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Putin: 'Diverse' options to fight Western 'threat'

December 26, 2021

President Vladimir Putin has said he would mull proposals by military experts if NATO did not guarantee an end to its eastward expansion. His remarks come as the Kremlin "considers" an invitation by NATO for talks.

Vladimir Putin in front of a flag
Vladimir Putin has called on NATO to give security guaranteesImage: Mikhail Klimentyev/POOL SPUTNIK KREMLIN/dpa//picture alliance

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday depicted himself as having his hand forced by a relentless eastward drive on the part of NATO, saying his country had nowhere to go to in the face of the alliance's alleged advance.

"We have nowhere to retreat,'' Putin said on state television, adding that NATO could deploy missiles in Ukraine that would take just four or five minutes to reach Moscow.

"They have pushed us to a line that we can't cross. They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them 'Stop!'" he added.

Moscow 'considers' NATO's invitation for talks

Putin's latest comments come as Moscow "considers" whether to accept a NATO proposal reportedly issued this weekend to begin talks with Russia on January 12. 

"We have already received this (NATO) offer, and we are considering it," the Russian TASS news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying on Sunday.

That invitation follows Russia's presentation of a draft agreement to NATO and US representatives a week ago calling for NATO's eastward expansion to stop. Moscow has also been seeking a legally binding guarantee from NATO that Ukraine will not be accepted as a member. 

NATO has previously refused to give such a guarantee, citing its principle that membership is open to any qualifying country. However, the US and its allies agreed to launch security talks with Moscow next month to discuss its concerns against the backdrop of Western fears that Russia could be planning to invade neighboring Ukraine.

Russian tank at the border to Ukraine
Russia has been carrying out drills at the border to UkraineImage: Sergey Pivovarov/Sputnik/picture alliance

What else did Putin say?

The Russian president said if security guarantees from NATO were not forthcoming, he would consider "proposals that our military experts submit to me." 

He also expressed fears that Western countries might drag out the negotiations on the Russian security suggestions while at the same time building up a military threat to his country.

"They will talk endlessly, talk endlessly about the need for negotiations, and do nothing. Except pumping the neighboring country with modern weapons systems, and increasing the threat to the Russian Federation, which we have to do something with, somehow to live with," he said.

He defended having made Russia's proposals public, saying that although it was "not quite the usual way to conduct a discussion," he wanted "the public in Russia and Ukraine, and the public in Europe and the United States to understand what our idea is, what we would like to implement in the course of this negotiation process."

"I don't see anything bad here. It puts everyone involved in this process in a certain framework. But there is only one goal for us — to reach agreements that would ensure the security of Russia and its citizens today and in the long term," he added.

Map showing NATO's presence in eastern Europe
Russia feels that NATO has come too close to its borders

What is the situation with Ukraine?

Russia has recently built up a large military presence on the border to neighboring Ukraine, leading to international concerns that it might be planning an invasion. The EU and the US have threatened severe consequences if such an invasion takes place.

Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations and responded with demands that NATO should reduce its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.

Putin has warned that if the West continued what he called an "aggressive" course, Russia would have to take "adequate military-technical measures."

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has backed a separatist rebellion by Russian speakers in the country's east. The fighting there has killed more than 14,000 people in the course of seven years of conflict. 

tj/fb (AP, Interfax, dpa)