Putin Unveils Plan To Strengthen Russian Defense Arsenal In A Decade

Russian Prime Minister and Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin on Monday unveiled an ambitious plan to strengthen the country's defense arsenal in the next decade.

"Within the next ten years, Russia's armed forces will receive over 400 modern ground- and sea-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), eight ballistic missile submarines, about 20 general purpose attack submarines, over 50 surface ships and some 100 military-purpose spacecraft," Putin wrote in the latest in a series of articles in Russian media in the run up to the Presidential election outlining the points of his electoral agenda.

By 2020, more than 400 ICBMs of Russia would be outdated, according to Russian media.

"Over 600 modern aircraft, including fifth-generation fighters, more than a thousand helicopters, 28 regimental sets of S-400 [SA-21 Growler] surface-to-air missile systems, 38 division sets of Vityaz air defense systems, 10 brigade sets of Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) tactical missile systems, more than 2,300 modern tanks, some 2,000 self-propelled artillery systems and guns, as well as more than 17,000 military vehicles" will be inducted into the Russian defense cache, Putin said in an article to the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government daily.

His article was published within a week of a warning by Chief of Russian Defense Forces Gen. Nikolai Makarov that Russia would use nuclear weapons if any threat to its national security arose.

Russia's current belligerency is in addition to its earlier threat that it will back out from the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in protest against a revamped U.S. plan to build a missile defense shield in central and eastern Europe.

The New START Treaty, which calls for limiting nuclear warheads held by the United States and Russia to 1,550 and delivery vehicles to 700 - ballistic missiles and heavy bombers - within seven years, is binding on both the countries.

As part of his election campaign, Putin also wrote articles focused on general and economic issues, ethnic problems, democratic development and social policy.

Putin, who is still considered as the most powerful political leader in Russia, is the clear favorite in the March 4 Presidential elections. But, his United Russia party suffered a major setback in last month's disputed Parliamentary elections, with its share of votes falling drastically since the last polls.

Also, Putin's approval ratings slid to an all-time low of 51 percent, and reports say he will have to face a runoff in the Presidential election against Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

However, Putin is largely expected to win the mandate to rule for six years on his third term, riding on the enormous popularity he still enjoys in Russia, having presided over a resurgent economy flush with revenue from oil and natural gas.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov and mining magnate Mikhail Prokhorov are the other presidential contenders.

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