Vladimir Putin On NATO's Eastward Enlargement

Russia's position on NATO's eastward enlargement has not changed, Vladimir Putin told Greece's Net TV and Mega TV channels shortly before the beginning of his visit to Greece. On the whole, this enlargement is "more or less useless and futile," said the Russian leader in his interview, the text of which was handed over to RIA Novosti by the presidential press service. According to Putin, "NATO was initially intended to counteract certain threats" emanating from a certain center. "This center was the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union no longer exists but foreign policy based on 'NATO-centrism' has survived. We regard it as a big mistake." At the same time, "Russia is willing to change the quality of its relations with the North Atlantic bloc." "This does not mean Russia wants to be a full-fledged member of the bloc," went on the Russian president. "But changing the quality of relations with the purpose of counteracting threats that are real and not made up is what we are absolutely ready and willing to do. We are ready to cooperate not only with NATO but also with the security systems that don't yet exist but will shortly be cropping up on the European continent." However, Putin thinks it is "wrong to link these problems with each other." "I don't think temporary absence of these structures in a form that is actually meant to protect Europe in ! ! a couple of years or so should be regarded as an obstacle to a new type of relations between Russia and NATO." In his opinion, "new relations between Russia and NATO are perfectly possible -- British Premier Tony Blair was among those who suggested them -- and may turn out a good stepping stone to Russia's future relations with a united Europe, in this very sensitive sphere as well as in other spheres."