Putin says no threat to Russia from NATO expansion

Putin says no threat to Russia from NATO expansion

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday there was no threat to Russia if Sweden and Finland joined NATO but cautioned that Moscow would respond if the U.S. led alliance bolstered military infrastructure in the new Nordic members.

Putin, Russia's leading leader since 1999, has cited the post-Soviet enlargement of the NATO alliance eastwards toward Russia's borders as a reason for the conflict in Ukraine.

Putin, who has rattled Russia's nuclear sabre at the West over Ukraine in recent months, has calmed down Finland and Sweden's bids to join NATO, the biggest strategic consequence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine to date.

Russia has no problem with these states when it comes to enlargement. Putin told the leaders of a Russian-dominated military alliance of former Soviet states that there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion of NATO to include these countries.

Putin laced his newly found tranquillity with a warning on NATO.

Putin said that the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would cause our response.

Putin said that the response would be - we will see what threats are created for us, as well as Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The post-Soviet enlargement of NATO contrasted with a remarkably calm response from the Kremlin chief to one of Russia's most sensitive geopolitical worries - the post-Soviet enlargement of NATO.

Before Putin spoke, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the West should have no illusions that Moscow would simply put up with the Nordic expansion of NATO. The comments were still being played up on state television.

One of Putin's closest allies, the former President Dmitry Medvedev, said last month that Russia could deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad if Finland and Sweden joined NATO.

Putin spoke at the Grand Kremlin PalaceKremlin Palace in a short speech that touched on NATO, and scolded the United States for creating biological laboratories in the former Soviet Union.

Putin said Russia had evidence that the United States had been trying to create components of biological weapons in Ukraine, a claim that Washington and Kyiv denied.

Besides NATO's endless expansion policy, Putin said that the alliance was far beyond its Euro-Atlantic remit - a trend he said Russia was following carefully.

Moscow says NATO threatens Russia and Washington has ignored the Kremlin's concerns about the security of its borders in the West, the source of two devastating European invasions in 1812 and 1941.

Putin said that the special military operation in Ukraine is necessary because the United States was using Ukraine to threaten Russia through NATO enlargement and Moscow had to defend against the persecution of Russian-speaking people.

Putin said as the Soviet Union collapsed, the alliance would not expand eastwards toward Russia, a promise he says was a lie.

The United States and NATO disagree that such assurances were given explicitly. Kyiv and its Western backers say that the claim of persecution of Russian speakers has been exaggerated by Moscow into a pretext for an unprovoked war against a sovereign state.

The West says that NATO - an alliance of 30 countries including former Warsaw Pact republics such as Poland and Hungary and nuclear powers such as the United States, Britain and France - is purely defensive.