The Russian president says Moscow has ‘no interest … to fight with NATO countries’.
The Russian president has dismissed the United States’s claims that Moscow could attack a NATO country in the future as “complete nonsense”, saying such a conflict would run counter to his country’s interests.
Vladimir Putin made the statement in an interview with Russian state TV on Sunday, weeks after US President Joe Biden warned that if Putin achieved victory in Ukraine, he might be emboldened to attack a NATO ally, sparking a third world war.
“It is complete nonsense – and I think President Biden understands that,” Putin told state television channel Rossiya.
“Russia has no reason, no interest – no geopolitical interest, neither economic, political nor military – to fight with NATO countries.”
Putin added that Biden may be trying to stoke such fears to justify his “erroneous policy” in the region.
US-Russia relations have sunk to their lowest level in decades since Moscow invaded neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022.
Throughout the 22-month war, the US has provided Ukraine with $111bn in weapons, equipment, and other aid, helping the Ukrainians fend off Russia’s advance and regain some territory.
Biden favours sending even more support to war-torn Ukraine, which is running short on supplies as it grinds to a bloody winter stalemate.
He has asked US Congress to approve $61.4bn in support for Ukraine as part of a larger $110bn package that includes more funds for Israel and other issues.
However, there is waning appetite in the Congress for the lingering war. Some Republican lawmakers have blocked the aid package, demanding the White House first take action on border security.
Biden on December 12 said right-wing lawmakers’ refusal to approve the package also risked handing President Putin a “Christmas gift” of victory.
“Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine,” Biden said during a news conference with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We must … prove him wrong.”
Tensions with Finland
While Putin dismissed the prospect of a direct NATO feud, he did address tensions with neighbouring Finland since it joined the alliance.
Finland, which became a NATO member in April, on Friday shut down its entire eastern border with Russia, which it accuses of orchestrating a migrant crisis on its border.
Putin said he would respond to the deteriorating ties by opening up a military zone in its northwest.
“They [the West] dragged Finland into NATO. Did we have any disputes with them? All disputes, including territorial ones in the mid-20th century, have long been solved,” Putin said.
“There were no problems there. Now there will be [problems] because we will create the Leningrad military district and concentrate a certain amount of military units there.”