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NATO expansion erodes international trust - Putin

RIA Novosti

10/02/2007 16:23 MUNICH, February 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that NATO's eastward expansion is affecting Russia's relationship with the North Atlantic alliance and has nothing to do with modernizing the military bloc.

Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and the three Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - joined NATO in 2004. Georgia and Ukraine have recently been actively seeking to join the alliance. Russia has strongly protested the deployment of NATO bases on the territory of newly admitted member nations.

"It is evident that the process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernizing the alliance or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it is seriously eroding mutual trust," Putin told an international security conference in Munich.

Putin said NATO's expansion toward Russia's borders has nothing to do with countering global threats, specifically terrorism.

"Why do they have to move their military infrastructure closer to our borders?" he told the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy. "Is this connected with overcoming global threats today?"

The Russian leader said the main threat for Russia, the U.S. and Europe is international terrorism, which can only be fought through joint efforts.

Putin said the use of military force in international relations may only be justified on the basis of principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

"I am convinced that the UN Charter is the only legitimate decision-making mechanism for the use of military force as a last resort," he said.

"The UN must not be replaced either by NATO or the European Union," Vladimir Putin said.

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