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West accused of dragging Russia into arms race

Putin denounces nations supporting Ukraine for attempting to sow discord

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-01 09:28
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Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers the state-of-the-nation address in Moscow on Thursday. ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AP

Western countries attempted to draw Russia into an arms race while seeking to weaken it from within, but unsuccessfully, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his more than two-hour-long state-of-the-nation address on Thursday.

"They essentially would like to do to Russia exactly what they did to many other regions of the world, including Ukraine: bring discord to our home and weaken us from within. But they miscalculated," the president said.

Putin made the remarks at his 19th state-of-the-nation address in Moscow. According to Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president had been working on the text of the address personally this year, and has had "dozens of phone and face-to-face contacts" with ministers, deputy prime ministers and other government officials.

About 1,000 people were invited to the ceremony. They included members of both houses of Russia's parliament, government and presidential administration officials, heads of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, members of the State Council and Public Chamber, governors, representatives of religious organizations, diplomats, and journalists, including foreign ones.

In his address, Putin told Western countries on Thursday they risked provoking a nuclear war if they sent troops to fight in Ukraine, warning that Moscow had the weapons to strike targets in the West.

"Western nations must realize that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don't they get that?" said Putin, highlighting Russia's vastly modernized nuclear arsenal.

"Strategic nuclear forces are in a state of full readiness," he said, noting that new-generation hypersonic nuclear weapons he first spoke about in 2018 had either been deployed or were at a stage where development and testing were being completed.

Visibly angry, Putin suggested Western politicians recall the fate of those like Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler and France's Napoleon Bonaparte who had unsuccessfully invaded Russia in the past.

"But now the consequences will be far more tragic," said Putin, accusing Western politicians of forgetting what real war meant because they had not faced the same security challenges as Russians had in the last three decades.

Putin accused the West of forcing Russia into an arms race and said Moscow's "strategic nuclear forces are in a state of full readiness for use", though he warned that a global nuclear conflict would "destroy civilization".

"They (in the West) should finally understand — and I just told them — that we too have weapons that can destroy targets on their territories," he said.

Moving to domestic policies, Putin announced a slew of new national projects, including those providing state financial support to Russian families and youth, as well as job skills training in the high-tech sector.

Outpacing US economy

He also said that Russia's economy grew at a rate higher than the global average in 2023, outpacing that of the United States and other G7 countries despite facing a wide array of sanctions and being cut off from Western markets.

Putin set out Russia's production goals for 2030, calling on domestic manufacturers to ramp up production of high-tech goods by 150 percent. Among other priority areas for boosting domestic manufacturing, he listed consumer products, medicine and automobiles.

He urged companies to keep their assets in the country by promising "minimal" and "risk-oriented" business inspections starting in 2025, while also calling for an amnesty for small businesses accused of tax evasion.

By the end of his address, Putin made clear that he sees Russia's military victory over Ukraine as the true measure of the country's success and the key to its future. "I believe in our victories and success and in the future of Russia," Putin said.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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