By Thomas Grove MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's top general said on Friday a strong nuclear arsenal will ensure military superiority over the West as Moscow forges ahead with a multi-billion dollar plan to modernize its forces by 2020. Russia, facing a likely recession because of a fall in oil prices and sanctions over Ukraine, must deal with new forms of Western aggression, including economic confrontation, said Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov. But despite the deep economic woes, he said the Russian military 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 criticized 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 war planes have increasingly been spotted over Europe in recent months. Britain summoned the Russian ambassador on Thursday to complain about 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 ($286.62 billion) military modernization 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 modernization project aims to revamp Russia's weapons systems to assure that 70-100 percent of the armed forces weapons and equipment has been modernized by the end of the decade -- a plan confirmed by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. "We plan to fulfill the government armament program and reach by 2020 the intended quantities of modern weapons systems," he said at the meeting. Russia keeps its state nuclear capabilities shrouded in secrecy, but its military has approximately 8,500 warheads in total, including those non-deployed -- some 1,000 more than the United States possesses -- according to a study last year by the Center for Arms-Control and Non-Proliferation. Speaking against a backdrop of rising prices brought on in part by a weaker rouble, Gerasimov said Russia had to deal with new kinds 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. (Reporting by Thomas Grove, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Crispian Balmer)
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Paris is closing down its historical bird marketLocation: Paris, FranceDating from 1808, the market has attracted Parisians and tourists for decadesThe city council has voted to close the historical marketfollowing a campaign from an animal rights group(SOUNDBITE) (French) CO-FOUNDER OF PARIS ANIMAUX ZOOPOLIS (PAZ), AMANDINE SANVISENS SAYING:"It's not at all about eliminating this architecture, this heritage, which will actually be renovated. The idea is to change, to help the evolution of the businesses that take place here, meaning the sale of live animals. And the Paris city council has voted for this, so for us, it's a very significant progress because it also means that we can urge for traditions to evolve when they're unjust."
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After only a month in power, President Biden has used lethal military force in reaction to Iranian-sponsored attacks on Americans in Iraq. The strike, said to be by F-15 jets, apparently attacked buildings owned by Iraqi Shiite militia groups along the Iraqi-Syrian border. It’s worth pausing to note that those Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite groups and not the government of Iraq control that part of the border. In other words, Iran and its proxies control a route from Iraq through Syria to Lebanon, where the largest Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, is situated. The borders have been erased. The Biden strike is a message to Iran, a warning shot against continuing attacks by the militias Tehran backs. According to press reports, Biden was presented with a range of options and chose one of the softest — a limited strike inside Syria rather than Iraq. There is a logic to this choice. First, U.S. attacks inside Iraq would likely complicate life for Prime Minister Kadhimi, whom we are generally supporting, and spur the forces hostile to any U.S. presence — not least the Iranian-allied militias — to demand that all U.S. forces be expelled. Second, should further Iranian-sponsored attacks require Biden to hit Iranian-backed forces again, this limited strike allows him to say he tried patience and restraint and they failed. But the strike inside Syria and at Iranian proxies may also send messages Biden does not intend: that the United States will never hit Tehran’s proxies inside Iraq and that it will never hit Iran. If that’s what the Iranian regime infers, they will have the militias strike again and again; they will not be deterred because they will see the attacks as nearly cost-free. The law of averages suggests that sooner or later these continued attacks will kill Americans. That’s when the president will face the need to punish Iran and truly establish deterrence; merely attacking its proxies will be inadequate. One of the key functions of the Shiite militias in Iraq is to allow Iran to attack U.S. forces while, by absorbing any penalty, keeping Iran safe. If there are a series of attacks, harming Americans and eventually killing one or more, the kind of limited response from the United States that we saw this past week will not be enough. That does not mean World War III and it does not mean American bombers over Tehran, but it does mean that Biden must contemplate striking Iranian assets rather than expendable proxy groups. Meanwhile, there was zero progress on the nuclear-negotiations front this past week. On the contrary, Iran did not agree to attend the EU-sponsored talks that the United States has agreed to attend, it limited International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors’ access to Iran, and it threatened to enrich uranium to 60 percent. Nuclear power requires enrichment to no more than 5 percent; the only use for uranium enriched to 60 percent is in preparing a nuclear weapon. The very least that can be said about President Biden’s second month in power is that we are seeing any dreams of a quick return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, and a quick resolution to U.S.-Iranian confrontations dissolve before our eyes. The president’s refusal, thus far, to lift any sanctions and his willingness to use force against Iranian proxies suggest a more realistic assessment of Iran than many feared. No doubt there will be many deep discussions, even debates, within the administration over what the next move should be. The administration’s willingness to return to the JCPOA if Iran went back into compliance with it has not moved the Islamic Republic an inch. Similarly, the administration’s reversal of the designation of the Houthis in Yemen as a terrorist group, and its decision to halt the sale of “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, were met with zero flexibility by the Houthis — who have carried out additional terrorist attacks since the policy changes. Down the road the administration faces an even greater challenge than what to do about attacks on Americans in Iraq. President Biden has already decided that they will be met with force, and one must assume that if the attacks continue and escalate, the counter-attacks will as well. But what about Iran’s expulsion of nuclear inspectors, which violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the “Additional Protocol” to the JCPOA (that allowed snap inspections)? What about enrichment to 60 percent, if that indeed occurs? How far down the road toward building a nuclear weapon will the administration be willing to let Iran go? That’s a hypothetical question today, but if Iran keeps going it will soon be keeping U.S. officials up at night. Biden is the fifth American president in a row, by my count, to say Iran would never be permitted to build a nuclear weapon. Unless Iran changes course he could be the first to have to prove it.
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Ben Affleck says his divorce from Jennifer Garner and other 'life experience' shaped him into a better actor
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- Miami Herald
Two commercial fisherman from the mainland were jailed Thursday after police said they were caught in the Keys with a haul of illegal seafood that started with 100 undersized wrung lobster tails.