Russian President Vladimir Putin is happy Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is the new head of NATO because the two men get along very well. He hopes it will lead to better relations with the West.
“We have very good relations, including personal relations. This is a very serious, responsible person,” Putin said, according to a pre-transmission transcript provided to news organizations.
“But let’s see how he will develop relations in his new capacity,” he said in the interview, for the Russian news show Vesti on Saturday with Sergei Brilyov.
Russia and the West have been fighting Cold War-style since Ukraine ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22. Matters only got worse after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine on March 21 and placed troops on the border.
NATO has warned Russia many times to move the troops away from Ukraine’s border. Russia never stated a reason for the troops, but on Saturday, the Kremlin finally provided an explanation.
“We … have forces in the region of the Ukrainian border. Some of these forces are based there permanently, others are there to reinforce, against the backdrop of what is happening in Ukraine itself,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman to Russian President Vladimir Putin said on the Rossiya 1 television station.
“Forgive me but, it (Ukraine) is a country where there has just been a military coup, so naturally any country is going to take particular precautionary measures in terms of ensuring its security.”
The European Union and US placed sanctions against Putin’s inner circle and his preferred bank. NATO also promised more reinforcements in Eastern Europe, especially since Russian diplomats made remarks about treatment of Russian speakers in Latvia and Estonia. On Saturday, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told The Washington Post that US troops will be deployed to Poland.