Ruling out a new ‘arms race’, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the country would cut its military spending, a day after he won a presidential election with a landslide.
“We have plans to decrease our defence spending both this year and next. But this will not lead to any decline in the country’s defence capacity,” he said during a meeting with other candidates.
“Everything is calculated, we have enough money for this purpose, there will not be any increase [of expenditure], we will not allow any arms race. We have everything, we are secure in this sense ,” he said.
Putin appeared to set the stage for a ramping up of military spending when he unveiled a new generation of “invincible” weapons during a state of the nation address earlier this month.
He presented Russia’s military efforts as a response to recent actions by the United States, which last month unveiled plans to revamp its nuclear arsenal and develop new low-yield atomic weapons.
Putin’s remarks about defense spending appear to echo Russian President Aide Andrei Belousov, who told reporters on Friday that military spending would drop as a proportion of GDP.
“We have already mentioned that we would cut defense spending in line with GDP,” Tass reported Belousov as saying. “This will be simply because we have passed the peak of saturating our defense forces with new types of armaments and military equipment.”
Belousov said that increased efficiency and cuts in construction projects together with economic growth would mean that military spending will be around 1.5% of GDP in six years.
“This is a huge sphere, worth about 600 billion rubles ($10.4 billion) annually, and savings can also be achieved there, amounting to tens of billions of rubles at minimum,” Belousov said.
Putin’s remarks come just days after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance did not want a return to Cold War hostilities.
“We don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race, Russia is our neighbour therefore we have to continue to strive for an improved better relationship with Russia,” Stoltenberg said on Friday.
Putin urges dialogue to resolve “arguments”
Putin insisted Moscow would use diplomatic channels to settle differences through constructive dialogue with Russia’s “partners,” an apparent reference to the West, and added that they would need to reciprocate and respect Russia.
“From our side, we will do all we can so that the arguments with our partners be resolved by political and diplomatic means,” he said. “It goes without saying that not everything depends on us – as with love, both sides have to be involved, otherwise there can be no love at all.”
With reporting from AFP
This post was updated on March 19 with a longer quote about an ‘arms race,” translated by The Defense Post.