MOSCOW, June 9. /TASS/. Even in times of having a good relationship with Moscow, Western countries did not care about its interests when enlarging NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised interview on Rossiya-24 channel.
"As for NATO’s enlargement and the advancement of NATO infrastructure towards Russia’s borders, this is a matter of paramount significance as far as the security of Russians and Russia goes," the president noted.
Putin recalled the two waves of NATO’s expansion to the east which took place when the relations of Russia and the West were better.
"Mind you, it was when there was neither the Crimea [issue], nor any events after the state coup in Ukraine, when the relations between Russia and the collective West were quite satisfactory, if not partner-like in the direct, good sense of the word, but all of our concerns were ignored. All the preliminary agreements (although they were verbal, with Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev - thank God he is in good health - you can ask him and he will definitely confirm it), they were sent into oblivion by the West," the Russian leader stressed.
"I do not want to use harsh words, but they simply spat upon our interests and that’s that," the president remarked.
Putin repeated that the West used that approach at a time when relations with Russia were good.
"What does that mean? It means that they put their geopolitical interests above the interests of other nations, regardless even of the nature of their relations with those countries," the Russian president emphasized.
Ukraine joining NATO
Putin does not disregard the discourse about Ukraine joining NATO as "idle talk" despite the opinions of the Russian public.
"Now on to the proposal about Ukraine’s admission to NATO or the plan to do so. Yes, I know and see comments by our experts, I see the reaction of our media and politicians. Everybody is chuckling a little at [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky, saying that it’s all idle talk and nothing will happen there and so on. I am of a different opinion," he said.
He underlined that all Moscow’s concerns were ignored during NATO’s last two stages of enlargement to the east. According to him, there are formal reasons why Ukraine cannot join the alliance but there are no guarantees in this issue.
The flight time of NATO missiles to Moscow will drop to just 7-10 minutes if Ukraine joins the alliance, Putin said.
He noted that US projectiles launched from Poland and Romania can reach central Russia in 15 minutes because the missile defense launch systems stationed there can be used to carry out strikes as well.
"Let’s imagine that Ukraine becomes a NATO member. The flight time from, let’s say, Kharkov and, I don’t know, Dnepropetrovsk to central Russia, to Moscow, will shrink to 7-10 minutes," Putin said. "Is it a redline for us or not?" the leader asked.
He drew parallels with the deployment of missiles in Cuba which is unacceptable to the US because the flight time from the island to the US industrial center, including Washington, is 15 minutes. "To lower this flight time to 7-10 minutes, we should station out missiles on Canada’s southern border or Mexico’s northern border. Is it a redline for the US or not?" Putin pointed out.
"Somebody should think about what our reaction should be to what is essentially being proposed and discussed [NATO expansion]," he concluded.