President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia's military modernization program does not mean the country is going to become involved in an arms race.
Speaking at a meeting in Sochi with arms industries officials, Putin described the ongoing upgrade of Russia's military as simply a matter of "catching up" after the armed forces and defense industries were "chronically underfunded" in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
"We are not going to get involved in some kind of arms race, much less catch up and overtake anyone," he said.
On Tuesday, Putin said Russia would counter the missile shield planned by the United States by developing "strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses."
Washington has said that NATO's U.S.-led missile shield would be aimed not at Russia’s nuclear arsenal, but at missile threats from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.
Putin, however, said Tuesday that references to threats from Iran and North Korea nuclear threats are "just a cover" for the "true purpose" of the U.S.-led missile shield, which he said is "to neutralize the potential of other nuclear states ... primarily Russia.”
The United States "is attempting to achieve strategic military superiority, with all the consequences that entails," Putin said.