MOSCOW accused the United States and NATO of beefing up their military presence near Russia’s borders on Tuesday in a bid for resources that could ignite new conflicts.
At a meeting of the Russian military’s top brass, Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said: “US aspirations have been aimed at getting access to raw materials, energy and other resources” of ex-Soviet nations.
“Active support was given to the processes aimed at pushing Russia out of the sphere of its traditional interests,” Mr Serdyukov observed.
Mr Serdyukov said that Russia and six other ex-Soviet nations which are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation will hold the first exercise of a newly created joint rapid reaction force in Kazakhstan in September.
The Kremlin has fiercely opposed NATO plans to put Ukraine and Georgia on a fast track to membership.
It has budgeted 1.5 trillion rubles (£31bn) for weapons purchases this year, about 25 per cent of which is to be spent on modernising the country’s Soviet-era nuclear force.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told military leaders that Russia had to upgrade its nuclear arsenal in response to NATO expansion.
“The main priority is a qualitative increase in the troops’ readiness, primarily of strategic nuclear forces,” Mr Medvedev declared, adding: “They must guarantee the fulfilment of all tasks of ensuring Russia’s security.”
The military plans to complete tests of the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile and put it into service by the end of the year.
Russian leaders have boasted of the submarine-launched missile’s ability to penetrate missile defences and they have described it as the core of the military’s future nuclear arsenal.