Putin praises Cold War moles for stealing U.S. nuclear secrets

MOSCOW Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:04pm EST

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin smiles during a meeting with business owners from the Altai region, in the city of Barnaul February 21, 2012.   REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin smiles during a meeting with business owners from the Altai region, in the city of Barnaul February 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin praised Cold War-era scientists on Thursday for stealing U.S. nuclear secrets so that United States would not be the world's sole atomic power, in comments reflecting his vision of Russia as a counterweight to U.S. power.

Spies with suitcases full of data helped the Soviet Union build its atomic bomb, he told military commanders.

"You know, when the States already had nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union was only building them, we got a significant amount of information through Soviet foreign intelligence channels," Putin said, according to state-run Itar-Tass.

"The were carrying the information away not on microfilm but literally in suitcases. Suitcases!"

Putin's remarks referred to the dawn of the Cold War more than half a century ago, but they echoed a message he has made loud and clear more recently: that the United States needs to be restrained, and Russia is the country to do it.

It has been known for decades that there were spies among the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the U.S. atomic bomb design operation. Putin suggested those who helped Moscow build its bomb acted out of concern for humanity.

"It was the cream the scientific world that was gathered in America, and I personally have gotten the impression that they consciously gave us information on the atom bomb," Putin was quoted as saying.

"They did this consciously because the atom bomb had been used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and scientists from mankind's intellectual elite at the time understood what unilateral possession of such a weapon might lead to."

A need for Russia to act as a counterweight to U.S. power has been a continuous theme of Putin's time in office since he - himself a former Soviet spy - became president in 2000. He stepped down in 2008 to become prime minister but is poised to reclaim the presidency in an election on March 4.

Last year he criticized the United States for helping Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi. Lately he has suggested Washington has similar designs on Syria, where Russia has vetoed U.N. action. Earlier this month Putin said the world faced a growing "cult of violence".

(Writing by Steve Gutterman)

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Comments (82)
Austell wrote:
Please god!! Somebody, anybody save us from this psychopathic global dictator!!!

Russia, China, I don’t care… just somebody make it stop before we all turn into demons and the foulest creatures of imagination.

Feb 22, 2012 5:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Wow seriously? Putin seems HELL BENT on restarting the damn race…

Feb 22, 2012 6:46pm EST  --  Report as abuse
dave148109 wrote:
That’s funny. The U.S., which could have easily conquered the world when it was the only country with the bomb and the “last man standing” after WW2, instead rebuilt and liberated Germany and Japan and laid the foundation for over half a century of relative peace. Whereas Russia had just finished conquering as much territory in Europe that it could and kept it for 50 years. Try to be credible, Vladimir!

Feb 22, 2012 6:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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