The US has installed advanced anti-missile systems across Europe as part of its NATO commitments; the organisation contends it is acting within its international commitments.
The Western military alliance’s Cold War-era stalemate with Russia has reignited as world leaders jostle for prime position on the world stage.
Following talks with Finish President Sauli Niinisto, Mr Putin told a press conference on Thursday: “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 defence systems near our borders.”
The Russian leader asserted the US missile systems threatened his country’s national security and they consequently justified countermeasures on his side of the border.
Mr Putin claimed the US systems could be used for nefarious means and repurposed to launch intermediate-range missiles, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.
Finland has been caught between NATO and Russia and has tried to sustain positive relations with both sides of the conflict.
President Niinisto has suggested that, in order to avoid near-miss incidents in the air, both NATO and Russian military aircraft should be required to fly with their transponders on, like their civilian counterparts.
Mr Putin told reporters during Thursday’s press conference: “We welcome the Finnish president’s proposal for easing any tensions in the region.
“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.”
NATO disputed the Russian leader’s comments, with senior spokeswoman Oana Lungescu branding the coalition’s actions “defensive, proportion and fully in line with our international commitments”.
She said: “NATO has deployed 4,000 troops to the eastern part of the alliance—to deter any possible aggression. These troops cannot compare to the divisions deployed by Russia.
“In contrast, Russia has troops in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova against the wishes of their governments.”
Since Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula amid Ukraine’s 2014 political uprising, US-led NATO has increasingly perceived Moscow as a threat to regional stability and has bolstered defences across its 29 member states.
The annexation occurred amid a 2014 political uprising in Kiev.
At the time, a Ukrainian court declared a Crimean status referendum as illegal and the UN also underscored “that the referendum having no validity, cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea”.
The Russian Federation annexed the territory from Ukraine in February-March 2014.
Since then, it has been administered as two Russian federal subjects — the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea – key facts:
- The Russian Federation annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in February-March 2014.
- The territory now comprises two Russian federal subjects—the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.
- The annexation was followed by a military intervention by Russia in Crimea that occurred in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and was part of wider unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine.