Putin tirade: West exaggerates Russia threat to justify military spending

Russian president dismisses claims of interference in US presidential elections

Putin tirade: West exaggerates Russia threat to justify military spending

Russian President Vladimir Putin briefs the media | File photo: PA Images

Vladimir Putin has accused the West of exaggerating the threat Russia poses to the world to justify increased military spending.

Addressing an audience of foreign policy experts, the Russian president said: "It's very pleasant and profitable to make yourself out to be defendants of civilisation from some new barbarians, but the thing is Russia doesn't plan to attack anyone."

He said the idea was "unthinkable - simply stupid and unrealistic".

Mr Putin also slammed as "hysteria" claims that Russia has attempted to interfere in the upcoming US presidential elections by hacking American political institutions.

"The number of mythical, dreamt-up problems includes the hysteria - I can't think of another word - that has broken out in the United States about the influence of Russia on the current elections for the US President," he said.

"Does anyone seriously think Russia can somehow influence the choice of the US people? Is the US some kind of banana republic? The United States is a great power. Please correct me if I'm wrong,"

The US government has formally accused the Russian government of trying to "interfere" in the 2016 White House race by hacking US political institutions.

The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed the allegations.

Mr Putin has said the accusation is meant to divert American voters from serious domestic problems such as the country's national debt and gun control.

"It's a lot easier to distract people's attention towards Russia's so-called hackers, spies, agents of influence and so on," he said.

Mr Putin also took a jab at the West for its "mistakes" in its military interventions in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and now, Syria.

"The fight against terrorism has not yielded a global result while the threats are only growing," he said, adding that Russia's calls to unite forces against terrorism have been ignored.

He said he blamed the US for the ongoing conflict in Syria, saying that "stopping bloodshed and launching a political process (in Syria) has not been possible".

Relations between Russia and the West have reached a new low in recent weeks as a result of the continued bombardment of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian government forces.

Following a meeting of European and American ministers in London ten days ago the US Secretary of State, John Kerry called what is happening in the Syrian city "crimes against humanity" and warned of possible economic sanctions against Russia moving forward.

Mr Putin defended Russia’s actions saying there is a choice between "keeping a terrorist nest [in Aleppo] or crushing that nest while minimizing civilian casualties." 

Earlier this week more than 80 human rights and aid organisations - including Human Rights Watch, CARE International and Refugees International - urged the UN to drop Russia from the Geneva based Human Rights council. 

In a joint statement published on Monday, the organisations urged UN member states to “question seriously” whether Russia's role in Syria “renders it fit to serve on the UN's premier inter-governmental human rights institution."

“Since September 19, 2016, Russian and Syrian forces have bombarded opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo,” said the statement.

“The attacks included the use of barrel bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons, and damaged or partially destroyed at least five hospitals in six separate attacks.

“Amnesty International has concluded that Russian and Syrian government forces appear to have deliberately and systematically targeted hospitals and other medical facilities to pave the way for ground forces to advance on northern Aleppo.

“Russia’s actions in Syria stand in clear contrast to its rhetorical commitment to human rights.”