In unusually candidate comments on a televised call-in show, Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded that the Crimean annexation came in part as a response to Russian concerns over NATO’s expansion ever-deeper into eastern Europe.
Putin said the NATO military bloc is “moving toward our borders,” and that there were “considerations that if we do nothing, then at some point, guided by the same principles, NATO will drag Ukraine in” as well.
Some NATO members had indeed been angling for Ukrainian membership, and with Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based out of the Crimea, the obvious conclusion was that the base would be squeezed out.
That had been a concern of Russia’s for many years, and during the previous Tymoshenko government Russia began some preliminary work on a naval base at Novorossylsk as a possible replacement.
Bizarrely, some reports centered on Putin saying that “of course” Russian soldiers were already in Crimea before the recent secession row. There was never any real doubt of that fact, because Russia has had a naval base there for centuries.