Moscow: President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday slammed NATO for ratcheting up its rhetoric and aggression close to Russia’s border and warned that Moscow was being forced to increase its military capacity. “NATO is stepping up its aggressive rhetoric and its aggressive actions close to our borders,” Putin told lawmakers.
“In these conditions we are obliged to dedicate special attention to resolving tasks connected with heightening the defence capabilities of our country.”
Speaking on the 75th anniversary of the invasion of the USSR by Nazi Germany, Putin accused the West of rejecting overtures from Russia to help tackle the common foe of “international terrorism” – as it once ignored the Soviet Union’s warnings of Hitler – as it seeks to isolate Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
“We once again, as it was on the eve of World War II, are not seeing a positive response,” Putin said. Relations between Russia and the West have slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its alleged masterminding of a separatist uprising.
Fears of Russian expansionism have sent a chill through NATO members such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and seen the US-led alliance bolster its presence in eastern Europe.
NATO announced last Monday that it would deploy four battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to counter a more assertive Russia, ahead of a landmark summit in Warsaw in July.
Russia bitterly opposes NATO’s expansion into its Soviet-era satellites and in May said it would create three new divisions in its southwest region to meet what it described as a dangerous military build-up along its borders.
There has been some disagreement within the bloc, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticising NATO for having a bellicose policy towards Russia, describing it as “warmongering”.