Tags: russia | nukes | pentagon

Russian Nuclear Buildup No Big Deal: Pentagon

Wednesday, 18 Mar 2009 07:19 AM

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WASHINGTON – Russia's plans to renew its military and nuclear arsenal are not cause for alarm, the US Defense Department said on Tuesday.

Russia was "perfectly entitled to a robust self-defense," press secretary Geoff Morrell told a news conference.

"I have not heard any alarm in this building about any proposed Russian build-up of its military," he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday announced a "large-scale" rearmament for the army and navy and investments in the country's nuclear missiles, while also accusing NATO of pushing ahead with expansion near Russian borders.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has spoken previously about how Russia's aging population means Moscow will have trouble recruiting enough young soldiers and will likely reduce its large military force, Morrell said.

"And as a result, we've noticed that the Russian government is investing heavily in its strategic (nuclear) arsenal. That's a fact of life.

"I think we are always mindful of how people are arming themselves around the world, and we encourage everybody to be as transparent as possible so there's no misunderstanding about intentions," he said.

The US and Russian militaries had forged a positive working relationship and the top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, was in regular talks with his Russian counterpart, the press secretary said.

"As long as we have a good dialogue and a good understanding of what we are both developing our militaries for, I don't see that it poses a problem or a threat that we should be concerned with," Morrell said.

Meeting defense chiefs in Moscow, Medvedev said he was determined to implement reforms to streamline Russia's bloated military and stressed Moscow continued to face several security threats needing robust defense capacity.

But even though Medvedev and others have expressed hope for an improvement in US-Russian ties, there was a combative tone to Tuesday's meeting, intended to sum up military developments in the last year and to plan ahead.

The Russian president's comments, accusing NATO of expanding in Russia's region, came despite signs of a warming in US-Russia relations since the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January.

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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