One of Russian President Vladimir Putin's objectives in invading Ukraine in late February is believed to have been the weakening of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but he admitted on Wednesday that he has done just the opposite — while still firing a political shot at the United States.
"Our position has always been … that NATO is a relic of the Cold War and is only being used as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy designed to keep its client states in rein. This is its only mission," Putin told reporters at the sixth Caspian Summit, according to Newsweek.
"We have given them that opportunity, I understand that," he said. "They are using these arguments energetically and quite effectively to rally their so-called allies."
NATO was founded after World War II as an alliance between the United States, Canada, and 10 European countries primarily as a means of mutual defense against the Soviet Union. Putin has maintained its time has passed since the Soviet Union dissolved three decades ago.
There are currently 30 NATO members.
Meeting in Madrid on Wednesday, NATO leaders said Russia "is the most significant and direct threat to allies' security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area."
The quote came as NATO welcomed Sweden and Finland as invitees to join the alliance, and President Joe Biden announced new deployments of U.S. troops, ships, and planes.
Biden boasted that the U.S. move was exactly what Putin "didn't want" — and Moscow, facing fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces equipped with Western arms, reacted with predictable fury.
Putin accused the alliance of seeking to assert its "supremacy," telling journalists that Ukraine and its people are "a means" for NATO to "defend their own interests."
"The NATO countries' leaders wish to ... assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions," Putin said, saying that NATO was "turning Ukraine into an anti-Russia, a bridgehead for trying to stir up Russia itself."
He brought up alleged backlash against Russian culture and language that he said was a precursor to the conflict, Newsweek reported.
NATO leaders have funneled billions of dollars of arms to Ukraine and faced a renewed appeal from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for more long-range artillery.
"Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said, announcing a new NATO strategic overview that focuses on the Moscow threat.
The document, updated for the first time since 2010, warned that the alliance "cannot discount the possibility" of an attack on its members.
"Today in Madrid, NATO proved it can take difficult but essential decisions. We welcome a clear-eyed stance on Russia, as well as the accession for Finland and Sweden," Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
Sweden and Finland, which abandoned decades of military non-alignment in response to the invasion to seek NATO membership, were officially invited in Wednesday.
Putin dismissed the move as "no problem."
"We don't have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine ... They can join whatever they want," he said.
Moscow's invasion triggered massive economic sanctions and a wave of support for Zelenskyy's government, including deliveries of advanced weapons, as well as the reinforcement of Europe's defenses.
Washington has announced that it will shift the headquarters of its 5th Army Corps to Poland.
An Army brigade will rotate in and out of Romania, two squadrons of F-35 fighters will deploy to Britain, U.S. air defense systems will be sent to Germany and Italy, and the fleet of U.S. Navy destroyers in Spain will grow from four to six.
"That's exactly what he didn't want but exactly what needs to be done to guarantee security for Europe," Biden said of Putin's efforts to roll back Western influence and re-establish influence or control over territories of the former Russian empire.
Britain also pledged another $1.2 billion in military aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, including air defense systems and drones.
Norway said it would donate three multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine, following similar decisions made by Britain, Germany and the United States.
Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first Asian leader to visit Kyiv since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
Zelenskyy said he had accepted an invitation to attend the upcoming G20 summit in Bali, depending "on the security situation" — and on the guest list.
It is not clear if Putin will be invited in November, with some capitals pushing for his exclusion.
AFP contributed to this report.
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