Russia welcomes the initiatives for easing tensions but it is forced to respond to the expansion of NATO’s infrastructure and the emergence of US missile defense systems near its borders, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a news conference following the talks with Finland’s visiting President Sauli Niinisto on Wednesday, TASS reports.
In reply to a question from a Finnish journalist Putin said that Russia was not moving its own military contingents to some places away from its borders closer to NATO countries, while NATO’s military infrastructures were approaching Russia’s borders and the amount of the alliance’s military equipment and personnel, as well as the number of military exercises near Russia were growing. "A very large NATO exercise is due soon very close to us, in the Baltic region."
"Naturally, we have to keep an eye on what is going on there and to strengthen our infrastructures. We must respond to the emergence of components of the US missile defense systems near our borders," Putin said, adding that those missile defense systems could be used for launching intermediate range missiles.
Whatever the case, Putin said, "We welcome the Finnish president’s proposal for easing any tensions in the region. This concerns flights by combat aircraft (activation of their transponders - TASS)." Putin recalled that the International Civil Aviation Organization had formulated certain rules but they did not apply to military aircraft. "The rules have the status of recommendations," he recalled.
"We are prepared to discuss this with our NATO partners, but they refuse. I believe this is not a constructive stance. We hope it will change," Putin said.