NATO expansion since 2001 significantly changed geopolitical situation - Putin
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) experienced two considerable waves of its expansion significantly changing the geopolitical situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with German TV channel ARD.
"We have witnessed two waves of NATO expansion since 2001," Putin said.
"If I remember correctly, seven countries - Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - joined NATO in 2004. Two more countries joined in 2009. Those were significant geopolitical game changers.
"Furthermore, the number of military bases is growing," he said.
"Does Russia have military bases around the world? NATO and the United States have military bases scattered all over the globe, including in areas close to our borders, and their number is growing." "Moreover, just recently it was decided to deploy Special Operations Forces, again in close proximity to our borders," Putin said.
The president also said that Russia resumed the flights of its strategic aviation several years ago since it saw no moves on behalf of the United States and NATO to meet Russia halfway.
"You have mentioned various exercises, flights, ship movements, and so on," the Russian president said in response to a question from the German correspondent. "Is all of this going on? Yes, it is indeed."
"However, first of all, you said... that they have been conducted in the international European airspace. Well, it is either international [neutral] or European airspace," Putin said. "So, please note that our exercises have been conducted exclusively in international waters and international airspace."
"In 1992, we suspended the flights of our strategic aircraft and they remained at their air bases for many years. During this time, our US partners continued the flights of their nuclear aircraft to the same areas as before, including areas close to our borders."
"Therefore, several years ago, seeing no positive developments, no one is ready to meet us halfway, we resumed the flights of our strategic aviation to remote areas," Putin added.