Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused NATO of intensified rhetoric and expanding and boosting its military infrastructure close to his country’s borders.
Putin accused NATO of ignoring Russia's call for closer cooperation, saying there was a need for a "modern off-bloc system of collective security that is equal for all states". Speaking to the lower house of the Russian parliament Wednesday, he added that Russia was “ready for dialogue,” but had not seen any “positive response, like it was on the eve of the World War Two."
Putin urged lawmakers to support Russia's response to NATO's actions, including the strengthening of Russia's defense capacity.
"On the contrary, NATO intensifies its aggressive rhetoric and its aggressive actions close to our border," he said. "Under these circumstances, we have to pay special attention to the issues of strengthening the defense capacity of our country. I'd like to thank State Duma deputies for the deep and substantial understanding of Russia's state interests, that you are able to defend them and of course for your consolidated legislative support of the proposals regarding strengthening the security of our country."
Reiterating Moscow’s position on its 2014 annexation of Crimea, Putin praised the legislative body.
"I consider the legal integration of Crimea and Sevastopol to be a historic result of your work that was preceded by your sincere and warm moral support of the peninsula's residents ahead of the referendum on joining the Russian Federation," he said.
The United States and other governments in both western and eastern Europe have been increasingly concerned about Russia's military action since 2014 when the Kremlin annexed Ukraine's Crimea region, followed by Moscow’s backing of a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have been particularly anxious about what they see as aggressive moves by Russia, and asked NATO to expand its presence in their countries as a deterrent to Russia.
NATO announced earlier that it would deploy four battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to counter a more assertive Russia, ahead of the Warsaw summit next month. In May, Russia said it would deploy three divisions of troops along its southeast border to counter NATO's increasing military presence in eastern Europe.