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Putin says Russia 'pushed' by NATO

  |   Feb. 22, 2012 at 12:56 PM
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MOSCOW, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The $77.2 billion set aside to modernize the Russian defense industry doesn't mean a militarization of the budget, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.

Putin writes in U.S. foreign affairs magazine Foreign Policy that Russia can't afford to be seen as a weak nation.

"We will, under no circumstances, surrender our strategic deterrent capability," he writes.

He said Russia can't maintain its international position or protect its economic interests unless it has the defensive capabilities to match. The Kremlin, he said, can't rely on diplomatic and economic methods alone to resolve conflicts.

He said the Russian government allocated $77.2 billion to modernize its defense industry over the next decade. This didn't, however, equate to the militarization of the Russia budget, he said.

Moscow in August 2010 deployed its S-300 missile shield to Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia to protect the airspace from "intruders."

The Kremlin had said its 2008 war with the former Soviet republic of Georgia stopped NATO's expansion eastward. Putin added that Moscow was "pushed into action" by U.S. and NATO missile defense policies in the region. He said Russia's response to the missile defense system would be "effective and asymmetrical."

Putin is running for president in March 4 elections. State-run news agency RIA Novosti reports despite some opposition, he's expecting a landslide victory.

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