Putin's statement at a Victory Day parade on Red Square on Wednesday was artfully phrased to be both blunt and vague, but political observers have little doubt he was criticizing the United States for "disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich."
While Putin didn't name any particular country in the speech marking the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, the remarks echoed his increasingly strong criticism of the perceived U.S. domination in global affairs.
Political analysts close to the Kremlin say that Putin referred to the United States in his remarks, expressing Russia's dismay at what it views as U.S. unilateralism in world affairs and disrespect for other countries' interests.
"Hitler was striving for global domination, and the United States is striving for global domination now," Sergei Markov, the Kremlin-connected head of the Moscow-based Institute for Political Research, told The Associated Press. "Hitler thought he was above the League of Nations, and the United States thinks it is above the United Nations. Their action is similar."
Relations between Russia and the United States have become increasingly tense amid U.S. criticism of the Kremlin for rolling back on democracy and Moscow's complaints against U.S. plans to deploy missile defense sites in Europe close to its western borders. Moscow also frequently accuses Washington of meddling in what it considers its home turf by trying to take other ex-Soviet nations away from its orbit.
Markov said that while Putin sought to soften his remarks by avoiding a direct reference to the United States, he undoubtedly was aiming at Washington. "Only the United States now is claiming global exclusiveness," Markov said.
Shortly after his speech at the parade, Putin told veterans at a Kremlin reception that World War II showed "where militarist ambitions, ethnic intolerance and any attempts to recarve the globe are leading to."
Markov saw that as another veiled reference to the United States.
"After the Cold War ended, the United States has initiated a new arms race," fueling nuclear ambitions of many nations worldwide, he said.
"If a nation doesn't have nuclear weapons, it risks being bombed like Yugoslavia or Iraq," he said. "And if it does have nuclear weapons like North Korea, it faces no such threat."
Gleb Pavlovsky, another political analyst with close Kremlin connections, said that Putin's remarks reflected his "concern about the spreading of unilateralist approaches to global affairs."
"The United States is trying to dominate the world ... and Russia takes a stance against such hegemony," Pavlovsky said.
He added, however, that Putin was not referring exclusively to the United States when he mentioned a contempt for human life and claims at global domination, but also forces behind international terrorism and extremism.
"He was also referring to nations that support Islamic fundamentalism when he talked about claims to global exclusiveness," Pavlovsky said.
Putin's remarks reflect an increasingly assertive posture by Russia, which has regained its economic muscle thanks to a rising tide of oil revenue and sought to rebuild its military might eroded in the post-Soviet industrial demise.
Putin shocked Western leaders in February when he spoke at a security conference in Germany, bluntly accusing the United States of trying to force other nations to conform to its standards and warned that Russia would strongly retaliate to the deployment of the U.S. missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.
In a state of the nation address last month, Putin called for a Russian moratorium on observance of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which limits the number of aircraft, tanks and other non-nuclear heavy weapons around the continent, saying that NATO members' refusal to ratify an amended version of the pact hurt Russia's security interests.
Putin also threatened to pull out of the treaty altogether unless talks with NATO members yielded satisfactory results, and some Russian generals warned that Moscow could also opt out of a Cold War-era treaty with the United States banning intermediate-range missiles.
Russia's military chief of staff has also said Russia could target elements of the missile defense system if it is deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.
While Putin's speech Wednesday sounded like another salvo in a new Cold War, Markov insisted that it was merely another attempt by the Russian leader to persuade the United States to reckon with Russia's interests.
"It's an attempt to launch a serious dialogue," Markov said.