Putin calls to boost Russia’s defences
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called for a boost of Russia’s defences to keep the nation “strong” as he opened the new parliament session amid a fresh upsurge in tensions with the United States. Putin addressed the State Duma after a crushing victory for ruling party United Russia at elections last month that could help smooth the way for him to claim a fourth term as president in a vote set for 2018.
“We need to strengthen the security and defence capability of our country to assert its position on the international stage,” Putin told deputies. Russia is currently facing the longest economic crisis of Putin’s 16-year rule as the Ukraine conflict and a year-old bombing campaign in Syria have pushed tensions with the West to their highest levels since the Cold War. As the authorities tussle over a belt-tightening new budget, Putin said “spheres that directly influence people’s well-being” like health and education remain a priority.
But the Kremlin chief’s speech was mostly focused on the need to keep Russia “strong”. “We must all unite, coordinate our efforts, obligations and rights to maintain Russia’s historical supreme right -- to be strong,” Putin said. Acrimony between Russia and the US has surged in recent days after Washington suspended talks on a ceasefire in Syria over Moscow’s continuing bombing campaign in support of President Assad’s regime.