The Media Mirror - 31.07.07. What's new in today's Russian newspapers?

Wednesday's Russian newspapers pay most attention to the new arms race started in the Middle East by Washington and report on the 80th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army of China.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that the U.S. plans to supply huge amounts of armaments and equipment to Egypt and Israel as military aid, plus various military hardware being sold to Saudi Arabia basically opens a new chapter in the book of the Middle East arms race.

“Effectively making one of the most dangerous gunpowder barrels ever sat upon by the world community full to the brim and ready to explode any moment.”

The fact that these armaments are supposed to be directed at Iran doesn't help much, continues the paper, as the U.S. is still stuck in Iraq without a way out to think seriously about a possible regional coalition against Iran.

As a result of all this, writes the paper, the Middle East is in for further militarisation rather than democracy promised by the U.S. after the invasion of Iraq.

KOMMERSANT found an anti-Russian angle in these plans too, if not pronounced by U.S. officials then already evident in several Israeli publications reporting on a Russian-Iranian deal on SU-30 fighter-bombers, non-existent so far, and never even discussed between the two countries.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI writes about the 80th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army of China. The paper, in the headline, gives the Chinese armed forces another name – the army of the Chinese party, meaning, of course, the Communist party of China.

The paper notes that military expenditure of the Chinese government has been growing faster than the Chinese economy, at rates like 14.3% a year over an annual 8.5% growth of the economy. However it doesn't mean any increase in personnel. Quite on the contrary, the 2.3 million-strong army which also maintains an 800 000-strong ready reserve has been reducing conscription lately and loosing scores of young talented well-educated officers to the private sector. Thus the main goals of the military spending hike are, naturally, purchase of new hi-tech equipment, more up-to-date armaments, and officers' salary increases.

$US 41.3 BLN is the official military budget of China in 2007. The real one, says the paper, might be at least 30% higher.

It might indeed. Let's not forget that in addition to the active duty soldiers and the ready reserve, the People's Liberation Army has the whole male population of China as stand by reserve. And sometimes some of them have to train too.