Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian nation in an annual news conference on Thursday, taking the opportunity to address recent developments between his regime and the United States. During the speech, Putin addressed what he believed was a misconception about claims he made recently regarding the state of the Russian military, particularly as compared to the military might of the rest of the world. In a statement made prior to Thursday’s speech, Putin had stated plainly that Russia’s military was “stronger than any potential aggressor,” but he clarified that his statement was only regarding nations he felt there was a potential for conflict with. According to Putin, he doesn’t see the United States as a threat, but acknowledges that the America military is actually the most powerful and technologically advanced in the world.
“I was a bit surprised by the statements from some representatives of the current U.S. administration, who for some reason started to prove that the U.S. military was the most powerful in the world,” Putin said, “Nobody is arguing with that.”
The Russian president went on to address the recent statements made by American President-elect Donald Trump regarding an expansion in nuclear spending. Trump Tweeted on Thursday morning that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” When asked by MSNBC if he worried his comments would prompt an increase in nuclear weapon spending elsewhere in the world, Trump replied, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
Putin was dismissive of concerns about such an arms race between the two military powerhouses, stating instead that Trump had incorporated strengthening America’s defenses into his campaign platform from the start.
“In the course of his election campaign, he (Trump) spoke about the necessity of strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and strengthening the armed forces. There’s nothing unusual here,” said Putin.
He went on to claim the Russian government would not participate in an arms race at the expense of the Russian people.
“If anyone is unleashing an arms race, it’s not us. We will never spend resources on an arms race that we can’t afford.”
Putin then addressed the recent American presidential election, as well as claims that he was personally involved in the hacking that resulted in Hillary Clinton’s emails being released—an incident many claim may have swayed the election in Trump’s favor.
“The current administration and the leadership of the Democratic Party are trying to blame all their failures on external factors,” said Putin. “(We are talking about) a party which has clearly forgotten the original meaning of its own name. They are losing on all fronts and looking elsewhere for things to blame. In my view this, how shall I say it, degrades their own dignity. You have to know how to lose with dignity.”
Putin dismissed the possibility that Russian involvement had an effect on the election, saying, “All of this (the accusations) speaks of the current administration’s systemic problems.”
Putin concluded his statements regarding the election by crediting Donald Trump for his tenacity in the election, and for listening to what the American people wanted. “Trump understood the mood of the people and kept going until the end, when nobody believed in him,” Putin said, adding with a smile, “Except for you and me.”
Although tensions have been high between the United States and the Russian government recently, many believe that relations between the two nations will stabilize once Donald Trump takes office next month. Others are concerned about Trump’s level of involvement with the Kremlin, particularly regarding the possibility that Russia worked to aid in Trump’s victory.
Russia’s economy has been suffering since the United States and European Union imposed economic sanctions following Russia’s military annexation of Crimea in 2014. Normalizing relations with the United States could go far in removing those sanctions and allowing a much-needed influx of money into Russia’s struggling economy.
As is the case with all communications filtered through Putin’s regime, it must be assumed that all statements, particularly those regarding the United States’ military superiority over the Russians, were made with a distinct agenda. This speech was intended for domestic consumption, so it may have been part of an effort to justify expanding defense spending, as Putin has pushed in recent months for a “modernized” fighting force. By suggesting that the Russian government would not participate in an arms race it couldn’t afford, Putin made a clear attempt to position Russia as a passive player despite tensions with America and other NATO nations, responding to their provocations as opposed to appearing to be the provocateur themselves.
When asked, Putin would not say that he would run for re-election in 2018, though many believe there is no question that he will.
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