Former President Bill Clinton on Sunday rejected the argument of critics who say that NATO's expansion during his administration is partly to blame for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," "I am more convinced now than I was then that we did the right thing."
Critics have argued that the continued encroachment of Russia on its borders by NATO — which began when the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined the military alliance in 1999 during Clinton's second term — led Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, according to The Hill.
Clinton told Zakaria, "You're supposed to tell the Poles they should live the rest of eternity with insecurity that Russia won't try to come after them again? Or the Hungarians? Or the, you know, all the others? The Baltic states? Really, after what they did, did they ever want to be in the Soviet Union?"
The former president also said that he "offered Russia not only a special partnership with NATO, but the prospect of eventual membership in NATO, arguing that our biggest security problems in the future were going to come from non-state actors or from authoritarian states selling chemical, biological and nuclear capacity to terrorist groups."
Clinton said, "We did the right thing at the right time. And if we hadn't done it, this crisis might have occurred even sooner."
Clinton said Putin made clear that Nikita Khrushchev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, did a "terrible job" when he ceded Crimea to Ukraine, adding, "Putin made no secret of the fact that he thought the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a great tragedy in world history."
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