MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the country was open to further cooperation with NATO, but remained opposed to the organization’s presence in historic Russian territories.
“We are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, not at all, but we are opposed to a military alliance … hosted outside our fences next to our home or on our historic territories,” Putin said.
The president made the comments during an address to both houses of parliament, as well as heads of Russian regions and representatives of public organizations at a special assembly in the Kremlin.
Following the meeting, Putin signed a treaty with the leaders of Ukraine’s Crimea formalizing the reunification of the breakaway province with Russia.
Crimea, where Russia maintains a major naval base at the port of Sevastopol, held a referendum on Sunday that saw voters overwhelmingly support secession and incorporation into Russia.
The Russian leader added on Tuesday that NATO members “are great guys, but it’s better for them to come visit us in Sevastopol, than for us to visit them.”