MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin has confided that US President Donald Trump privately lamented the “insane” US military budget, stating that Russia protects itself by making the costs of attacking the country too high for anyone to contemplate.
“The US has outstripped us in terms of annual defense expenditure”, the Russian president said in a new episode of news agency TASS’s ‘20 Questions to Vladimir Putin’ series.
But being the world’s largest military spender doesn’t really make Trump particularly happy, Putin added.
“Donald told me that they have adopted an insane [military] budget for the next year, $738 billion,” he noted.
The US commander-in-chief, who likes to talk up his country’s military hardware during overseas trips while bragging about the armed forces, tends to be more reserved in private, according to Putin.
“He told me that the costs were too high, but he had to do it,” he stated, describing his counterpart as “an advocate of disarmament, as he says.”
In terms of military spending, Russia trails behind China, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, and Japan, with a defense budget worth $48 billion, although its lower cost base gives it more purchasing power than most western states.
“Moreover, our annual expenditures are falling. In contrast, other countries’ spending has been rising,” Putin said.
“We are not going to fight against anyone. We are going to create conditions so that nobody wants to fight against us,” he added.
Putin also explained why Trump – who already dismantled the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty the US signed with the old Soviet Union – is reluctant to talk non-proliferation and arms control.
“That is another question, this is a question which relates to the understanding of security and how to ensure it… We can discuss this topic,” the Russian president replied without going into details.
Another treaty that now hangs in the balance is the START, which dramatically reduced the number of warheads and the means of delivery. The current edition of the pact, known as New START, was signed by Obama and his then-Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. It is set to expire in February 2021. While Moscow has signaled its readiness to prolong the treaty, the US has kept silent on the matter.