UPDATE - Putin accuses West of dragging Russia into an arms race

UPDATE - Putin accuses West of dragging Russia into an arms race

Russian president, in his annual State of the Nation address, says his country's strategic nuclear forces in 'state of full readiness'

ADDS FURTHER REMARKS BY RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN

By Burc Eruygur

ISTANBUL (AA) - Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual State of the Nation address on Thursday accused the West of dragging his country into an arms race.

“We understand that the West is trying to drag us into an arms race. Thus, to wear us down, to repeat the trick that they succeeded in the 1980s with the Soviet Union,” Putin told lawmakers, officials and journalists at the Federal Assembly.

He said the country’s strategic nuclear forces are in a “state of full readiness,” and attempts at a new intervention in Russia threaten a large-scale nuclear conflict.

"They (the West) should eventually understand that we also have weapons, yes, they know about it, just now I said there are weapons that can hit targets on their territory, and that everything they come up with now scares the whole world, that all this really threatens conflict with the use of nuclear weapons, which means the destruction of civilization," he said.

Putin said the West wants to weaken his country from within, like "what they did to Ukraine," but they have "miscalculated."

"The so-called West, with its colonial habits and habit of inciting national conflicts around the world, seeks not only to restrain our development. Instead of Russia, they need a dependent, fading, dying space where they can do whatever they want," he added.

The Russian leader said Western claims that Moscow is planning to attack Europe are "nonsense," claiming that the West provoked conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, and other regions of the world.

He also announced plans to strengthen armed forces in the country's west after Sweden and Finland's accessions to the NATO military alliance. Finland has a long land border with northwest Russia.

Putin said Russia is ready for dialogue with the US on issues of strategic stability, but argued that Washington's attempts to defeat Moscow while offering dialogue were “hypocritical,” and termed remarks of US officials on interest in negotiations pre-election "demagoguery."

He said claims that Russia plans to place nuclear weapons in space are unfounded, and nothing more than a ploy for negotiations on terms "beneficial exclusively to the US."

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