Vladimir Putin has dismissed the idea that Russia could attack NATO as “insane”.
In an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera, President Vladimir Putin says Russia is not a threat to NATO.
The Russian president told the publication: “Only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO.”
The Western alliance is bolstering its military presence in its eastern European members in response to their fears of Russian threat, following its involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
NATO says that Russia is backing rebels in Ukraine – a claim denied by Moscow.
Three Baltic countries are preparing to ask for a permanent presence of NATO troops on their soil to act as a deterrent to the Russian military.
Six NATO bases are being set up and a 5,000-strong “spearhead” force established.
In his interview with the Italian publication, Vladimir Putin said some countries were “simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia” in order to receive “some supplementary military, economic, financial or some other aid”.
“There is no need to fear Russia,” he said.
“The world has changed so drastically that people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you.”
Heavy fighting has erupted in Ukraine this week, focusing on the towns of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, west of rebel-held Donetsk.
The opposing sides have accused each other of shattering February’s Minsk ceasefire, requiring them to withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko told a news conference on June 5 that Russia had massed troops on the border and in rebel-held areas “in unprecedented numbers” – but Russia again denied that its military was involved in Ukraine.
Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine has deployed 50,000 troops in the conflict zone to meet the threat.
More than 6,400 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the conflict began in April 2014, when rebels seized large parts of two eastern regions, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula.
The Ukraine crisis is on the agenda of talks of leaders of the most industrialized group of countries – the G7 – beginning on June 7, without Russia – usually its eight member.