Russia cuts military spending: chief of staff

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is cutting military spending amid a deepening economic crisis but this will not affect purchases of new weapons and ammunition, the head of Russia’s military said on Wednesday.

Army General Nikolai Makarov Nikolai Makarov, the armed forces' chief of general staff, meets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (unseen) in the Kremlin in Moscow June 3, 2008. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool

“We have revised a number of items,” Army General Nikolai Makarov, the armed forces’ chief of general staff, told Reuters after closed-door hearings on army reform in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

“But I believe that on the issues we had wanted to resolve first, in particular, (new) weapons and ammunition, we will be fully covered. We will keep them at the planned level.”

Communist deputy Viktor Ilyukhin told Reuters the government aims to cut the 2009 military budget by 15 percent. He said Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov did not tell deputies which spending items would be trimmed.

Russian business daily Vedomosti said the original 2009 budget, now being revised, had set the Defense Ministry’s budget at 1.376 trillion troubles ($38.31 billion).

Related Coverage

“Probably not a single ministry would agree to trim its spending,” Makarov said. “But judging by the real economic situation of the country ... if there is just no cash, we simply cannot ask for it.”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said Russia plans to spend more than 4 trillion troubles ($111.4 billion) in 2009-11 to purchase new weapons, and the bulk of the sum will be spent to modernize the armed forces.

The move was apparently prompted by Russia’s five-day war with neighboring Georgia last August when Tbilisi tried to retake its rebel South Ossetia province by force.

Russia repelled the Georgian attack, but the war exposed a Soviet-style army with obsolete equipment, poorly coordinated command, outdated communications and a lack of spy drones and high-precision bombs.

Addressing Russia’s leading arms designers and producers later on Wednesday, Putin said budget cuts would not affect this year’s planned purchases of new weapons for the armed forces.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Additional reporting by Aydar Buribayev; Editing by Janet Lawrence