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 conference call with officials, the Russian president noted that foreign efforts to contain Russia date from centuries ago.
“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 the Soviet Union, “Russia is still too big for some,” Putin said.
“No matter what we do, no matter how we try to satisfy the appetites of those who are trying to contain us, the containment will continue because many of our opponents just don't want such a country as Russia,” Putin said. “But we, citizens of the Russian Federation need it, and we will do everything to not just preserve but strengthen it.”
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.
The military has said that the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and making sharp maneuvers on its way to target to dodge the enemy’s missile shield.
It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and the first unit armed with the Avangard entered duty in December 2019. The military said that in the future Avangard could be fitted to the prospective heavy missile called Sarmat that is under development.
Putin has also touted other prospective weapons, including the Poseidon atomic-powered underwater drone armed with a nuclear weapon that is capable of generating devastating tsunami waves near an enemy coast. Its tests are continuing.
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.