese-made ground-to-sea missile, which was not known to have been in Hizbullah hands. At the time, the IDF suspected Iran had assisted Hezbollah in the attack, in which four sailors died. Although officials could not confirm that the missile had reached Syria or Hizbullah, the general assumption now is that any weapons system or missile that can be taken apart and fit into a shipping container can easily be smuggled to Hezbollah or Syria. Meanwhile, Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said Monday "the Iranian leadership with Ahmadinejad at its helm is temporary." Lieberman called the Iranian administration "a band of crooks jeopardizing the security of Iran and the entire world," he said. "Instead of investing in the economy, [they] are investing in terror and Hizbullah, and I hope the Iranian people will remember this the next time they line up to vote." Regarding Iran's nuclear program, Liberman advocated economic sanctions over military action, saying that sanctions have been successful in frustrating such programs in Libya and North Korea.