MOSCOW: Russia announced plans Tuesday to re-equip the navy with more advanced weapons in response to NATO's vow to ward off the Kremlin's push into Ukraine and feared expansion into eastern European states.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a general security meeting that he expected to hear a detailed report from Russia's navy commander about how this could be done effectively over the coming six years.
"These proposals must ensure that our forces are re-equipped with modern weapons and military equipment," Russian news agencies quoted Shoigu as saying.
The new strategy "must also improve the operational readiness of Russian naval forces in locations posing the greatest strategic threat," said Shoigu.
"I will not hide that this in large part is linked to events of recent months," he said in reference to the pro-Russian insurgency convulsing eastern Ukraine.
NATO and the United States have both stepped up air defenses of former Soviet satellites that are growing increasingly wary of Russia's military ambitions and see President Vladimir Putin as a fast-emerging threat.
U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled a $1 billion security plan for eastern Europe during a June visit to Poland that is aimed at helping countries on Russia's western periphery build more modern armies.
And outgoing NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed concern last week that Putin's ambitions went "beyond Ukraine" and now covered a Russian-speaking region of ex-Soviet Moldova and two separatist parts of the small Caucasus nation of Georgia - both now closely allied with the European Union.
Russian news reports did not immediately outline what proposal Shoigu and the navy command had in mind.
The Defense Academy of the United Kingdom - the official post-graduate school for the British military's higher command - said Russia's current plan through 2020 that Shoigu wants to update is focused on the development of nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.
France has irritated the United States by pushing through plans to deliver two Mistral-class helicopter carriers that Russia wants to station in Ukraine's seized Crimea peninsula and near a string of disputed islands claimed by Japan.
Russia has only one functioning aircraft carrier that was first commissioned in the Soviet era and has been lacking the money and know-how to develop a more modern class.
The United States, meanwhile, dominates the seas with 10 active aircraft carriers - a superiority Putin has repeatedly vowed to address.
Putin promised ahead of his 2012 election to a third term to nearly double Russia's military spending over the coming decade to 23 trillion rubles ($635 billion).
But Russia's current economic downturn has seriously threatened those plans.