Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned NATO against cultivating closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia, saying such a policy was irresponsible and would have unspecified consequences for the alliance.
The issue has been a source of anger for Russia — which shares a border with both countries and does not want to see them join what it regards as a hostile military bloc — since 2008 when NATO leaders promised Ukraine and Georgia they would one day join the alliance.
Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, said on Thursday there was a need to restore trust in Europe and spoke out against what he said was NATO's attempts to deploy new bases and military infrastructure near Russia’s borders.
"We will respond appropriately to such aggressive steps, which pose a direct threat to Russia," said Putin.
"Our colleagues, who are trying to aggravate the situation, seeking to include, among others, Ukraine and Georgia in the orbit of the alliance, should think about the possible consequences of such an irresponsible policy."