Russia says dialogue with NATO at 'zero' but it doesn't seek open conflict

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko holds a news conference in Brussels

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia-NATO relations are worsening but Moscow has no intention of entering a conflict with a NATO country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said in an interview published on Thursday.

In comments to mark NATO's 75th anniversary, Grushko told Russian state news agency RIA that relations were "predictably and deliberately" deteriorating, and all channels of dialogue between Moscow and the alliance had been brought to a "critical zero" level by Washington and Brussels.

"Is the military bloc ready for an open conflict with Russia? You need to ask the NATO members themselves. In any case, we have no such intentions regarding the member countries of the alliance," Grushko said.

President Vladimir Putin launched what he called his "special military operation" in Ukraine in 2022 with the stated aim of preventing NATO from expanding its footprint close to Russia. But the war has served to galvanise the alliance, which has expanded to 32 members by admitting Finland and Sweden.

NATO says it is helping Ukraine fight for its survival in the face of Russian aggression, and has provided Kyiv with advanced weapons, training and intelligence.

Russia says that makes NATO de facto a party to the conflict. Putin said in February that a direct conflict between Russia and NATO would mean the planet was one step away from World War Three.

(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)