Russian President Vladimir Putin says in a documentary set to air on U.S. television that "nobody would survive" a war between the nuclear-armed countries.
Putin made the comments to Hollywood director Oliver Stone during a series of interviews for the film, in which the Russian leader appears to be given ample room to vent long-held grievances against the United States.
The four-part series, slated to begin airing on June 12 on the Showtime network, comes on the heels of a series of public appearances by Putin in which he has sharpened his criticism of Washington, which he accuses of meddling in Moscow's affairs and exploiting NATO for its own foreign-policy interests.
These themes emerge in his interviews with Stone as well, according to excerpts that have been released online in advance. Asked by the director if the United States would be "dominant" in a "hot war" with Russia, Putin replies, "Nobody would survive."
U.S.-Russian ties cratered in the wake of Moscow's 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine. The United States and the European Union slapped sanctions on Moscow over the land grab, and NATO has bolstered its defenses in its easternmost member states in what it calls a defensive move in response to Russian aggression.
Putin's comments to Stone echo comments he has made over 17 years in power, including a speech at an international economic forum in St. Petersburg last week in which he portrayed NATO a foreign-policy tool exploited by Washington.
"NATO is a mere instrument of U.S. foreign policy. It has no allies, it has only vassals. Once a country becomes a NATO member, it is hard to resist the pressures of the United States," he tells Stone in the documentary titled The Putin Interviews.
He says in the interview that Russia would be forced to bolster its military preparedness in response to what he called NATO "threats." The alliance has repeatedly said it poses no threat to Russia and that it is merely protecting its member states in line with the NATO charter.
In parts of the documentary released in advance, Stone appears to offer a comfortable forum to Putin, whose critics accused him of steadily curtailing civic freedoms, prosecuting political opponents, and cronyism that has enriched his friends, family, and associates.
Bloomberg, which was given the first two hourlong episodes by Showtime, noted that "the documentary avoids fact-checking Putin's remarks or interviewing opposition figures."
It also features some of Putin's trademark off-color comments, including the statement, "I am not a woman, so I don't have bad days."
"I am not trying to insult anyone. That's just the nature of things. There are certain natural cycles," Bloomberg quotes Putin as telling Stone.
Stone told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation late last month that he "liked" and "respected" Putin, whom he says has been misrepresented in the West with a "politically, ideologically driven image."
He added of Putin: "I challenged him and I teased him and I angered him, I hit every note I could."
In a trailer released by Showtime, Stone can be heard asking Putin about U.S. allegations that a Kremlin-directed hacking-and-influence campaign aimed to help President Donald Trump, who says he seeks better ties with Moscow, defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in last year's election.
"Why did you hack the election?" Stone is heard asking.
It was not immediately clear how Putin answered, though he has repeatedly denied the accusation. Last week Putin suggested Russian involvement for the first time publicly, saying "patriotic-minded" hackers might target Kremlin critics. But he insisted the government was not involved in such efforts.