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Putin vows to boost Russian army ahead of vote

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin vowed Monday that Russia would strengthen its military might and offer an “asymmetrical and effective” response to the deployment of a NATO missile shield.

“We must not tempt anyone with our weakness,” Putin wrote in a fiercely worded article on national security in the state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, ahead of his bid for a third Kremlin term in March 4 presidential polls.

“Therefore we will never in any circumstances give away our potential of strategic deterrence and will strengthen it,” he said in his sixth campaign article laying out his political beliefs.

Drawing historic parallels with World War II, he cited Marshal Georgy Zhukov and warned against repeating the Soviet Union’s disastrous entry to the war, taken by surprise by the Nazi invasion.

Russia must implement strong countermeasures to respond to NATO’s planned deployment of a missile shield in Europe, he said, continuing a debate that has simmered for nearly a decade.

The mix of European radar and interceptors — a key part of a global shield being studied by the United States — are designed to protect against potential attacks from Iran amid worries about the Islamic state’s nuclear programme.

But Russia fears the system could one day make its own shrinking nuclear arsenal ineffective and has outlined a series of retaliatory steps it may take should NATO ignore its concerns.

“The time demands decisive steps to strengthen a single system of air and space defence of our country. We are being pushed towards these actions by the policy of the United States and NATO on the question of deploying a missile shield,” Putin wrote.

He said Russia should not try to create a “costly” rival shield but that its strategic nuclear forces and air and space defence forces should aim to “overcome any system of missile defence.”

“In this question there cannot be too much patriotism,” Putin said.

“Russia’s military and technical response to a global American missile shield and its segment in Europe will be effective and asymmetrical.”

“And it will fully correspond to the United States’ steps on the missile shield.”

He said that Russia plans to spend around 23 trillion rubles ($773 billion) in the next decade on modernising its armed forces and defence industry, which he said must make up for its technical backwardness in the next decade.

“In the next decade we must fully make up for our lagging behind,” he said.