Putin Vows $770 billion Russian Military Spending Plan Ahead of Elections

on February 20 2012 10:34 AM

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Monday the country needs a stronger military, two weeks ahead of presidential elections.

Keen to boost his notoriously bullish image, Putin said in a newspaper article that Russia would spend 23 trillion roubles ($770 billion) over the next decade to modernize the country's armed forces, warning of the need to protect the country from new regional and local wars sparked by foreign powers.

In the piece, which was published on the front page of Russia's  Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Putin declined to name which specific wars or threats he was referring to.

There are attempts to provoke such conflicts in the immediate vicinity of the borders of Russia and our allies, he wrote.

New regional and local wars are being sparked before our very eyes.

The article comes only weeks ahead of March 4 Presidential elections in which Putin (a former President) is a candidate.

Putin is presenting himself as a guarantor of stability in his campaign for the presidential election, which he is widely expected to win.

The ex-KGB officer has also accused foreign governments of helping the organizers of the biggest opposition protests of his 12-year rule and has criticized the United States, helping stoke anti-Americanism on the eve of the election.

Monday's piece, the latest in a series of articles aimed at shoring up his image as a strong leader bent on restoring Russian national pride, went on to announce an effective and asymmetrical response to NATO's proposed European missile shield.

Russia has been a strong critic of NATO in recent months, accusing the alliance of overreaching its UN mandate in Libya.

The country has also faced international condemnation after vetoing two UN resolutions condemning the bloodshed in Syria -- the largest importer of Russian arms in the Middle East -- where at least 6,000 people are estimated to have been killed in uprisings against President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia, which inherited the bulk of the under-equipped and bloated Soviet military, has tried to knock its fighting forces into shape.

A five-day war in 2008 with Georgia, which it easily won, laid bare many of the military's deficiencies.

Reuters contributed to this article

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