Russia Rearms

Russia’s leaders are getting used to cutting budgets this year. As the country sinks deeper into recession — unemployment, according to some estimates, is as high as 12% and the economy is predicted to shrink by about 4.5% in 2009 — the government is slashing spending at most of its ministries. The Energy Ministry’s budget is down by 33%, and that of the Transport Ministry by 30%. But there is one hugely expensive project on which President Dmitri Medvedev has vowed to actually increase spending: transforming Russia’s creaking Soviet-era defense industry into a modern technological power, and turning the 1.1-million-man Russian army into a leaner but more effective fighting force.
To get there Medvedev has increased government military spending this year by nearly 26% to about $37 billion, and given military producers of strategic weapons like missile systems and aircraft an extra $1.9 billion in 2009. In late March, just days before flying to the G-20 summit in London, the President donned a military pilot’s helmet and uniform at an air base near Moscow for a ride in the back of a Sukhoi-34 fighter bomber, one of Russia’s most sophisticated and deadly pieces of hardware. Afterwards he told reporters that it was time to modernize the country’s entire air-force fleet. “We have the momentum and people who want to serve their country,” he said. “Much is yet to be done.”

Read the rest from Time Magazine:

Russia’s Medvedev

Sukhoi-34 fighter bomber

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