Russia Flexing Its Military Muscles

With one enormous explosion the Russian military hoped to inspire some shock and awe of its own. They were showing off a newly-developed fuel bomb, one which the Russians say is as powerful as a small nuclear weapon.

And earlier this summer, Russia resumed long-range bomber patrols into NATO-controlled airspace for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. That has prompted Britain's Royal Air Force to scramble fighter jets.

This is all part of a Russia's new swagger on the world stage. Flush with oil and gas money, its defense budget has grown by almost 25% this year.

The country's muscle-flexing mirrors the style of its alpha-male president Vladimir Putin, who stripped off for the cameras on a recent hunting trip to Siberia.

But, as CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, Russia's military expansion isn't just for home consumption.

At London's international arms fair this week, Russia had a booth for the very first time, selling everything from automatic weapons to anti-aircraft systems.

So far, business has been brisk with clients from all over the world.

Some of the Russian weapons on sale are really just souped-up old Soviet technology, but some - like the new Sukhoi fighter jets - are cutting edge.

Eager customers include the leaders of countries the U.S. would prefer not to see well-armed: like Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Russia "is keen to keep its customers purchasing because it's a massive boost for its own defense industry," said Matthew Celements, an editor for Jane's Defense Weekly. "It's also to a degree saying, 'we're not going to let the West interfere with what our defense decisions are, we're gonna sell to who we want to because we're not a slave to the West.'"

Russia is not an enemy to the West either... at the moment anyway. So for now, its more interested in projecting might than picking fights.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."