Putin says Russia needs strong military

VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated Press Published:

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia needs to modernize its military arsenals to deter others from grabbing its resources, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an article published Monday.

Putin, who is running to reclaim presidency in March 4 election, didn't name any specific nation eyeing Russian mineral riches, but in the past he had repeatedly accused the United States of trying to weaken Russia in order to sideline a rival.

"We mustn't tempt anyone with our weakness," Putin wrote in the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Putin said the government plans spending about 23 trillion rubles (about $770 billion dollars) over the next decade to purchase more than 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 600 combat aircraft, dozens of submarines and other navy vessels and thousands of armored vehicles.

"Amid global economic upheavals and other shocks there always is a temptation to solve one's problems by using force to apply pressure," Putin wrote, pointing at arguments that resources of global significance shouldn't be subject to national sovereignty and should be shared.

Putin didn't specify who is making such claims, but some Russian officials and lawmakers had alleged in the past that the West is eyeing Russia's rich mineral resources.

He said that Russia will respond to the planned U.S. missile defense by developing weapons capable of penetrating it.

Putin has dismissed the U.S. claim that the prospective shield is intended to counter the Iranian missile threat, saying that its real goal is to erode Russia's nuclear deterrent.

Putin said Russia also needs to look 30 to 50 years ahead to foresee threats posed by prospective new weapons technologies.

While a nuclear conflict looks unlikely, scientific progress leads to the emergence of new weapons that could change the character of war, Putin said. He specifically referred to precision long-range non-nuclear weapons, saying they emerge as key instrument of modern warfare.

While Putin on Monday stopped short of naming any nation developing the technology, Russia has long voiced concern with U.S. plans to re-equip some of its long-range nuclear missiles with conventional warheads.

Experts have warned that the obsolete equipment and aging workforce at Russian defense plants put a challenge to the ambitious weapons modernization program.

Putin said the government would need to focus on modernizing weapons-making plants, promising to encourage private investments in arms production.