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What's behind Russia's military show-off
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Soviet-era aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. Russia wrapped up its 12-day joint exercise between its Air Force and Navy in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans Saturday, arousing concerns from NATO members and other western countries. 


Russia wrapped up its 12-day joint exercise between its Air Force and Navy in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans Saturday, arousing concerns from NATO members and other western countries.


This is the first large-scale overseas drill by Russian fleets and aircraft since the end of the Cold War, which shows the country's military strength.


The exercise came when Russia has toughened its stance in dealing with the West and the expansion of NATO.


The war game involved the Soviet-era aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, flagship of the Black Sea Fleet the Moskva cruiser, anti-submarine ships and dozens of strategic bombers, fighter jets and airborne warning and control planes.


Moscow said there's no need for NATO – the US-led military bloc that once rivals the Soviet Union – to enroll new members in Eastern Europe since the Cold War has already ended.


Washington has fueled up Kremlin's worry after it unveiled plans to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe by deploying interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.


Since Moscow's diplomatic efforts, including talks between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice and defense ministers from the two nations last year, failed to haul the US plans, Russian military's voice has grown stronger.


Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, said last December that Russia's strategic missiles are capable of passing through any existing and prospective missile defense systems, including the one proposed by the United States for Eastern Europe.


Solovtsov made the remark when Russia made several test-fires of inter-continental ballistic missiles and issued the layouts of submarines deployment, missiles and anti-missile systems deployment in the country.


Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the Armed Forces, said in mid-January that Russia may use nuclear weapons pre-emptively if under serious threat, underlining the tough stance of the military.


Russia also pledged to take anti-satellite missions if necessary amid worries about the development of space weapons and the militarization of the outer space where the United States enjoys a remarkable advantage.


Analysts believe that Russia, by flexing its military muscle, intends to show its determination and strength in dealing with the West, so that it can win respect and cooperate with the West on an equal footing, especially in such fields as anti-proliferation and anti-terrorism.


Such moves are also believed to meet Russia's domestic political need when First Deputy Minister Dmitry Medvedev is widely expected to succeed the tough-to-west but popular President Vladimir Putin after March 2 election, when the later is to step down due to constitutional bar on a consecutive third term.


(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2008)

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