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8 Feb, 2022 19:30

Ask people in the Middle East whether NATO is strictly a ‘defensive’ alliance – Putin

The military bloc isn’t always concerned about protecting its own, the Russian president has said
Ask people in the Middle East whether NATO is strictly a ‘defensive’ alliance – Putin

Despite NATO’s insistence that it is a defensive organization, the US-led military bloc has not always acted that way, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, citing examples of interventions in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

At a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, Putin commented on the possibility of NATO’s expansion into Ukraine and Georgia, which Russia has strongly opposed, claiming that it presents a threat to its national security.

“I’d like to note that they are trying to calm Russia, as before, with the reasoning that NATO is a peaceful and strictly defensive organization, a strictly defensive alliance,” Putin said. “How much that is actually true, many governments’ citizens have been able to learn by experience. I have in mind Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the large-scale operations against Belgrade without the sanction of the UN Security Council. That, of course, was an undertaking very far from what a peaceful organization would do.”

Western officials and media outlets have been warning for months that Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine, which it has repeatedly denied. In December, Moscow sent a set of security proposals to US and NATO leaders requesting guarantees that the bloc would not expand into Ukraine or Georgia, two countries that share borders with Russia. In January, negotiators from the two sides met several times in Europe to discuss de-escalation.

Documents leaked last week showed that Western leaders had officially rejected limits on NATO enlargement, and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previously told reporters that the bloc “is a defensive alliance and we do not seek confrontation.” Moscow officials, however, maintain that allowing Ukraine into NATO would increase the likelihood of a war between Russia and the West.

Macron visited Putin in Moscow on Monday to discuss measures for reducing tensions, after which the French leader claimed he had gotten a pledge that Russia would not escalate the situation around Ukraine. “My aim was to freeze the game, to prevent an escalation and open up new perspectives,” Macron said. “This objective for me is fulfilled.”