MOSCOW – Russian lawmakers gave preliminary approval Friday to a 25 percent hike in defense spending — a sharp increase for Russia's military that comes only a month after it crushed Georgia on the battlefield.
The boost in defense spending for 2009 fits in with Russia's recent defiant posture toward the West, a stance that has seen relations with the United States and the European Union sink to a post-Cold War low after the war in Georgia.
The draft 2009 budget was approved by a 351-85 vote in the first of four required hearings by the State Duma, or lower house.
The budget envisages defense spending rising from about $40 billion rubles this year to some $50 billion next year, a 25.7 percent increase. The defense spending will account for about 14 percent of the government's spending next year.
Under a three-year budget plan, Russian military spending will increase yearly, reaching $54.5 billion in 2010 and $58 billion in 2011.
Former President Vladimir Putin has moved to reaffirm Russia's global clout and rebuild the armed forces during his eight-year tenure. His successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, has pledged to continue modernizing Russia's arsenal — a task he says became even more vital after the five-day war in August with Georgia.
"We will continuously strengthen our national security, modernize the military and increase our defense capability to a sufficient level," Medvedev said Friday. "And we will determine what level is sufficient proceeding from the current situation."
Russian forces quickly routed the Georgian military and pushed deep into Georgia, but military analysts said the fighting also underlined the weaknesses of the Russian military, such as its shortage of precision weapons and its lack of satellite navigation.
Windfall oil revenues have allowed the Kremlin to steadily increase defense spending over the past eight years, but the Russian military spending is still dwarfed by the Pentagon's budget of $480 billion this year.
Russia's 2009 draft budget forecasts overall government revenues at about $429 billion with spending at about $354 billion. It envisages 8.5 percent inflation for next year.