MOSCOW (Reuters) - The chief of Russia's armed forces said on Friday a strong nuclear arsenal will ensure military superiority over the West as Russia seeks to fulfil a multi-billion dollar plan to modernise its forces by 2020.
Russia, facing a likely recession this year after US and European sanctions over Ukraine and a fall in oil prices, must deal with new forms of Western aggression, including economic confrontation, said armed forces chief General Valery Gerasimov.
Despite deep economic woes, he said Russian armed forces would receive more than 50 new intercontinental nuclear missiles this year.
"Support for our strategic nuclear forces to ensure their high military capability combined with...growth of the military potential of the general forces will assure that (the United States and Nato) do not gain military superiority over our country," said Gerasimov.
Tensions between Russia and the West have risen over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where the United States and Europe say Moscow is fuelling an insurgency by sending in troops and weapons. Moscow denies this.
Russia has criticised Nato expansion in eastern Europe and President Vladimir Putin has accused the Ukrainian army, which is fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, of being puppets of Nato with a policy of "containing" Russia.
Russian military planes increasingly have been spotted over Europe on radar in recent months. Britain summoned the Russian ambassador on Thursday for an explanation to the flight of two Russian long-range bombers that flew over the English Channel, forcing British authorities to reroute civil aircraft.
Russia promises to push through by 2020 a more than 20-trillion-rouble (S$383.46 billion) military modernisation plan conceived by Putin, and military expenditures will remain unchanged even in the face of a growing economic crisis that has cut the budgets of other ministries.
The modernisation project aims to revamp Russia's weapons systems to assure that 70-100 percent of the armed forces weapons and equipment has been modernised by the end of the decade - a plan confirmed by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
"We plan to fulfil the government armament programme and reach by 2020 the intended quantities of modern weapons systems," he said at the meeting.
Speaking against a backdrop of rising prices brought on in part by a weaker rouble, Gerasimov said Russia had to deal with new forms of Western aggression. "Western countries are actively using new forms of aggression, combining military as well as non-military means. Political, economic and information methods are also being used," Interfax news agency cited him as saying.