A top Russian lawmaker on Thursday described the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a “cancerous tumor on the whole European continent.” The anti-NATO rhetoric came not long after Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the organization is acting as a shield for Turkey, which recently shot down a Russian bomber on its border with Syria.
Moscow’s criticism of NATO is nothing new, but it has reached a new level in recent weeks following the downing of the Russian jet by Turkey and last week’s announcement that Montenegro, once a part of the former Socialistic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, had been invited to join the alliance.
State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin, speaking to a group of lawmakers from Serbia on Wednesday, called for the dissolution of NATO, beginning with the removal of the United States. According to the state-run news organization RT, he said, “My attitude to this organization is special,” adding, “It would only be for the better if this organization is dissolved.”
“First of all, the USA should be excluded from the bloc, and after this it would be possible to painlessly disband the whole organization,” Naryshkin said. “This would be a good step towards greater security and stability on the whole European continent.”
NATO’s original purpose, of course, was to deter Russian aggression in Europe. Moscow’s actions over the past few years, including the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, its continued support of armed rebellion in the east of Ukraine, and its frequent testing of national boundaries with warships and military planes have all left its neighbors somewhat disinclined to drop their collective guard.
However, that hasn’t stopped the Putin regime from complaining about what it sees as a Western effort to hem Russia in by surrounding it with countries covered by the alliance’s mutual defense treaty. Montenegro hardly qualifies as being a significant military power or, for that matter, a close neighbor of Russia. But every expansion of the alliance rankles in Moscow.
The recent downing of the Russian bomber by Turkey, which cost the life of one of the plane’s pilot’s and one Russian Marine sent on a rescue mission, has upped the Kremlin’s sensitivity toward NATO. Turkey, a NATO member, is covered by the alliance’s mutual defense agreement, meaning that any retaliation from Russia would risk a major confrontation.
The Turkish government particularly annoyed Putin after the shoot-down by calling an emergency NATO meeting instead of reaching out to Moscow with an explanation.
In his annual press conference with the Russian media Thursday, Putin used some rather salty language to describe his impression of Turkey’s behavior and to insinuate that the U.S. government might have been involved in the attack, or at least have agreed not to object to it.
When a reporter asked about the possible involvement of a “third party” in the attacks, according to The Telegraph, Putin said, “I get your inference, but we do not know this. But if someone in the Turkish government decided to lick the Americans in a certain place, well I don't know then, was that the right decision or not?
“I don't even know if the Americans wanted this or not. I can imagine that on some level there were agreements that if we bring down the Russian plane, then you close your eyes to us to entering the territory of Iraq and will occupy part of it.
“I don't know, maybe such an exchange happened. Indeed, we do not know. In any case, they have put all of us in a very difficult situation.”