By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that suggestions the United States should prepare for a war against Russia and China were nonsense, and warned the West that any war against Russia would be on a whole different level to the conflict in Ukraine.
A bipartisan panel appointed by the U.S. Congress said on Thursday that Washington must prepare for possible simultaneous wars with Moscow and Beijing by expanding its conventional forces, strengthening alliances and enhancing its nuclear weapons modernization programme.
Putin, who is to visit China this week, said the United States had stoked tensions with Beijing by building the "AUKUS" security alliance of U.S., Australia and Britain and that Russia and China were not building a military alliance.
Putin told Kremlin reporter Pavel Zarubin in a clip published on Sunday that thoughts of war between Russia and the United States were unhealthy but that if people were making such thoughts public they could not but cause concern to Moscow.
"I don't think these are healthy thoughts in the minds of healthy people, because to say that the United States is preparing for war with Russia, well we are all preparing for war because we follow the ancient principle: if you want peace, get ready for war," Putin said in a clip posted on Telegram.
"But we want peace," Putin said with a chuckle. "Moreover, to fight with both Russia and China, it is nonsense - I don't think it is serious. I think they are just scaring each other."
The deepening partnership between the rising superpower of China and Russia, the world's biggest nuclear power, is one of the most intriguing geopolitical developments of recent years - and one the West is watching with anxiety.
The United States casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat while U.S. President Joe Biden argues that this century will be defined by an existential contest with between democracies and autocracies.
Putin cautioned that if the United States fought against Russia then it would be very different to the war in Ukraine that the Kremlin calls a special military operation.
"And if they want to fight with Russia then it will be a completely different war - it will not be carrying out a special military operation," Putin said. "Look at the Middle East - is that a special military operation - can you compare them?"
"If we talk about a war between great nuclear powers, then it would be a completely different story. I don't think that people in their right minds can think about such a thing, but if such a thought does come to them then it can only cause us to be wary."
The United States says that both Russia and China are modernising their nuclear weapons arsenals and that China will likely have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if it continues with its current pace of nuclear buildup.
Putin controls around 5,889 nuclear warheads as of 2023, compared with 5,244 controlled by Biden, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Of those, Russia has about 1,674 deployed strategic nuclear warheads while the United States has 1,670.
(Editing by William Mallard and Hugh Lawson)