Putin claims he fears NATO will empower Ukraine to attack Crimea
If Ukraine joins NATO, Kyiv might seek to start a military offensive in Crimea, dragging Moscow into a war with NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a press briefing following talks with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban on Feb. 1.
Let’s imagine Ukraine is a NATO member: flush with arms, modern offensive weapon systems… and then it starts an offensive in Crimea – forget even about Donbas for a moment… would we then be cornered into a war with NATO?” said Putin.
“Did anyone care to think of that? It seems unlikely.”
Putin claimed that the United States is engaging in “Russian containment, to which Ukraine is but a means.” He said one of the ways this U.S. policy would manifest itself would be to “drag Ukraine into NATO, fill it to the brim with offensive weaponry, and prod some kind of ‘banderovzi’ (a derogatory term used to associate Ukrainians with Nazis) to try and resolve the Donbas or Crimea question by force.”
In 2014, Russia invaded and occupied Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, using soldiers, dubbed “little green men,” who had removed their Russian insignia from their green army uniforms. The Kremlin then staged a sham referendum in an attempt to legitimize its military occupation of the Ukrainian territory.
The Verkhovna Rada – Ukraine’s parliament – declared Feb. 20, 2014 to be the starting date of the Russian occupation of the peninsula and the city of Sevastopol.
The international community has condemned the occupation as illegal, while Moscow claims to have carried out a “historically justified” annexation. Ukrainian government has claimed it has no intentions to take back the occupied territories by force.
Russia has since deployed more than 130,000 troops and offensive weapons near the Ukrainian border and in the temporarily occupied parts of the country, according to the latest intelligence estimate by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, in an operation that could involve up to 200,000 Russian soldiers.
While Russia has denied plans to invade, it has also refused to provide assurances that it would not do so, instead issuing its demand for so-called “security guarantees” to the United States and NATO.
Joining NATO is the only way for Ukraine to resolve the Donbas conflict, according to country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Kyiv has, on numerous occasions, reiterated its commitment to a political and diplomatic resolution of its ongoing conflict with Russia.
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