The message comes as the US government approves close to €2 billion in new military hardware for Ukraine's armed forces.
The Kremlin has warned the US that sending more weapons to Ukraine will only aggravate the devastating 10-month war ignited by Russia's illegal invasion.
Speaking during a meeting with his top military brass on Wednesday, Putin said Moscow would use the combat experience from Ukraine to enhance its armed forces. He told the military leaders to analyze the Western weapons used by Ukraine to “develop our armed forces and strengthen the capability of our troops.”
He said the country’s military should learn lessons and modernise based on its experiences, and that special emphasis would go to developing his country’s nuclear forces, which he described as “the main guarantee of Russia’s sovereignty.”
In a speech at the same meeting, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia’s military must expand from its current size of 1 million personnel to 1.5 million service members, a number that should include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers.
He also said Russia would form new units in the country’s west in view of plans by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.
US approves Patriot missile defence system and €1.85 billion in military aid
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will provide $1.85 billion (€1.73b) in military aid to Ukraine, rolling out funding for a Patriot missile battery as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington for his first known trip out of his country since Russia invaded in February.
The White House announcement came just hours before Zelenskyy landed at Joint Base Andrews, just outside the capital. The package includes $1 billion in weapons and equipment from Pentagon stocks, including the Patriot battery for the first time, and $850 million in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
Part of the USAI will be used to fund a satellite communications system, which likely will include the crucial SpaceX Starlink satellite network system owned by Elon Musk.
“As Russia continues its brutal attacks against critical infrastructure in Ukraine, the United States welcomes President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Washington, DC today to underscore our enduring commitment to the people of Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, adding that the US will be providing “critical new and additional military capabilities to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s ongoing brutal and unprovoked assault.”
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials have pressed Western leaders to provide more advanced weapons, including the Patriots, to help their country in its war with Russia. The Patriot would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Ukraine to help repel Russian aerial attacks.
Also included in the package are two other key items. The Pentagon will send an undisclosed number of Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits, or JDAMs, to Ukraine. The US also will fund satellite communications terminals and services, to shore up a potential vulnerability for Ukraine after Musk said his company could no longer afford to provide the services for free.
Russia wants to expand its military
Russia’s defense minister said Wednesday the country’s military must be expanded from its current 1 million personnel to 1.5 million amid the fighting in Ukraine.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the number should include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers. He didn’t say when the military planned to reach the increased strength.
Shoigu also said the Russian military would form new units in the country’s west in view of plans by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.
He made the comments during his meeting with Vladimir Putin.
The Russian military currently has about 1 million soldiers, compared with China’s force of 2 million and the US force of 1.4 million.
The Kremlin previously considered the size of its military as sufficient, but the calculus changed after hopes for a quick victory over its neighbor were shattered by fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Amid the war, Russia and Ukraine both have kept a tight lid of secrecy on their military casualties. The Russian military last reported its combat losses in September, when it said 5,937 troops were killed, but the West had much higher estimates. Earlier this week, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 100,000 Russian troops were dead, wounded or had deserted since the invasion began.
'No limits' to military spending in Russia
President Putin promised to give his armed forces anything they asked for to support the military campaign in Ukraine.
In a speech to defence chiefs in Moscow, Putin said there were no financial limits on what the government would provide its military.
He also said Russia needed to take special note of the importance of drones in the 10-month conflict and said Russia's hypersonic Sarmat missile - dubbed "Satan II" would be ready for deployment in the near future.