Russian President Vladimir Putin is confident that the visit of United States secretary of defense Lloyd Austin to Kyiv is intended to open doors for Ukraine to join NATO.
According to the Russian president, the formal membership of Ukraine in the Alliance may not take place, but "the military development of Ukraine is already underway." Putin expressed concern that this poses a real threat to Russia.
"Here comes the defense minister (of the United States), who in fact opens a door for Ukraine to join NATO. In fact, his statement should and can be interpreted in this way. No one says, "No"... This is not a guarantee of security for Russia. These are just empty conversations on a given topic and, of course, we are concerned about it," Putin said during a speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club.
Putin added that he knows the constitutional provision of Ukraine about military bases, but it does not apply to training centers. He believes that "under the disguise of training centers, one can bring anything."
The Russian president said that “if tomorrow missiles appear near Kharkiv, this will be a problem for Russia since it is not Russia that goes there with its missiles, they [NATO] are deploying them under our noses."
On October 19, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was in Kyiv on a working visit.