MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's military is now stronger than any potential foe, President Vladimir Putin told an annual end-of-year meeting with the defense ministry on Thursday.
"We can say with certainty: we are stronger now than any potential aggressor," he told the meeting. "Anyone!"
His comments come at the end of a year when tensions between Russia and the West have remained strained, largely to do with differing approaches to the civil war in Syria.
Tensions between Russia and the West escalated after Russia's annexation in Crimea in 2014 and its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Last year, Russia began an air force operation in Syria to support President Bashar Assad that's irked the U.S. in particular.
Both Russia and NATO members conducted a flurry of military drills near the Russian border this year. Russia has insisted that it's bolstering its forces at the border to react to a growing NATO threat.
Speaking at the defense ministry's headquarters in Moscow Putin said Russia should follow closely any military movement along its border as well as changes "in the military and political situation globally." He said Russia should be swift in "adjusting plans to neutralize potential threats to our country."
Putin made the comments after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu presented his annual report, lauding Russia's military achievements in Syria as well as successful efforts to modernize the Russian army.
Among other things, Shoigu said Russia "for the first time in its history" has fully covered the Russian border with early warning anti-missile systems. Shoigu complained about an increased number of NATO drone flights along the Russian border announced plans to send more troops to Russia's west, south-west and the Arctic region.
Putin thanked the ministry for its work but added that "the situation might change very quickly" in case "we let ourselves relax even for a moment."