New York: Vladimir Putin's spokesman says one way Donald Trump could help build confidence with Russia after he becomes president would be to persuade NATO to slow down its expansion or withdraw its forces from Russia's borders.
Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with The Associated Press that this "would lead to a kind of detente in Europe." But unfortunately, he said, Russia now sees "NATO's muscles ... Getting bigger and bigger and closer and closer to Russian borders."
At a NATO summit in July, the Western alliance said it is building up positions in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in response to what it sees as escalating tensions with Russia. The United States is sending 1,000 troops to Poland next year.
Trump has praised Putin as a strong leader and suggested that the US could abandon its NATO commitments, which include mutual defense in case of attack.
The president-elect says NATO was created to confront a threat the Soviet Union that no longer exists and has called the alliance "obsolete" and a bad deal for America.
He argues that the US gets too little out of decades-old security partnerships like NATO, which is anchored in Europe but traditionally led by the United States.
Peskov, who is considered one of Putin's closest aides, called NATO "an instrument of confrontation."
When its forces are being enlarged and deploying closer and closer to Russia's borders, he said, "we do not feel ourselves safe."
"Of course, we have to take measures to counter," Peskov said.
As "confidence-building measures" to reduce US-Russia tensions in a Trump presidency "let's say slow down or withdrawal of NATO's military potential from our borders potentially would ease this situation," he said.
It's highly unusual for Peskov to travel abroad separately from Putin, but he is chairman of the board of the Russian Chess Federation and came to New York to attend yesterday's opening of the world championship match between Russia's Sergei Karyakin and Norway's Magnus Carlsen.
The organisers invited Trump to attend but he did not show up.
On other global issues, Peskov said in an interview Thursday at the venue for the championship that there is no possibility of "a breakthrough" to end the more than five-year Syria conflict unless the so-called moderate opposition is separated from "terrorist groups" including the Nusra Front and Islamic State extremists