Putin does not rule out war in Europe, but says he hopes to avoid it

15 February, 06:25 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo:Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo:Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

At a press conference in Moscow with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Feb. 15, journalists asked the Russian president twice whether there would be a war in Europe.

Putin was also asked if he could rule out an offensive on Ukraine. Here is how Putin answered:

With regard to the war in Europe. The Federal Chancellor has just said that people of his generation (and I belong to his generation) can hardly imagine any kind of war in Europe. And this is said, of course, in relation to the situation around Ukraine. But you and I were witnesses of the war in Europe unleashed by the NATO bloc against Yugoslavia.

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A major military operation with rocket and bomb strikes on a European capital – Belgrade. Did this not happen? And without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council. This is a very bad example, but it’s (a fact).

 Secondly. Whether we want (war) or not. Of course not. That is why we put forward a proposal for a negotiation process, the result of which should be an agreement on ensuring equal security for all, including our country. Unfortunately, (and we have already spoken about this) we have not received a substantive, constructive response to the proposals we made.

Nevertheless, we’re building on the fact that even in the documents that were sent to us by our partners from NATO and from Washington, there are some elements that can be discussed. But we’re ready to do this only in conjunction with those fundamental issues that are of paramount importance to us.

We hope, and I told the Federal Chancellor today about this, that the dialogue will develop in this way. And depending on how it develops, the situation will develop on all the other tracks that worry you and us. And we are as worried as you, I assure you.

 As for how Russia will act next? According to plan. What will this consist of? It depends on the situation on the ground. Who can answer how the real situation will develop? So far no one. It doesn’t just depend on us.

But we intend, and will strive, to reach an agreement with our partners on the issues that we have raised in order to resolve them through diplomacy. (We have made it very clear what those are).

With regard to ensuring Russia's security: (these issues are) are the non-expansion of NATO, the return of the bloc's military infrastructure to where it was in 1997, and the non-deployment of combat strike systems near our borders. Everything, in my opinion, is crystal clear. We are ready to speak on other issues that are contained in the response we received, but in conjunction with what is of paramount value and importance for us.

Now concerning the expansion of NATO. So you said: "It is said that in the coming years Ukraine will not join NATO." What does "it is said" mean? Well, you and I must understand what “it is said” means in interstate relations. We have been “told” for 30 years that there will be no NATO expansion at all, not one inch toward the Russian borders. Yet today we see NATO infrastructure right outside our house.

Moreover, the issue of Ukraine's accession to NATO is being discussed. They say it won't happen tomorrow. But when? The day after tomorrow? And what does this change for us in a historical perspective? Absolutely nothing. We hear that Ukraine today is not ready to join NATO.

We know this narrative. And then they say that they won't accept it tomorrow. But will they accept it when it is prepared for this? Then for us it may be too late. So we want to resolve this issue now. Right now, in the near future, during the negotiation process. By peaceful means. We proceed from this and very much hope that our concerns will be heard and taken seriously by our partners.

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