I’m sorry, but even if you believe that Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were the one and only source of Iranian paranoia, or increased attacks on Israel, or whatever ills you want to attribute to it, this is simply pure paranoia.

President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear weapons after accusing the United States of harbouring an “erotic” desire to invade Russia and steal its natural resources.

Delivering one of his most belligerent anti-Western tirades, Mr Putin also suggested that America and its allies had concocted a fake assassination plot to prevent him from visiting Iran this week.

Casting himself as a pugnacious but benign defender of national sovereignty, the president told his people during a live television phone-in that only Russia’s military prowess had prevented the country from suffering Iraq’s fate.

Puh-lease. This is simply over the top. Putin would have come up with any reason to bolster his military, whether or not the US was in Iraq. As evidence, he’s bipartisan in his paranoia.

The subject of Western plots was first raised by Alexander, a mechanic in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. Was it right, Alexander wanted to know, that certain American politicians considered Russia’s refusal to share its natural resources “unfair” – claims he bizarrely attributed to Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state.

“I know that such ideas are brewing in the heads of some politicians,” Mr Putin replied. “I think it is a sort of political eroticism which maybe gives some pleasure but will hardly lead anywhere.

Of course, this was all carefully planned political theater. Nothing like a US Presidential press conference.

Not once was an unsettling or controversial question asked – a fact that drew scorn from the Kremlin’s dwindling band of critics. “It was unbearably boring and openly narcissistic,” said Yevgeny Kiselyov, a political commentator.

“It was all staged from beginning to end. If he is a president and not the Tsar, why don’t we hear the opinion of those who don’t vote for him?”

Russia’s already rapid rearmament would be stepped up even further, Mr Putin promised. Ambitious plans to bolster the country’s nuclear arsenal – as well as its conventional military hardware – were well underway.

They include new missile systems, modernised nuclear bombers and submarines. “We have plans that are not only great, but grandiose,” he boasted.

To drive home this message, the broadcast was interrupted to show a test launch of Russia’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile.

“The anti-western rhetoric is aimed at voters, philistines who like to believe that Russia is surrounded by enemies intent on keeping the country on its knees,” Mr Kiselyov said.

“For them, Putin is the only man who can defend us from these vicious enemies.”

Indeed, enemies that exist only in his own mind.

[tags]Vladimir Putin,Russia,Madeleine Albright,Yevgeny Kiselyov,military,missiles,nuclear bombs[/tags]

Filed under: DougPoliticsRussia

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