Shock as Putin warns Russia must rearm to defend itself
Vladimir Putin sent shockwaves through the world yesterday when he said diplomacy has failed and Russia needs to rearm itself.
The Russian prime minister said his government would spend 23 trillion roubles (€580.2bn) over a decade to modernise the former superpower's armed forces.
He claimed Russia needed a stronger military to protect itself from foreign attempts to stoke conflicts around its borders.
"New regional and local wars are being sparked before our very eyes," Mr Putin wrote in the article published on the front page of Russia's official gazette, 'Rossiiskaya Gazeta', two weeks before the March 4 election in which he is a candidate.
Mr Putin gave no details of specific threats but said Russia needed to develop weapons that were better than those of any potential enemy and called for making Russia's armed forces more professional and versatile.
Russia's once-mighty armed forces underwent a decade of spending cuts after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, although Mr Putin tried during his 2000-08 presidency to slow the decline. The military now has about one million personnel.
Mr Putin, a former KGB officer, is presenting himself as a guarantor of stability and strong leader in his campaign for the presidential election, which he is widely expected to win.
He has also accused foreign governments of helping the organisers of the biggest opposition protests of his 12-year rule and has criticised the United States, helping to stoke anti-Americanism on the eve of the election.
Mr Putin (59), made no specific mention of uprisings in Libya, where NATO air assaults helped topple leader Muammar Gaddafi, or Syria, whose president has been under Western-Arab pressure to step down.
But, in the latest in a series of newspaper articles setting out his policies before the election, he wrote that recent events showed the diminished stature of international law.
Russia has criticised the NATO mission in Libya, saying it stepped beyond the mandate it was given by the United Nations Security Council, and has stood behind Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, one of Moscow's few allies in the Middle East.
Mr Putin said Russia, which has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions on Syria together with China, must rely on a powerful military to make sure its position was understood by world powers.
"Under these conditions Russia cannot depend solely on diplomatic or economic methods of resolving conflict," he wrote.
"Before us stands the mission of developing our military potential in the framework of a strategy of containment and remaining sufficiently armed."
He added that this was necessary "for Russia to feel safe and for its arguments to be received by its partners in various international formats".