VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Russia's military action against Georgia in 2008 prevented NATO from expanding its footprint eastward, the Russian president said.
Russian forces responded when the Georgian military invaded the separatist republic of South Ossetia in 2008. The conflict spilled over to engulf forces from Abkhazia, another separatist republic.
Moscow recognized both republics shortly after the conflict and signed agreements in 2010 to build permanent military installations in the breakaway regions.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said military action in Georgia prevented NATO allies for a campaign of expansion.
"If we had wavered in 2008, the geopolitical layout would have been different; a range of countries which the North Atlantic (Treaty Organization) tries to artificially 'protect' would have been within it," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying.
Medvedev maintained Russian forces invaded to prevent a major humanitarian crisis in the region.
South Ossetia had presidential elections in mid-November. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Western alliance didn't recognize its rights to have elections, however.
NATO sided with Georgia when Abkhazia had elections earlier this year.
NATO's presence along the borders of the former Soviet Union, meanwhile, is a "nuisance" to the Kremlin, Medvedev said.