MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed suggestions Friday there was a risk of a new nuclear arms race between Russia and the United States, shrugging off comments by US President-elect Donald Trump on Twitter as “nothing new.”
Trump said in a Twitter post Thursday that the United States must “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.”
“As for (comments by) the newly elected president of the US, there is nothing new,” Putin said during his annual news conference that lasted four hours. “During his election campaign, he said the US needed to bolster nuclear capabilities and armed forces in general, and there is nothing new.”
Asked about what he will address in his first meeting with Trump, Putin said, “We need to discuss ways to normalize our relations. During his election campaign, Trump said it would be proper to normalize and it can’t be worse, and I agree with him.”
Before Trump’s tweet, Putin on Thursday had touted Russia’s military strength, saying it was “stronger than any aggressor’s.”
Those remarks gave way to declarations by Obama administration officials that the United States had the world’s greatest defense capabilities.
“I am surprised by the officials of the Obama administration. They started to prove that the US Army is the most powerful in the world. No one challenges that,” Putin said.
“I said that we are improving our nuclear capabilities, and that Russia is stronger (than) any potential aggressor. It (is) very important, I used that word, aggressor. I did not use it accidentally. Who is an aggressor? An aggressor is someone who can potentially attack Russia. So we are stronger than any potential aggressor.”
Relations between Russia and the United States have faltered this past year as the two nations have stood on opposing sides of the Syria conflict, locking horns several times at the UN Security Council over the nearly 6-year war.
Washington also has accused Russia of interfering with the US election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee emails and leaking details to the public.
Putin brushed off those accusations Friday, saying it did not matter who was behind the apparent hacking.
He said that the hacks were important because they had revealed truthful information, such as the alleged favoritism showed by the DNC to Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.