Putin says he warned Trump against closer NATO ties with Ukraine and Georgia

Putin speaks at the bi-annual gathering of Russian diplomats in Moscow, on 19 July 2018. [The Kremlin]

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday (19 July) warned NATO against cultivating closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia, saying such a policy was irresponsible and would have unspecified consequences for the alliance.

The issue has been a source of anger for Russia — which shares a border with both countries and does not want to see them join what it regards as a hostile military bloc — since 2008 when NATO leaders promised Ukraine and Georgia they would one day join the alliance.

Ukraine seeks route into NATO

Ukraine will begin discussions with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on an action plan with the aim of joining the US-led alliance, its leader said on Monday (10 July), while the country would work on reforms to meet membership standards by 2020.

Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, said on Thursday there was a need to restore trust in Europe and spoke out against what he said was NATO’s attempts to deploy new bases and military infrastructure near Russia’s borders.

“We will respond appropriately to such aggressive steps, which pose a direct threat to Russia,” said Putin.

“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.”

The Russian leader said he had discussed the matter with US President Donald Trump at a summit in Helsinki on Monday.

Trump, Putin blame ‘forces in US’ for undermining Helsinki summit ‘success’

In separate statements on the same day (19 July), US President Donald Trump and his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin blamed forces within the United States for marring what they called the success of their first summit.

Trump has called for NATO members to spend more on defence, but has queried whether Montenegro, the alliance’s newest member, should be part of the bloc at all calling its people “aggressive.”

Montenegro says 'contributes to peace' in response to Trump attack

Montenegro defended yesterday (19 July) its contribution to peace in response to US President Donald Trump, who said the tiny Balkan nation’s “aggressive” people were capable of triggering “World War III”.

Russian forces entered two breakaway Georgian regions in 2008 and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 after which a pro-Russian separatist uprising erupted in eastern Ukraine.

Swathes of both countries remain garrisoned by Russian troops, something Moscow says is in keeping with local people’s wishes, but which the West and the governments of the two countries call an illegal occupation.

NATO leaders discussed ties with Ukraine and Georgia – both former Soviet republics once ruled from Moscow — at their summit in Brussels earlier this month.

Prominent politicians in both countries are keen to join the Western military alliance, but have seen their chances of joining hampered by Russian territorial incursions.

Under NATO rules, countries with territorial conflicts cannot join NATO.

Hungary blocks Ukraine-NATO defence ministers summit

Hungary will not facilitate the holding of a Ukraine-NATO summit at defence minister level, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Friday (19 January) after a meeting with Vasyl Brenzovych, the head of the Society of Hungarian culture in Zakarpattia (a region in southwestern Ukraine), according to Radio Liberty.

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