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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Plans to Rebuild the Country's Naval Power

First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, a leading contender to replace President Vladimir Putin next year, said Russia would rebuild Soviet-era naval power.

Ivanov said a new state-run shipbuilding corporation would step up construction of civilian and naval vessels to ensure that Russia once again has a large merchant and military fleet.

"Dear comrades! Russia always was and will be a great naval power," Ivanov told a conference in Moscow on Wednesday. "We have all we need for this: our history, geopolitical position, an expanding economy and most importantly, the political will."

A presidential naval commission chaired by Ivanov approved on Wednesday a strategy through 2020 to develop shipbuilding for the domestic and export markets and ensure a Russian naval presence in "important seas and oceans."

Today, only one-third of merchant ships under the Russian flag are built by domestic shipyards, Ivanov said. In the communist era, Soviet warships navigated the world's oceans and maintained a Mediterranean presence. Russia closed a Soviet-era naval base in Vietnam in 2002 that had housed as many as 10,000 troops, 15 warships and 30 aircraft.

In his six years as defense minister, Ivanov presided over a quadrupling of military spending that has included investments in new nuclear submarines and warships.

Russia, which has only one aircraft-carrier, is considering building new ones at a cost of $1 billion each, said Alexander Pikayev, a defense expert at the Moscow-based Institute for World Economy and International Relations.

"There is no question of restoring the Soviet fleet. Russia isn't a superpower anymore," he said. "But it can build a good, medium-sized fleet to defend its shores and carry out some limited operations in open seas."