Vladimir Putin has suggested to a German interviewer that the west is provoking Russia into a new cold war. The airing of the interview, which was recorded by the German channel ARD in Vladivostok last week, followed Russia’s tit-for-tat expulsions of German and Polish diplomats, as well as the deportation of a Latvian accused of spying.

Asked whether the accusatory rhetoric between Moscow and Washington and a noticeable increase in Russian displays of military strength near western countries points to a new cold war, Putin said two rounds of Nato expansion in central and eastern Europe had been “significant geopolitical game changers” that forced Russia to respond.

Moscow resumed strategic aviation flights abroad several years ago in response to US nuclear bomber flights to areas near Russia that had continued after the cold war, he added.

“Nato and the United States have military bases scattered all over the globe, including in areas close to our borders, and their number is growing,” Putin said. “Moreover, just recently it was decided to deploy special operations forces, again in close proximity to our borders. You have mentioned various [Russian] exercises, flights, ship movements and so on. Is all of this going on? Yes, it is indeed.”

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