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Fearing West, Putin pledges biggest military buildup since cold war

Vladimir Putin, less than two weeks away from presidential polls, pledged $772 billion on arms over the next decade.

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"This is the first time Putin has spoken about this in such a tough way," says Mr. Baranets. "But in order for this plan to come to life, we need to see our military industries restored and many new plants built. Putin has yet to prove that he's got both feet on the ground with these promises, and that he's not just making fools of people."

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Preparing for war with the West

The political subtext in Putin's article is the scary suggestion that the world is drifting into a dangerous phase in which international institutions like the United Nations no longer work and Western countries feel free to intervene militarily in sovereign states, as they did last year in Libya.

Moscow has firmly opposed any kind of international action on the current crisis in Syria, and is actually preparing to stage war games in southern Russia this summer to prepare for possible fallout from a feared US military strike against Iran.

"Today, we see how new regional and local wars break out one after another," Putin wrote. "We see zones of instability and artificially maintained, managed chaos emerging. Furthermore, we see how some are purposefully provoking such conflicts in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s borders.… We see the fundamental principles of international law being devalued and eroded."

RELATED – IN PICTURES: Russia's military might  

A few experts argue that debates about the feasibility of Putin's rearmament plans are beside the point, and that his insistence on getting Russia ready for war with the West ought to be the focus of public scrutiny.

"This is the vision of a very disturbed person, who openly declares that the world is against him and Russia, and we need to build defenses against everyone," says Pavel Felgenhauer, a military columnist for the opposition weekly Novaya Gazeta.

"Putin's plan calls for spending enormous amounts of money to prepare for war with America, to be a superpower player again and surpass the West in the quality of our weaponry. This is not merely unachievable, it's paranoid. The USSR, which was much bigger and more powerful than Russia, was bankrupted by engaging in this sort of arms race. It's the wrong direction entirely," Mr. Felgenhauer says

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