Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his strong opposition to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) eastward, warning the US-led military alliance against unspecified consequences in case it seeks to forge closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia.
Addressing a meeting of Russian ambassadors and envoys in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said there was a need to rebuild trust in Europe, and that NATO’s attempts concerning deployment of military contingents and infrastructure near Russia’s western frontiers were not acceptable.
Putin said he had discussed the matter with his US counterpart Donald Trump at a summit in the Finnish capital of Helsinki on Monday.
Russia and Georgia fought a war in August 2008 over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Moscow continues to garrison troops there and to support another breakaway region, Abkhazia.
The strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum, in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the move.
After Crimea rejoined Russia, an armed conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine when Kiev launched military operations to quell pro-Russia sentiments there. Kiev accuses Moscow of involvement in the conflict. Russia, in return, has denied the charge.
The US and its Western allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over its reunification with Crimea and the Ukrainian crisis, which has killed about 10,000 people since it began in 2014.