Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is touting Russia's nuclear weapons, saying the country has enough strength that the U.S. should seek a more constructive approach to a dispute over European missile defense plans.
Russia has previously threatened retaliatory moves if Washington goes ahead with plans to elements of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Putin, speaking Friday to a security round-table in the city of Sarov, did not mention specific actions, but was clearly challenging.
His comments came 10 days before Russia's presidential election, in which Putin seeks to return to the Kremlin leadership he held in 2000-2008. In the weeks before the election, he has repeatedly alleged that Washington seeks to weaken Russia.
Putin has repeatedly dismissed the U.S. claim that the prospective missile shield is intended to counter the Iranian missile threat, saying that its real goal is to erode Russia's nuclear deterrent.
On Friday, he claimed the U.S. had derided the Russian military several years ago.
Washington, Putin said, "told its colleagues in the (NATO) bloc 'Let Russia potter around, we're not very interested, they have nothing left but rust.'"
"This isn't so. Today, it's completely not so," he said, according to Russian news agencies.
He countered that Russia has new intercontinental ballistic missiles and put two nuclear submarines into service in the past three years.
"We have something to prompt our colleagues and partners to be more constructive, but we haven't seen this so far," said.
Putin also asserted that Russia would not bend to others in its foreign policy. "I think our position on Syria in the U.N. Security Council shows that we will not echo anyone," he said.
Russia this month vetoed a Security Council resolution aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.