Wed Jun 14, 2017 02:33PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 2, 2017. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 2, 2017. (AFP photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has again criticized the expansion of NATO, saying the Western military alliance has become a tool in the hand of the United States to advance its foreign policy.

“Once a country becomes a NATO member, it is hard to resist the pressures of the US. And all of a sudden any weapons system can be placed in this country,” Putin said in an interview aired late on Tuesday, while calling NATO “an instrument of America’s foreign policy.”

The Russian president said Moscow would not remain idle and watch NATO’s increased military activity at its western borders, adding that the alliance was committing a “big, glaring mistake” by engaging in more build-up at Russia’s doorsteps as it would drag both the United States and Russia into a new arms race.

A sniper of the German armed forces Bundeswehr is pictured on May 10, 2017 at the General Silvestras Zukauskas Training Area in Pabrade, Lithuania, where the US Defense Secretary was on a visit. (AFP photo)

He said Russia would show a “suitable” response to NATO’s eastward expansion, adding that Moscow’s countermeasures would be “much cheaper,” if not quite as technologically advanced.

“It may be [rough]… but it will be effective. We shall preserve this so-called strategic balance,” Putin said.

The president also argued against claims by the United States that NATO’s deployment of missile systems in eastern European countries was to deter potential threats from countries such as Iran, saying he did not see any point in NATO's expansion after the demise of the Soviet Union and now that Iran and world powers had agreed on a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program.

“Iran has abandoned all nuclear military weapons programs. The United States agreed with it and signed the corresponding document. However, the missile defense program with its elements in Europe continues further. Against whom is it aimed?" Putin said.