The bloc’s efforts to turn Ukraine into an anti-Russian outpost led to the current conflict, Dmitry Peskov has said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, St. Petersburg, Russia, May 5, 2024 © Valentina Pevtsova / RIA Novosti

The waves of NATO expansion towards the East have not made Europe a safer place, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday. This comes as several member states of the bloc have openly supported the use of Western-supplied arms in Ukrainian strikes deep into Russian territory.

“Ukraine started becoming the bridgehead for anti-Russian activity,” he told Russian media outlet RBC TV. “NATO, and thus the US, started taking steps towards Ukraine, towards our borders. And that became a question of our security.”

Responding to a comment by the interviewer regarding NATO’s recent expansion, with Finland and Sweden joining the bloc after the escalation of the Ukraine conflict, Peskov noted that Russia’s relationship with both countries is fundamentally different than with Ukraine. Kiev saw Crimea as a territorial issue with Moscow, he said, after the peninsula rejoined Russia in 2014 following a referendum. However, “we have no territorial questions or problems with Finland and Sweden, we have no points of tension or reasons for confrontation,” Peskov said.

Putin outlines Russian response to long-range strikes Putin outlines Russian response to long-range strikes

The two Northern European states applied for membership in the US-led military bloc soon after the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February 2022. Finland joined NATO in April 2023, and Sweden became a member in March of this year.

The bloc’s military infrastructure will sooner or later make its way onto their territories, “despite them currently being quite careful about this, as they understand this would lead to consequences for their own security,” the spokesman said.

Putin announces response to Finland joining NATO Putin announces response to Finland joining NATO

“NATO creeping towards the East has not made the nations of Eastern Europe more secure, rather quite the opposite.”

In the latest escalation between Moscow and the bloc’s member states, several of Ukraine’s Western sponsors have openly allowed Kiev to use their weapons in long-range strikes deep into Russian territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that while Ukrainian troops may be the ones launching the strikes, it is the US and its allies that are providing intelligence and targeting information to them.

“We can respond asymmetrically,” the Russian leader said on Wednesday, suggesting that Moscow could supply similar weapons around the world, where they could be used against Western targets. Should the West continue to escalate, these actions “will completely destroy international relations and undermine international security,” Putin stressed.

Western-backed long-range strikes on Russian territory will mean direct Western participation in the conflict, and Russia reserves the right to respond in kind, Moscow has warned. Russia has stated that it views the US-led military bloc’s expansion towards its borders as an existential threat. (RT)