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Old 10-07-2008, 12:28 PM   #1
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Exclamation Russia Plans Biggest Air Exercises Since Soviet Times

Dont know if this is already posted but here goes.

Russia Plans Biggest Air Exercises Since Soviet Times

By Henry Meyer

Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Russia will hold its largest air force exercises since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union next week, while a naval convoy on its way to Venezuela stages a show of strength in the Mediterranean.

Aircraft including supersonic Tu-160 nuclear bombers and strategic Tu-95 bombers will take part in the Oct. 6-12 maneuvers in the Russian Far East bordering China and the U.S. state of Alaska and in the Volga region, the Defense Ministry said on its Web Site today.

The fully armed bombers will launch cruise missiles at targets in sub-Arctic Russia, marking the first such display of military potential since the Soviet era, the Air Force press service said.

Russia has resumed the practice of sending strategic bombers to patrol airspace near its neighbors as it asserts its power after a decade of oil-fueled growth. Since the conflict with U.S. ally Georgia in August, Russia has dispatched long- range bombers to Venezuela and warships are heading to the Western Hemisphere for the first time since the Cold War.

``Russia wants to demonstrate its force to the world, particularly the U.S., and show that it has re-emerged as a military power that has global interests and can exercise a global presence,'' said Yevgeny Volk, a Moscow-based analyst for U.S. research group, the Heritage Foundation.

`Serious Concern'

``This is a serious concern to American leaders; it certainly marks a return to practices of the Cold War,'' he said in a telephone interview today.

The naval convoy, led by the nuclear-powered Peter the Great, will enter the Mediterranean on Oct. 5 and will visit Tripoli in Libya and other ports, the Defense Ministry said. One of the warships will drop anchor in the Syrian port of Tartus, according to Russian media reports.

During the Cold War era, Tartus was a permanent base for Soviet navy ships operating in the Mediterranean. Russia and Syria last month discussed expanding the facility, currently used as a servicing point for visiting Russian naval ships.

The warships will hold joint maneuvers in November in the Caribbean with the Venezuelan navy. The oil-rich Latin American nation's President Hugo Chavez, who is a leading opponent of the U.S., visited Russia last week and secured a $1 billion credit line to buy more Russian weapons and an offer to provide nuclear technology to Venezuela. Chavez spent $4.4 billion on Russian weaponry from 2005-2007, including 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 50 military helicopters and 24 Su-30 jet fighters, according to a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report.

`Stability 2008'

The Russian bombers taking part in next week's ``Stability 2008'' exercises will be accompanied by fighter planes and refueling aircraft. ``A large quantity and range of military aircraft'' will be taking part, the Defense Ministry said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week called for the country's nuclear deterrent to be upgraded over 12 years, including an improved missile-defense system and the construction of more warships.

Russia will build eight more atomic-powered submarines by 2015 capable of carrying the new Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Interfax news service quoted deputy navy chief Admiral Alexander Tatarinov as saying today.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said Russia can produce missiles capable of piercing any defenses. The military on Sept. 19 successfully tested the Bulava, which has an estimated maximum range of 8,000 kilometers, as the country upgrades its rocket forces to counter a planned U.S. anti-missile shield in eastern Europe.

Russia will boost defense spending 26 percent to a post- Soviet record next year as it adds weapons and raises salaries, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Sept. 11. The 1.1 million-strong Russian armed forces still rely on conscripts and remain plagued by low morale and pay and out-of-date equipment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow
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