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Putin Says He Discussed Russia's Possible NATO Membership With Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the funeral of Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, in Moscow in April 2007.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that he once raised the possibility of Russia joining NATO with then-President Bill Clinton, and that Clinton said he had "no objection."

Putin delivered this account in a series of interviews with U.S. film director Oliver Stone set to air later this month on the U.S. television network Showtime.

Excerpts of the four-part series have been released online in recent days, including one obtained by Politico in which Putin discusses NATO, whose eastward expansion following the collapse of the Soviet Union has long angered Moscow.

Speaking with Stone in what appears to be Putin's presidential plane, the Russian leader recalls one of his final meetings with Clinton, who left office in January 2001.

"During the meeting I said, 'We would consider an option that Russia might join NATO,'" Putin says. "Clinton answered, 'I have no objection.' But the entire U.S. delegation got very nervous."

In a March 2000 interview with the British television journalist David Frost, Putin was asked whether "it is possible Russia could join NATO."

Putin, who at the time was serving as acting president and weeks later was elected to his first term, responded, "I don’t see why not."

Russia has repeatedly accused NATO of stoking tensions with its expansion toward its borders.

NATO says it poses no threat to Russia and that it is a defensive alliance. It has denounced Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Showtime series, titled The Putin Interviews, is set to begin airing on June 12.

In the interviews, Putin also says he does not agree with former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden's decision to leak troves of classified documents on government surveillance.

But he says that Snowden, who was given refuge in Russia, is "not a traitor" and "did not give any information to another country that would have caused harm to his people."

With reporting by AFP
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