Global Insights: Is Russia Preparing for an Arms Race with the West?

Global Insights: Is Russia Preparing for an Arms Race with the West?

Since the formation of the Russian Federation in 1991, the Russian government has been careful to limit military spending, hoping to avoid the Soviet error of engaging in a ruinous arms race with the West. As recently as February, then-Russian President-Vladimir Putin reaffirmed that Russia "must not allow [itself] to be drawn into [a new global arms race]." But while Russian defense spending has already been rising in recent years, one long-term effect of the Georgia War could be to accelerate Russia's military rearmament.

On several occasions since the Georgia War began, Russian leaders have made statements that could be used to rationalize a significant increase in Russian military spending. On Sept. 11, for instance, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cited "the continued militarization of Georgia" as justification for accelerating Russia's military modernization program.

Two weeks later, on Sept. 26, Medvedev reaffirmed this position in a speech to Russian military commanders on the occasion of perhaps the largest live-fire exercises in the country's post-Soviet history. The drills were part of "Stability 2008," a month-long series of exercises that will continue through mid-October in several regions of Belarus and Russia. The maneuvers will involve the various military branches, including Russia's nuclear forces, rehearsing the defense of Russian border regions from external aggression.

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