Putin says Western military support for Ukraine threatens Russia
MOSCOW, Oct.21 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Ukraine’s western-backed military development poses a serious threat to Russia, two days after the US Secretary of Defense expressed support in Kiev and encouraged its aspiration to join NATO.
Putin told a group of Russian journalists and experts that Tuesday’s visit to Ukraine by Lloyd Austin, in which he said no third country had the right to veto his membership in NATO, had effectively paved the way for Kiev’s membership.
Whether or not that is the case, Putin said, Russia’s interests have been targeted.
“The official membership (of Ukraine) in NATO may not take place, but the military development of the territory is already underway,” Putin told the Valdai Discussion Club. “And that really poses a threat to Russia. We are aware of that.”
The United States has been Ukraine’s strongest supporter since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of a war that same year between Russian separatists and government forces in eastern Russia. Ukraine, which Kiev said killed 14,000 people.
The Kremlin chief has always made it clear that NATO membership for Ukraine – which has shared close ties with Russia since ancient times – would be a red line for Moscow.
This week, Russia effectively severed diplomatic ties with NATO after the alliance expelled eight members of its mission there for suspected espionage. NATO defense ministers on Thursday agreed on a new master plan for defending against any potential Russian attack on multiple fronts. Read more
Adding to tensions with Washington, Russia has reported three cases in the past week where it said its forces intercepted a US ship or plane about to enter its waters or airspace, although states -United disputed the details. Read more
During a broad discussion in southern Russia that lasted several hours, Putin, however, was more optimistic about relations with the administration of President Joe Biden.
He said talks between Moscow and Washington on strategic stability and cybersecurity were going in the right direction, and that a summit between the two men in Geneva in June had been productive.
Putin also said Biden was right to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, whose new Taliban government sent representatives to Moscow this week for talks on rebuilding the country after the 20-year presence of US troops ended. .
He said Afghanistan should get its financial assets thawed in the interest of bolstering stability – a position that Washington opposes, which has said it has no intention of unlocking billions. Afghan gold, investments and foreign currency reserves parked in the United States and frozen after the Taliban seized power in August.
Additional reporting by Andrey Ostroukh, Oksana Kobzeva, Gleb Stolyarov, Olesya Astakhova, Alexander Marrow and Anton Zverev Writing by Mark Trevelyan Editing by Andrew Osborn
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