Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday that the opinion of many of his countrymen that NATO was hostile to Russia was "in many respects a mistake", RIA Novosti reported
"Relations between Russia and NATO have always been difficult," Medvedev said at a meeting with participants of the 46th Munich Security Conference in Moscow. "We have a certain historical background."
He agreed with conference participants that in Russia "there is the sense that NATO is some kind of aggressive element."
"This is in many respects a mistake," he went on.
"What is also evident is that Russia is often perceived by parts of the Western world, by ordinary people, as a country where there can be no democracy, whose leadership always adheres to authoritarian principles," Medvedev said.
The Russian leader cited Russian-Polish relations, which have improved of late after many years of tension, as an example of how historical differences can be overcome.
The Munich conference, set up in 1962, is an international forum gathering politicians, diplomats, military, businessmen, scientists and public figures from over 40 countries. This is the first time that the conference has taken place in Russia.