MOSCOW - President Putin of Russia raised the specter of the Cold War yesterday, likening America to a voracious wolf and declaring that the arms race was not yet over.
With relations between Moscow and Washington at their most strained in many years, Mr. Putin used his annual state of the nation speech to revive Russia's military rivalry with America.
"It is premature to speak of the end of the arms race," he said in his televised address. "Moreover, it is going faster today. It is rising to a new technological level."
Seeking to portray America as Russia's main adversary, Mr. Putin pointed out that Moscow's military budget was 25 times lower than Washington's. He said that would have to change if foreign attempts to interfere in Russian policy were to be warded off.
"We must always be ready to counter any attempts to pressure Russia," he said. "The stronger our military is, the less temptation there will be to exert such pressure on us."
Spending is to increase on both conventional forces and the so-called nuclear triad of land, sea, and air-based strategic weapons, he said.
Two new nuclear-powered submarines armed with Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles would soon go into service, the first to be built since 1990, Mr. Putin noted as one example.
Meanwhile the mostly conscripted army must fill two thirds of its ranks with professionals by 2008. Russia's military will reportedly receive about $23 billion this year, about $3.7 billion more than in 2005.
Mr. Putin's annual address is always meticulously dissected by Kremlinologists seeking clues for Russia's direction over the coming 12 months. This year's speech comes just six days after Vice President Cheney accused the Kremlin of backsliding on democracy and blackmailing its neighbors in one of the most scathing attacks on Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Russian press compared Mr. Cheney's criticisms to Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech in 1946 and said it heralded the dawn of a new Cold War.
In a sign of the rising political pressure over Russia, Senator McCain, a Republican of Arizona, who hopes to succeed President Bush in the White House, launched a broadside against the Kremlin.
"There has been a steady retrogression and a sort of an effort to restore the old Soviet Empire," he told CBS television.
The Russian leader accused the Bush administration of sacrificing the democratic ideals it claimed to cherish. "We are aware of what is going on in the world. Comrade Wolf knows whom to eat, he eats without listening and he's clearly not going to listen to anyone."
He stressed that Russia's foreign policy was based on "observance of international law."