Sun, 21 Oct 2018

Putin warns NATO against getting close to Ukraine, Georgia

By Sheetal Sukhija, Auckland News
22 Jul 2018, 05:07 GMT+10

MOSCOW, Russia - Days after his high-profile and widely criticized summit with the U.S. President Donald Trump, the Russian President Vladimir Putin has now issued a stern warning to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Putin, who considers NATO to be a hostile military bloc, has warned the alliance against trying to cultivate close ties with Ukraine and Georgia - two countries that share a border with Russia. 

Putin has warned that any efforts made by NATO to develop closer ties with the two countries would be an irresponsible policy, which would have unspecified consequences for the alliance.

This is not the first time Russia has raised concerns over the issue.

Since 2008, when NATO leaders first promised Ukraine and Georgia that the countries would join the alliance one day, Russia has been infuriated by the issue.

This week, while addressing Russian diplomats gathered in Moscow from around the world, Putin said that there was a need to restore trust in Europe.

The Russian leader also spoke out against what he said was NATO’s attempts to deploy new bases and military infrastructure near Russia’s borders.

Putin said, “We will respond appropriately to such aggressive steps, which pose a direct threat to Russia. Our colleagues, who are trying to aggravate the situation, seeking to include, among others, Ukraine and Georgia in the orbit of the alliance, should think about the possible consequences of such an irresponsible policy.”

Further, he revealed that he had discussed the issue with the U.S. President during their summit in Helsinki on Monday.

Trump’s contentious meeting with Putin came days after the American leader attended a NATO summit in Brussels, where he pressured members to spend more on defense.

However, soon after arriving from Helsinki this week, Trump publicly queried whether Montenegro, which is the newest NATO member, should be part of the bloc at all.

Expressing skepticism over the U.S.’s commitment with NATO, Trump singled out the alliance's smallest and newest member, Montenegro and imagined a scenario where Montenegro's "aggressive people" could spark World War III with Russia.

Trump suggested Montenegro's "aggressive people" could spark a global conflict and drag the U.S. with it, saying, ”Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. They're very aggressive people. They may get aggressive. And congratulations, you're in World War III."

Reports also pointed out that prior to joining NATO in 2017, Montenegro assisted in Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts for nearly eight years and has also pledged more troops to help fight the U.S.’s longest war in Afghanistan. 

Further, Montenegro has had to fend off what it describes as a Russian attempt to kill its prime minister in 2016.

Experts have pointed out that Trump’s train of thought closely mirrors Russian anti-NATO messaging.

In comparison, reports cited that in 2008, Russian forces entered two breakaway Georgian regions and in 2014, they annexed Ukraine’s Crimea after which a pro-Russian separatist uprising erupted in eastern Ukraine.

While the West and the governments of the two countries call it an illegal occupation, Russian troops have garrisoned swathes of both countries and Moscow has argued that its action is in keeping with local people’s wishes.

While ties with Ukraine and Georgia was an issue discussed by NATO leaders at the summit earlier this month.

As per the alliances’ rules, countries with territorial conflicts cannot join NATO and currently, efforts by Ukraine and Georgia to join the NATO are hampered by Russian territorial incursions.

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