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Russian general shrugs off U.S. submarine worries

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A senior Russian general on Wednesday shrugged off Washington’s concern about Cold War-style patrols of Russian nuclear submarines off the U.S. coast, saying it was business as usual for Moscow to keep its navy in shape.

A Russian submarine believed to be an Akula-class during training in Vladivostok, July 25, 2008. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev

“I don’t know if it’s news to anyone,” Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia’s deputy chief of general staff, told a news conference. “The navy should not stay idle at its moorings.”

He was commenting on a report in the New York Times on Tuesday which said two nuclear-powered Russian attack submarines had been patrolling off the Eastern seaboard of the United States in a mission that was rare for post-Cold War times.

The newspaper said the submarines had not taken any provocative action beyond their presence outside U.S. territorial waters, but Pentagon officials voiced wariness over Russia’s motivation for ordering such an unusual mission.

Nogovitsyn said: “As for their statements, we can also talk about them (U.S. submarines), where they occur from time to time.

“So this (Russian patrols) is a normal process, and those making such statements understand this pretty well.”

Russia, keen to play a more assertive role on the world stage, relies heavily on its still formidable nuclear triad of land-based missiles, nuclear submarines and strategic bombers.

In 2007 it resumed Cold War-style flights of nuclear-capable bombers across the Atlantic.

“This is our right -- we felt bored making circles along our internal routes,” Nogovitsyn, a military pilot, said of the decision to resume flights of strategic bombers along NATO borders.

“And you remember how much clamor this caused at the time -- just because we started going out on combat patrols,” he said. “But I must tell you that the battle potential of our strategic aviation has only seriously risen since then.”

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Patrick Graham