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Putin Invokes Colin Powell in Military Speech

In the conclusion of a speech before a group of newly promoted security officers at the Kremlin on Friday, President Vladimir Putin made a surprising reference to comments made by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell upon the decision to withdraw from Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as a measure of Russia’s resurgent power and military might. Putin also used the opportunity to announce that $190 billion has been earmarked for arms through 2015.

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Care to re-evaluate your opinion of the Russian military, Mr. Secretary?

From the speech:

I recall at this moment how in these very halls a few years ago we held discussions with our partners on the Americans’ decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. I will not go back over all the details, but the reaction to our discussions then had a continuation in the discussions our American partners had with their allies. I remember how one of our extremely agreeable partners, one of the few genuinely very agreeable partners among the U.S. officials, Colin Powell (at that time U.S. secretary of state), said to the Europeans: “What are we arguing about? What missile defence? Defence against what? They – that is us – don’t have anything left now. They’ve got no missiles either now, just a load of rusting metal, that’s all. This whole dispute is purely theoretical”. With the Armed Forces in the state they were in at that time, with what was essentially an ongoing civil war being waged, continued bloodshed in the Caucasus and the country’s national wealth being robbed on an unprecedented scale as millions of people looked on, the picture appeared to be of a country with no future ahead of it. But dramatic change has been achieved over these last years, and this is thanks to your efforts too.

Two thoughts occur to me: 1) This wouldn’t be the first time that Colin Powell was mistaken about weapons, and 2) if only the Putin administration could make such progress on the problem of “wealth being robbed on an unprecedented scale as millions of people looked on,” then we would really have something to celebrate.