Moscow, 18 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin held a wide-ranging press conference in Moscow today in which he said that NATO has no valid reason to exist, and that Russia and China will respond independently to U.S. missile defense initiatives. Putin said that the Western alliance does not threaten Russia but no longer is necessary.
"We do not consider NATO as a threatening organization and its existence is not a tragedy for us. On the other hand we do not see the necessity for it. NATO was born as a counter-balance to the Warsaw Pact, in any case as a counter-balance for the hegemony of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. Now there is no Warsaw Pact; there is no Soviet Union; and NATO still exists and successfully expands."
Putin said that Russia has adopted a comprehensive friendship treaty with China, but would act independently in response to U.S. development of a missile defense system. He said Russia has enough strength and means to respond by itself on strategic issues.
The Russian president reiterated his view that UN sanctions against Iraq are counterproductive. But he urged Iraq to permit arms inspections back into the country. That, he said, would enable sanctions to be lifted.
He told the press conference that ending violence in the Mideast is of great urgency. He said that the needs of all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be considered.