President Putin addresses NATO
President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech on the last day of the NATO summit in Bucharest. He said that Russia and NATO have some serious differences, warning that “the presence of a powerful military bloc on our borders” would be perceived in Russia as a direct threat to national security.
Officials from many countries, and particularly NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, had expected that President Vladimir Putin’s speech on the last day of the NATO summit in Bucharest would contain some harsh statements in the spirit of the Cold War era. However, the speech turned out to be quite restrained. It was delivered behind closed doors, away from the media; so Putin had to provide a summary at the post-meeting press conference.
Putin said that Russia and NATO have some serious differences, warning that “the presence of a powerful military bloc on our borders” would be perceived in Russia as a direct threat to national security.
According to Putin, other unsolved problems include the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty crisis, Kosovo, plans to deploy US missile defense elements in Europe, NATO’s aspirations to play the leading role in the field of security, NATO’s movement beyond its geographical zone of responsibility, and the extension of NATO activities to other areas (energy security, cyber-security, and so on).
President Putin also said that “the argument about NATO’s democratic role is greatly exaggerated,” citing Ukraine as an example: “If it had been admitted into NATO yesterday, it would have become a democracy. So what is it today – not a democracy? What nonsense.”
Note that in contrast to Albania and Croatia, neither Ukraine nor Georgia was offered NATO membership at the summit: in Ukraine’s case, because most of its population opposes joining NATO; in Georgia’s case, due to unresolved territorial disputes. NATO promised to reconsider membership for Ukraine and Georgia in December 2008.
President Putin emphasized that reverting to a Cold War is impossible, since no one has an interest in that; at least, not Europe or the USA or Russia.
Putin also spoke of himself, telling journalists that he is looking forward to transferring the burden of responsibility to someone else: “How do we put it in such cases? What’s not to be glad about – it’s demobilization, after all, the end of the conscription period.” He noted that his successor is “a broad-minded person with a brilliant university education, and you’ll have an interesting time with him.”
Analysts are skeptical about President Putin’s speech at the summit. Dmitri Yefremov from the Evrazia website says: “It’s entirely futile to try figuring out what Putin meant, since none of the objectives he mentioned have actually been achieved.”
Dmitri Oreshkin, head of the Mercator Group: “All of Putin’s rhetoric is primarily intended for domestic consumption and used to repair the damaged national self-awareness of Russian citizens. It has nothing to do with real politics, if only because Russia has no leverage with NATO. Putin is soon to leave office, and NATO very humanely permitted him to save face, politely postponing membership for Ukraine and Georgia until the post-Putin era.”