Putin Vows to Further Strengthen Military
Russia needs a mighty military to fend off threats near its borders, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, in a stance that reflects soaring tensions with the West over the crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian leader, whose approval ratings reached an all-time high this month despite a bruising recession, said a "powerful army equipped with modern weapons is the guarantor of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia".
Speaking at Thursday's Kremlin meeting with graduates of Russian military academies, Putin also vowed to continue a sweeping military modernisation effort that envisions the purchase of large numbers of new weapons.
Despite the fact that oil-rich Russia is now in a recession, Putin's plan aims to spend 22 trillion rubles (over $400 billion) through 2020 to give the armed forces dozens of navy ships, hundreds of new planes and missiles and thousands of tanks and other weapons.
Putin added that Russia has no aggressive intentions and aims to "settle any disputes exclusively by political means with respect to international law and interests of other nations".
Relations between Russia and the West have sunk to post-Cold War lows after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
The United States and the European Union have responded with sanctions that have sharply limited Russia's access to Western capital markets and curtailed the transfer of military and energy technologies.