Who Needs NATO?

Putin Russia
Russia does not view the U.S.-led NATO alliance as an enemy but sees no justification for its existence, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

"We do not see it as an enemy," Putin told reporters in the Kremlin. "We do not see a tragedy in its existence, but we also see no need for it."

In his news conference, Putin also called for an immediate stop to violence between Israel and the Palestinians, and said he plans no major shuffling of his cabinet.

"Today there is no more important task than to stop the violence on both sides, and this should be done immediately," Putin said. He voiced sorrow about the current level of violence between the sides, saying the continuing bloodshed "has practically erased" the results of earlier peace efforts.

"It is important to move in the direction of reducing the confrontation on the Israeli-Lebanese track," Putin said.

Any Middle East peace settlement, Putin noted, should take into account the interests of nations bordering on Israel, especially the "just demands and legal interests of Syria" which wants Israel to return the now-annexed Golan Heights seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe creates "different levels of security on the continent...which does not correspond to today's realities and is not caused by any political or military necessity."

Putin called for the creation of a "single security and defense space in Europe," which he said could be achieved either by disbanding NATO, or by Russia joining it, or by the creation of a new body in which Russia could become an equal partner.

Putin argued that NATO was created as a Cold War alliance aimed against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact satellites and has outlived its time.

"There is no more Warsaw Pact, no more Soviet Union, but NATO continues to exist and develop," he said.

Putin dismissed claims that today's NATO was a political alliance, saying NATO's bombing raids on Yugoslavia were the work of a "military organization, and we're not happy about it."

Putin also acknowledged the importance of Russia's ties to its Soviet past.

Asked whether Russia should bury the body of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, Putin responded, "I'm against that."

Lenin's body is in a mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow.

"Many people connect their own life with Lenin," Putin said. "Burying Lenin would mean...that they had lived in vain."

Putin said the burial could lead to civil unrest, similar to that which has plagued his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

"I'm trying not to do anything to disturb civil peace and the consolidation of society," Putin said, adding that Russia could consider the issue once market reforms and democratic changes take strong root.

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