Russian lawmakers gave preliminary approval Friday to a 2009 budget that calls for 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 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 last month's 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 1,016.7 billion (about US$40 billion) rubles this year to 1,277.5 billion rubles (some US$50 billion) next year, a 25.7 percent increase.
Under a three-year budget plan, Russian military spending will increase yearly, reaching 1,390.7 billion rubles (US$54.5 billion) in 2010 and 1,480.5 billion rubles (US$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 protege and successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, has pledged to continue modernizing Russia's arsenal - a task he said became even more acute after the five-day war in August with Georgia.
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 US$480 billion this year.
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