President Vladimir Putin has blamed Western countries for neglecting Russia’s security concerns, following last week’s US refusal to accept Moscow’s demands on Ukraine and NATO.
“It’s clear …Putin said the United States wanted to “have Russia” and used Ukraine to do so, as he reiterated Russia’s statement that every Ukrainian member of NATO would “undermine Russia’s security.”
“Let’s assume that Ukraine is a NATO member, fully armed, finds countermeasures similar to those of Poland and Romania and launches operations in Crimea,” Putin said, explaining Crimea, part of Ukraine annexed by Russia. 2014, as “Russia’s ruling territory”.
“Assuming Ukraine is a NATO member and starting military operations. What should we do now, [should] fight the NATO bloc? Has anyone thought about it? No.”
However, Putin said he hoped talks on Ukraine would continue and that the process needed to be redefined, as he said, “to ensure security for all”.
His remarks followed talks with Hungarian President Viktor Orban, with whom Putin has a friendly relationship, in Moscow.
It is the first time Putin has spoken openly about the political crisis in recent weeks, despite political rallies and phone calls between Russian and Western officials.
As more than 100,000 Russian troops remain stationed at various points along the Russian-Ukrainian border, there is growing concern that Putin may want to give his troops the green light to enter Ukraine.
Russia has denied any plans to invade, but Russia’s confidence in the message has waned since it captured Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and has supported pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Political analysts believe that Russia wants to maintain its position of influence and power over the former Soviet Union and stop Ukraine’s pull to the West.
Russia has insisted it only wants to protect its security interests, especially in the face of growing NATO, which has exported military equipment to Eastern Europe. Building troops on its border with Ukraine, Putin once insisted at the end of last year that Russia has the right to deploy troops wherever it wants in its territory. The Kremlin has accused the West of inciting “hysteria” against Ukraine.
Putin’s comments come after Russia made a series of demands on US security in December, including demanding that NATO not extend further east or allow Ukraine to join the army. It also wants to see NATO withdraw its troops from Eastern Europe.
Putin backed the statement on Tuesday, saying they were launching weapons into Romania and Poland, both members of NATO, “threatening Russia.”
Last week, the United States responded to the demand by refusing to accept Russia’s key statements on Ukraine and NATO. However, it expressed interest in continuing the negotiations aimed at resolving the dispute and said that there may be room for consensus in some places.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday. Russia’s official response to the United States is yet to be determined, at this point, even if it claims to provide a written response to the United States.
Putin’s meeting with Orban on Tuesday comes as European leaders step up their ties with Moscow and Putin has already spoken with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian President Mario Draghi this week. On Wednesday, he is due to speak with British President Boris Johnson, who visited Ukraine on Tuesday.
Putin has not spoken publicly about Ukraine since December. 23, according to The New York Times, which reported that he had criticized a British journalist who asked, during Putin’s annual meeting, whether he would guarantee that Russia would not invade Ukraine.
“It’s the United States that has brought its holes to our house, to the door of our house,” Putin said.
“And you want more promises from me. You have to give us a promise. You! And then, right now. “