Russia not afraid of NATO expansion

© Photo: RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he does not fear the enlargement of NATO. “We have no fear – I do not have and no one else should have this either. Yet we have to bear the realities in mind,” Putin said in a Q&A session on Thursday. He called for taking a sober view of the situation concerning the further enlargement of the alliance. “We will choke them all. What are you afraid of?” Putin said while answering a question to the expansion of NATO.

President Putin’s annual broadcast Q&A session: LIVE UPDATES

NATO’s Rasmussen pledged on Wednesday to step up patrols and boost its military presence along the alliance’s eastern border in Europe, citing Russia’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land,” Rasmussen said in Brussels.

This move has come as another sign that the alliance was tightening its grip on Eastern Europe where it is already running air-policing and surveillance missions over Poland, Romania and the Baltic trio.

NATO member states earlier released separate announcements saying they were suspending military cooperation with Russia after Crimean residents voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a referendum, which the West considers illegitimate and Russia says is in line with the UN charter and the international law.

According to Russian experts, the suspension of military cooperation with NATO will do no harm to Russian interests or security.

Russia has vociferously opposed any further eastward expansion by NATO, particularly by former Soviet republics on its borders. Vladimir Putin said last week Moscow was open to further cooperation with NATO, but remained opposed to the organization’s presence in historic Russian territories.

Presidential race in Ukraine proceeding in absolutely unacceptable forms; if this continues, we will be unable to recognize elections – Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the current election campaign in Ukraine has unacceptable forms, and if it continues to take place in such forms, the Russian authorities will not be able to recognize the legitimacy of Ukraine’s upcoming presidential polls. “The presidential race is proceeding in absolutely unacceptable forms. If it continues like this, we certainly will be unable to recognize the events that will follow May 25 [the Ukrainian presidential elections] as legitimate,” Putin said during his annual Q&A session on Thursday.

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