This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow would “knock the teeth out” of any country that tried to take pieces of his country’s vast territory.
Putin made the remarks on May 20 during a televised virtual meeting of the National Security Council, saying that foreign efforts to contain Russia date back centuries.
“Everyone wants to bite us somewhere or to bite off something from us. But they — those who are going to do it — should know that we will knock their teeth out so that they cannot bite,” the Russian leader said. “This is quite obvious, and the key to this is the development of our armed forces.”
Putin also said that Western sanctions against Russia are continuing a longtime historic trend of containing a powerful rival and alleged that some critics of Moscow whom he didn’t name have argued that it’s unfair for Russia to keep its vast natural riches all to itself.
“Even after we lost one-third of our potential” when former Soviet republics became independent after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, “Russia is still too big for some,” Putin said during the meeting.
Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia over the complaints about Moscow’s activities and behavior, including election interference, the annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and the treatment of jailed opposition activist Aleksei Navalny.
Putin also claimed that Russia now has the most modern strategic nuclear forces compared to other nuclear powers, noting that Moscw this year is set to spend the equivalent of $42 billion on defense.
The comments came amid a push for a summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden as ties with Western countries slump to a post-Cold War low.