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MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - The lower house of the Russian parliament passed on Friday amendments to a law on defense which expands the use of the Russian Armed Forces abroad in certain situations.
President Dmitry Medvedev submitted the amendments to parliament in August, just after the first anniversary of Russia's five-day war with Georgia.
The amendments stipulate that Russian troops can be used abroad to repel an attack on Russian military units or other troops deployed outside the country, to repel or prevent an armed attack on another state asking Russia for military assistance, to defend Russian citizens abroad from an armed attack, to combat sea piracy and to ensure safety of commercial shipping.
Russia's current 2006 legislation only allows the president to send troops to fight terrorism on foreign soil. Experts have said the law lacks clearly defined terms of "wartime" and a "combat situation," which complicates the deployment of army units outside the country.
Russia sent in troops last summer to repel Georgia's offensive on South Ossetia, where Moscow had maintained peacekeepers since a bloody post-Soviet conflict in the early 1990s. Russia was condemned internationally over its "excessive" use of force and subsequent recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
In line with the new document, the Russian president will be entitled to make a decision on using armed forces abroad based on a prior approval by the upper house of the Russian parliament. The president would also be able to determine the strength of the troops to be used abroad and their deployment areas, to set the goals facing them and determine the timeframe of their deployment.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.