The Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a "large-scale" rearmament from 2011 claiming NATO was still seeking to expand its physical presence near Russian borders. "From 2011 a large-scale rearmament of the army and navy will begin," Mr Medvedev was quoted by news agencies as saying at a meeting of military chiefs in Moscow. He called for a renewal of Russia's nuclear weapons arsenal and added that NATO was pursuing military expansion near Russia's borders.
"Analysis of the military-political situation in the world shows that a serious conflict potential remains in some regions," Mr Medvedev said. He listed local crises and international terrorism as persistent security threats and also stated: "Attempts to expand the military infrastructure of NATO near the borders of our country are continuing. "The primary task is to increase the combat readiness of our forces, first of all our strategic nuclear forces. They must be able to fulfil all tasks necessary to ensure Russia's security," Mr Medvedev said.
The comments came despite statements by the Russian leadership suggesting a thaw in relations with the United States following the end of the George W Bush administration and the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Some analysts have detected a softening of US support for NATO enlargement to ex-Soviet countries on Russia's borders such as Georgia and Ukraine. The Obama administration has said it is weighing what to do about a Bush-era project to build missile defence facilities in eastern Europe that has angered Moscow.
Russia, the world's largest country and one of a handful of nuclear-armed states, is attempting to slim down and improve its military, which currently numbers about one million personnel. At today's meeting the defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov said a host of non-core activity, from guest house management to weapons repair and food production, would be transferred from the defence ministry to a state-owned civilian company, Oboronservis.