Leader comment: Putin, Trump and the changing of the guard

Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed his country is working to develop new weaponswhich he claims will ensure a strategic balance. Picture AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed his country is working to develop new weaponswhich he claims will ensure a strategic balance. Picture AP

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So yesterday was the day that President Vladimir Putin chose to announce to the world that his country is developing state-of-the art arms technologies, including laser, hypersonic and robotic weapons.

No real surprises there – all powerful states will be working on new weapons technology. But it comes at a time when a lot is shifting in defence postures. Yesterday was also the day outgoing US President Barack Obama and EU leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Nato and sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

President-elect Trump has openly questioned how much the US pays for its part in the alliance, and despite Nato General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg’s reassurance that after having spoken to Mr Trump the pair had “underlined the enduring importance of Nato”, there are still doubts about the US’s ongoing commitment. And that would delight Mr Putin.

Something else that would have put a smile on his face is the utterances by Rudy Giuliani, frontrunner to be Trump’s Secretary of state, Mr Giuliani said the US is to raise its number of troops to 550,000, instead of cutting it to 420,000. And he also said they intended to take their navy up to 350 ships, instead of going down to 247.

Mr Putin will be smiling because Mr Giuliani went on to say the increase was done with an eye on the Chinese. Now a statement like that will do nothing to calm down the rising tensions in the South China seas.

And all the time the Kremlin continues a sweeping military modernisation drive despite the economy. Arms races rarely end well, unless you are an arms manufacturer.

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