Medvedev tours Russian missile base

The International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
May 15, 2008

MOSCOW: President Dmitri Medvedev made his debut Thursday as the commander in chief of the Russian armed forces, touring a missile base and promising to provide the necessary financing for nuclear forces to counter global threats.

Medvedev examined Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles and spoke to officers at the base in Teikovo, a small town in the Ivanovo region about 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, northeast of Moscow.

“I’m impressed by both weapons and a level of training,” Medvedev said after inspecting the missiles, which are concealed by the military in a dense pine forest. “It’s good that the military is getting new missiles like the Topol-M.”

Missiles from the base took part in the Victory Day parade on May 9, when Russia displayed its military hardware on Red Square in Moscow for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Medvedev said that he “felt a drive” when he watched missiles and other weapons rolling across the square. He promised that such parades would continue and might even be expanded in the future.

“Our task for the next few years is to make sure that the Strategic Missile Forces receive the necessary funding to respond to modern threats and the current situation on the planet,” Medvedev said in televised remarks during a meeting with service members. “Certain progress has been made recently, and we mustn’t lose the tempo.”

He also promised to raise officers’ salaries.

Medvedev, who was sworn in May 7, has so far cast himself as liberal and avoided the harsh anti-Western rhetoric of his predecessor and mentor, Vladimir Putin.

But most observers expect him to continue the policies of Putin, who has taken an increasingly assertive posture on the international scene and vowed to strengthen the military.

Putin became prime minister last week after Medvedev assumed the presidency.

As president, Putin fiercely opposed the U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and NATO’s plans to accept into the alliance Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbors Ukraine and Georgia.

Putin has threatened to point nuclear missiles at countries that take part in the U.S. missile defense program, and he opted out of a key Soviet-era arms control treaty.

Topol-M missiles are capable of hitting targets more than 10,000 kilometers away. They are deployed in both silo-based and truck-mounted versions.

Putin to cut cabinet meetings

Putin on Thursday proposed an end to weekly cabinet meetings in favor of an inner circle of ministers, deepening his policymaking authority, Bloomberg reported from Moscow.

“It’s clear that cabinet meetings are rather unwieldy and highly bureaucratic,” he said in comments broadcast on state television. Chairing his first cabinet session in Moscow, Putin said deputy prime ministers and selected ministers should meet weekly and the full group at least once a month.

After assuming his new office, Putin has taken key aides with him to the government while others dominate the new presidential administration.

The abolition of the weekly cabinet meetings, which Putin often attended as president, “could be an effort to sideline Medvedev from the work of the government,” said Leonid Sedov, an analyst from the Moscow-based Levada Center. “Putin is strengthening his position as prime minister.”