Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks on June 2, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Valery Sharifulin | TASS | Getty Images

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks on June 2, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that NATO “falling apart” would help Russia, but he said he does not see the 28-member defense alliance crumbling just yet.

“Well, in a sense that maybe, they should completely be falling apart, that will help,” Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, according to a live translation. “But we don’t see that falling apart just yet.”

NATO was originally established as a check on the Soviet Union. In a summit last week, U.S. President Donald Trump created alarm among allies by reprimanding them for not contributing enough for their defense and declining to specifically endorse NATO’s mutual defense clause.

Some former diplomats saw Trump’s actions as a potential boon to Russia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, typically a careful speaker seen as a key defender of a united Europe, then said at a campaign event that the “times in which we could rely fully on others” are “somewhat over.”

Putin on Friday questioned what NATO’s purpose is now and why European countries would want to increase their defense spending “if you’re not intending to attack anybody.”

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