Fueled by billions in oil wealth, it looks to reclaim the USSR's status as a global military power.
As a newly self-confident, oil-rich Russia teams up with China in joint military exercises Friday, it is moving to reclaim the former Soviet Union's status as a global military power.
A seven-year, $200-billion rearmament plan signed by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year will purchase new generations of missiles, planes, and perhaps aircraft carriers to rebuild Russia's arsenal. Already, the new military posture is on display: This summer, Russian bombers have extended their patrol ranges far into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, forcing US and NATO interceptors to scramble for the first time since the cold war's end.
"Diplomacy between Russia and the West is increasingly being overshadowed by military gestures," says Sergei Strokan, a foreign-policy expert with the independent daily Kommersant. "It's clear that the Kremlin is listening more and more to the generals and giving them more of what they want."
Economic bloc ups military teamwork
On Friday, Mr. Putin will join leaders of China and other members of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Russia's Chelyabinsk region to view the final stage of the group's most ambitious joint military maneuvers yet, to include 6,500 troops and over 100 aircraft. Also on hand will be leaders of SCO observer states and prospective members, among them India, Pakistan, Iran, and Mongolia.
At an SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan Thursday, Putin stressed that while Russia is not seeking to build a cold war-style "military bloc," he does see the SCO expanding from its original purpose as an economic association to take on a greater military role.
"Year by year, the SCO is becoming a more substantial factor in ensuring security in the region," he said. "Russia, like other SCO states, favors strengthening the multipolar international system providing equal security and development potential for all countries. Any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally have no future," he added.