Vladimir Putin gave telling hint why he fears NATO in overlooked unearthed interview

US has been 'intimidated by Russia' says Ex-Nato ambassador

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The conflict in Ukraine is now in its twelfth day. This weekend saw Russia agree to ceasefires in several Ukrainian cities in order to allow civilian routes out of the warzone, only for those ceasefires to go unobserved, according to Ukrainian officials. Their reports appeared to back-up footage posted to social media that saw Ukrainians trying to flee Mariupol and Volnovakha come under heavy fire.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has since said that everyone who commits atrocities against Ukraine’s civilians will be punished.

There are a number of reasons why Vladimir Putin is believed to have given the green-light for his military to invade Ukraine on February 24, spanning politics, history and religion.

One of the main driving forces behind his decision, he himself has admitted, is the eastwards expansion of NATO, the alliance which looks to safeguard allies’ freedom and security by political and military means.

As it stands, 30 countries are members of NATO, including a handful of former Soviet states and Soviet satellite states, which Russia had great sway over during its USSR days.

Putin opposes Ukraine’s ambitions to become a full NATO member — it is currently one of the organisation’s “enhanced opportunity partners” — and says he views the country’s aspirations as a direct threat to Russia’s security.

In December last year, Putin said Russia will seek “reliable and long-term security guarantees” from the US and its allies “that would exclude any further NATO moves eastward and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close vicinity to Russian territory”.

Looking back to 2015, he gave a frank interview about his apprehensions over the military aspect of NATO.

He argued that Russia had demilitarised both domestically and abroad, but that NATO was forever increasing its presence and encircling Russia, and that it was the US and NATO that the world ought to fear.

Speaking to the Italian news outlet, Corriere della Sera, he said: “US military spending is higher than that of all countries in the world taken together.

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“The aggregate military spending of NATO countries is ten times, note – ten times higher than that of the Russian Federation.”

He stressed that Russia had virtually no military bases abroad, and that they had been happy to disarm and disband its foreign holdings while the US has maintained theirs.

Putin continued: “We have dismantled our bases in various regions of the world, including Cuba, Vietnam, and so on.

“This means that our policy in this respect is not global, offensive or aggressive.”

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He went on to contest that Russia’s increasingly provocative behaviour was defensive: “Everything we do is just a response to the threats emerging against us.”

He added: “We are not expanding anywhere; it is NATO infrastructure, including military infrastructure, that is moving towards our borders.”

He even described Ukraine’s military as a proxy arm of NATO.

At the end of January 2015, he said: “This is not the army, per se, this is a foreign proxy, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the objective of national interests of Ukraine.

“They have entirely different goals, and they are tied with the achievement of the geopolitical goals of containing Russia.”

While some of his statements were true — the US has maintained military outposts and NATO is expanding — many noted that Putin’s message was really aimed at Ukraine.

Having Ukraine join NATO means having the enemy — the US — on Russia’s doorstep.

Manifesting Russian loyalism in Ukraine was a big campaign cause to Putin and his efforts to stir opposition to NATO membership in the country through things like the rebel-held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Just a year before the 2015 interview, Russia had invaded and successfully annexed the Crimean peninsula from which Russian military troops are today flooding the likes of Kherson and Odessa with personnel.

While having NATO as Russia’s neighbour in Ukraine is something Putin wants to avoid, many have noted that by invading Ukraine, he will have a further four NATO member countries at his border: Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.

NATO states that it is a defensive alliance as opposed to an aggressive power.

The alliance describes Russia’s assertion that it is encircling the country as a “myth”.

It says only six percent of Russia’s land border touch NATO countries, with just five out of 14 of its bordering countries members of the outfit.

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