In a year-end speech to his top military officers on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin threw down the gauntlet, declaring that the Russian military, emboldened by recent adventures in Syria and Ukraine, is ready to defeat any country that dares challenge it. “We can say with certainty: we are stronger now than any potential aggressor,” he proclaimed. “Anyone.”
He also made a pitch for bigger and badder nuclear weapons. Putin said Moscow must “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.”
Putin’s remarks came just ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s own nuclear musings, on Twitter, of course. Trump, who betrayed confusion over U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities and policies on the campaign trail, tweeted his intention to overturn two decades of bipartisan U.S. policy to reduce the country’s nuclear stockpiles.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he tweeted.
While tensions remain high between the two countries over the war in Syria, Russian intrusions into the U.S. presidential election, and a NATO buildup near Russia’s European borders, the nuclear issue — and the gradual draw-down of both countries’ stockpiles — was one that had remained relatively quiet.