MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged Thursday that some of the country’s foreign foes dream about biting off pieces of the country’s vast territory, warning that Moscow would “knock their teeth out” if they ever try.
In strong remarks during a meeting with officials, the Russian president noted that foreign efforts to contain Russia date centuries back.
“In all times, the same thing happened: once Russia grew stronger, they found pretexts to hamper its development,” Putin said, alleging that some critics of Russia who he didn’t name have argued that it’s unfair for it to keep its vast natural riches all to itself.
“Everyone wants to bite us or bite something off us, but those who would like to do so should know that we would knock their teeth out so that they couldn’t bite,” the Russian leader said. “The development of our military is the guarantee of that.”
The Kremlin has made the modernization of the country’s armed forces a top priority amid tensions in relations with the U.S. and its allies. Russia-West ties have sunk to post-Cold War lows over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, accusations of Russian meddling in elections, hacking attacks, and other issues.
Putin said that Western sanctions against Russia are continuing a longtime historic trend of containing a powerful rival, citing Russian Czar Alexander III who charged that “everyone is afraid of our vastness.”
“Even after we lost one-third of our potential” when former Soviet republics became independent after the 1991 collapse of Soviet collapse, “Russia is still too big for some,” Putin said.
He claimed that Russia now has the most modern strategic nuclear forces compared to other nuclear powers, including such state-of-the-art weapons as the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle.
Putin has charged that the country has succeeded in revamping its arsenals without inflicting too heavy a burden on the national economy by carefully choosing the military priorities.
He noted that Russia this year is set to spend an equivalent of $42 billion on defense, compared to the Pentagon’s budget topping $700 billion.
“We have managed to support our armed forces without militarizing the state budget, and we will continue doing so,” Putin said.