Putin to the West: ‘It is not us who threaten anyone’
Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the West on Thursday to “immediately” meet Russia’s demand for security guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine, saying the U.S. is “on the threshold of our home.”
Speaking during a marathon annual news conference, the Russian leader welcomed talks with the U.S., which he said are set to start in Geneva next month, as a “positive” move, but warned that Moscow expects the discussion to produce quick results.
“We have clearly and precisely let them know that any further NATO expansion eastward is unacceptable,” Putin said.
Last week, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. A key principle of the alliance is that membership is open to any qualifying country.
“Is it us who are putting missiles near the U.S. borders?” Putin said angrily. “No, it’s the U.S. who came to our home with its missiles, it’s already on the threshold of our home. Is it some excessive demand not to place any strike weapons systems near our home?”
Moscow presented its demand amid soaring tensions over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that has stoked fears of a possible invasion. U.S. President Joe Biden warned Putin in a video call earlier this month that Russia will face “severe consequences” if it attacks Ukraine.
Russia has denied plans to launch an attack but has described a NATO expansion and weapons deployment in Ukraine as a “red line.”
Asked Thursday if he could provide a guarantee that Russia will not invade Ukraine, Putin snapped in response: “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 U.S. borders with Canada or Mexico?” he exclaimed.
The U.S. and its allies have said they won’t give Russia the kind of guarantee on Ukraine that Putin wants. American officials are conferring with European allies in advance of the Geneva talks.
The Russian leader charged during his news conference that the West had “swindled, blatantly cheated” Moscow by offering verbal pledges in the 1990s not to expand NATO’s presence east and then enlarging to incorporate former Soviet bloc countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics.
“They said they wouldn’t expand, and then they did expand,” he said. “They said there would be equal guarantees for all, but there is no equal security. It seems to me sometimes that we live in different worlds.”
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. In subsequent years, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia also joined, bringing NATO’s membership to 30 nations.