News ID: 318889
Published: 0352 GMT December 21, 2021

Putin warns of possible military response over ‘aggressive’ NATO

Putin warns of possible military response over ‘aggressive’ NATO

President Vladimir Putin addresses an extended meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry board in Moscow, Russia, on December 21, 2021.

Vladimir Putin said he will consider a military response if Russia feels threatened by NATO, in a sign that he is not ready to de-escalate tensions over a crisis in Ukraine.

In a combative speech on Tuesday, Putin – who has demanded “security guarantees” from NATO – told his top military commanders that the West was to blame for the rising tensions in Europe, the Guardian reported.

The Russian president has railed against NATO enlargement since the fall of the Soviet Union and accused the West of turning Ukraine against Russia.

“If our Western counterparts continue a clearly aggressive line, we will undertake proportionate military-technical countermeasures and will respond firmly to unfriendly steps,” he said in televised remarks. “I’d like to stress that we are fully entitled to do that.”

Putin did not specifically refer to the possibility of an offensive operation in Ukraine and Russian diplomats have previously suggested Russia’s response could employ other measures, such as moving intermediate-range missiles within striking distance of European targets. That would be a punishment, Moscow claims, for the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from a missile treaty in 2018.

“What the United States is doing in Ukraine is at our doorstep,” he said of US support for Kiev. “And they should understand that we have nowhere further to retreat to. Under their protection they are arming and urging on extremists from a neighbouring country at Russia. At Crimea, for instance. Do they think we’ll just watch idly?”

Putin did not give any specific evidence for his claims but Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, claimed an unnamed American private military company had acquired chemical weapons and was planning to launch a “provocation” in the east Ukrainian cities of Avdeevka and Krasny Liman.

In his remarks, Putin repeated demands that the West make legal guarantees to ensure Russia’s security, but said he would have difficulty trusting the US to abide by a treaty.

“We need long-term legally binding guarantees,” Putin told military commanders. “You and I know well that even they, legal guarantees, cannot be trusted because the United States easily withdraws from all international agreements it loses interest in for one reason or another … giving no explanations whatsoever.”

Russia last week put forward a highly contentious list of security guarantees it says it wants the West to agree to in order to lower tensions in Europe and defuse the crisis over Ukraine, including many elements that have already been ruled out.

The demands include a ban on Ukraine entering NATO and a limit to the deployment of troops and weapons to NATO’s eastern flank, in effect returning NATO forces to where they were stationed in 1997, before an eastward expansion.


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