MOSCOW: Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin dismissed as complete nonsense remarks by US President Joe Biden that Russia would attack a Nato country if it won the war in Ukraine, adding that Russia had no interest in fighting the Nato military alliance.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the deepest crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and Biden warned last year that a direct confrontation between Nato and Russia would trigger World War Three.
In a plea to Republicans not to block further military aid earlier this month, Biden warned that if Putin was victorious over Ukraine then the Russian leader would not stop and would attack a Nato country.
“It is complete nonsense — and I think President Biden understands that,” Putin said in an interview published on Sunday by Rossiya state television, adding that Biden appeared to be trying to justify his own “mistaken policy” on Russia.
“Russia has no reason, no interest — no geopolitical interest, neither economic, political nor military — to fight with Nato countries,” Putin said.
The US-led Nato alliance was founded in 1949 to provide Western security against the Soviet Union. After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, it was enlarged to include some former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries.
Putin has repeatedly cast the post-Cold War expansion of Nato as evidence of the West’s arrogant way of dealing with Russia’s security concerns.
Under Article 5 of the Nato treaty, “the Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.
Putin said that Finland’s entry into Nato in April would force Russia to “concentrate certain military units” in northern Russia near their border.
The failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive this year has raised questions in the West and inside Ukraine about just how realistic the Ukrainian and Western aims of defeating Russian forces in Ukraine are.
Officials in Moscow and the West have repeatedly spoken of a “new Cold War”, with Russia and China on one side and the West on the other.
Asked about how common ground could be found with the West given the rhetoric on both sides, Putin said: “They will have to find common ground because they will have to reckon with us.” A senior US State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said last month that Putin would not make peace before he knows the results of the November election in the United States.
The West, Putin said, had failed to understand the extent of the changes ushered in by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which he said had removed any genuine ideological basis for a confrontation between Russia and the West.
“I really did have a naive impression,” Putin, a former KGB spy who rose to power in 1999, said of his impressions of the world in 2000.
“The reality is that after the fall of the Soviet Union, they considered that they just had to wait for a bit to completely destroy Russia,” Putin said.
Putin casts the war as part of a much bigger struggle with the United States, which the Kremlin elite says aims to cleave Russia apart, grab its vast natural resources and then turn to settling scores with China.
The West, which presents Russia and China as its main threats, says it has no plan to destroy Russia. Ukraine says it will not rest until every last Russian soldier is ejected from its territory.