Putin says if Ukraine ever joins NATO, it may trigger a war between Russia and the alliance
Putinsaid if Ukrainejoined NATO, it could trigger a war between Russiaand the alliance.
- Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it has close ties with the alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said that if Ukraine ever joined NATO, it could trigger a war between Russia and the alliance.
Putin suggested that Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, would attempt to use force to regain control of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, if Ukraine became a NATO member.
"Imagine that Ukraine becomes a NATO member and launches those military operations," Putin said during a press conference at the Kremlin with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
He added: "Should we fight NATO then? Has anyone thought about it?"
Ukraine has sought to join NATO for years, but the alliance has tiptoed around the issue, and there are no signs it will be accepted in the near future. In June, for example, President Joe Biden told reporters that "school is out on that question" when asked whether NATO would take steps to admit Ukraine to the alliance.
Putin's comments on Tuesday come as Russia has sparked fears of an invasion by gathering roughly 100,000 troops on Ukraine's border.
The Kremlin says it has no plans to invade, but Western leaders are skeptical.
The US has said a Russian invasion of Ukraine may be imminent, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pushed against this. Zelensky last week urged Western countries to avoid causing "panic" that could hurt Ukraine's economy.
On Monday, Russia accused the US of overhyping the prospect of an invasion, despite a tremendous buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine's border. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea in the process. And since that year, the Kremlin has backed rebels in a war against Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbass region. The conflict has killed over 13,000 people.
Because Ukraine is not a NATO member, the US has ruled out sending in troops to defend it if Russia invades.
NATO operates under the principle of collective defense and considers an attack on one member an attack on all members. This principle is enshrined in Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty.
But Biden on Friday said he'd be "moving US troops to Eastern Europe and the NATO countries in the near term."
The US previously put 8,500 troops on high alert for a deployment to the region amid the Russia-Ukraine tensions.
Diplomatic efforts to prevent a broader conflict have so far failed to produce significant results.
Russia has made demands for binding security guarantees from the West, including barring Ukraine from ever joining NATO. But the alliance and Washington have remained firm that NATO's open-door policy is not up for discussion. NATO and the US recently delivered written responses to Russia's demands.
Putin on Tuesday said that Russia's concerns were "ignored" by the US and its allies.
"I hope that we will eventually find a solution, although we realize that it's not going to be easy," Putin added, according to The Associated Press.
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