Putin demands NATO not expand into Ukraine, blames US

Putin demands NATO not expand into Ukraine, blames US

Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded Thursday that the West “immediately” guarantee that NATO will not expand to include Ukraine and blamed the US for inflaming tensions in Eastern Europe ​and increasing the likelihood of war.

Putin fielded questions for about four hours at his annual year-end news conference, during which he reiterated his calls for NATO to halt its expansion to former Soviet republics, as well as his opposition to the West deploying missile systems near the Russian border.

When asked during the marathon session whether he could guarantee that he will not invade Ukraine, the Russian leader snapped: “It’s you who must give us guarantees and give them immediately, now, and not have idle talk about it for decades.”

“How would the Americans respond if we put our missiles on the US borders with Canada or Mexico?” he ​said.

Putin, who has assembled as many as 175,000 troops on Russia’s western border with Ukraine, prompting fears of an imminent invasion, has warned that the West deploying military equipment or forces in Ukraine would cross a “red line.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants an immediate guarantee that NATO will not expand into Ukraine, and voiced opposition to US missile systems being placed on the Russian border.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

​”What is unclear here? Are we putting missiles next to the United States’ borders? No, it is the United States that has come to us with their missiles, they are already on our doorstep,” Putin said.

The Russian leader also accused the US and its allies of having “cheated, blatantly swindled” Moscow by saying they wouldn’t extend NATO into Eastern Europe before doing precisely that.

“‘Not one inch to the East,’ they told us in the ’90s. So what? They cheated, just brazenly tricked us! Five waves of NATO expansion and now already, please, the systems are appearing in Romania and Poland,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia has gathered 175,000 troops on their border with Ukraine, but President Vladimir Putin blames the US for making war more likely.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, followed in 2004 by Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Later, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia also joined, bringing NATO’s membership to 30 nations.

Putin claimed the US is attempting to create an alliance with Ukraine that would threaten Russia.

“Now, they tell us, ‘war, war, war.’ The impression is they are planning” an attack, he said. “And we are warned in advance, ‘Don’t get involved, don’t meddle, don’t defend these people.’ If you defend, these sanctions will follow.”

President Biden has repeatedly warned that Russia would face “severe consequences” in the form of devastating economic sanctions if it invaded Ukraine. 

Despite the saber-rattling, Putin acknowledged optimism about talks that are expected to take place next month between Washington and Moscow over the security guarantees. 

“We just directly posed the question that there should be no further NATO movement to the east,” he said. “The ball is in their court, they should answer us with something.”

“In this regard, I would like to stress that on the whole we have seen a positive reaction so far,” he added. “Our American partners tell us that they are ready to start this discussion.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual year-end press conference, said Russia had been “tricked” by the West, which promised not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin says talks with the US so far have been productive.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the US is involved in talks with European allies over “Russian aggression” and said Biden opposes the security guarantees Putin is demanding.

“The president has been extremely clear for many, many years about some basic principles that no one is moving back on: the principle that one country does not have the right to change by force the borders of another, that one country does not have the right to dictate the policies of another or to tell that country with whom they may associate,” Blinken told reporters earlier this week. 

“One country does not have the right to exert a sphere of influence. That notion should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” Blinken said.

With Post wires

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