Putin’s warning over Finland, Sweden NATO move
Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country will respond in kind if NATO deploys troops and infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after joining the US-led military alliance, as NATO called Russia a “direct threat” to Western security .
Putin said that Finland’s and Sweden’s decision to join NATO would have consequences.
“But they must understand that there was no threat before, while now, if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we must respond in kind and create the same threat to the territories from which threats against us are created,” he said. and added that it was inevitable that Moscow’s relations with Helsinki and Stockholm would deteriorate.
“Everything was fine between us, but now there may be some tension, it certainly will,” he said.
“It is inevitable if there is a threat to us.”
Putin made his comment a day after NATO member Turkey lifted its veto over Finland’s and Sweden’s offer to join the alliance after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security.
The move means that Helsinki and Stockholm can continue with their application to join NATO, which marks the biggest change in European security in decades.
US President Joe Biden announced more land, naval and air force locations across Europe from Spain in the west to Romania and Poland bordering Ukraine.
These included a permanent army headquarters with an accompanying battalion in Poland – the first US full-time operation on the eastern outskirts of NATO.
“President Putin’s war on Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and created the largest security crisis in Europe since World War II,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a news conference on Wednesday.
“NATO has responded with strength and unity.”
When the 30 national NATO leaders met in Madrid, Russian forces intensified attacks in Ukraine, including missile attacks and shelling in the southern Mykolaiv region near the front lines and the Black Sea.
The mayor of the city of Mykolaiv said eight Russian missiles had hit the city and one had killed at least five people in a residential building there, while Moscow said its forces had hit what they called a training base for foreign mercenaries in the region.
The governor of eastern Luhansk province reportedly “fighting everywhere” in a battle around the town of Lysychansk on a hill, which Russian forces are trying to encircle as they gradually advance in a campaign to conquer Ukraine’s industrialized eastern Donbas region on behalf of separatist agents. The Donbas include the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy once again told NATO that Ukrainian forces needed more weapons and money, and faster, to erode Russia’s huge lead in artillery and missile power, and said Moscow’s ambitions did not stop at Ukraine.
Russia says its invasion, which began on February 24, is a “special military operation” to liberate Ukraine from dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of an unprovoked imperialist coup.
As a nod to the deteriorating relations with Russia since the invasion, a NATO communiqué called Russia “the most significant and direct threat to the security of the Allies”, having previously classified it as a “strategic partner”.
NATO issued a new strategic concept, the first since 2010, which states that “a strong independence of Ukraine is crucial for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area”.
To that end, NATO agreed on a long-term economic and military aid package to modernize Ukraine’s military.
“We stand in full solidarity with the government and the people of Ukraine in the heroic defense of their country,” the statement said.
Stoltenberg said that NATO had agreed to put 300,000 soldiers on high alert from 2023, up from 40,000, to protect an area stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
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Zelenskiy said in a video link to the summit that Ukraine needed $ 5 billion ($ 7.3 billion) a month for its defense and protection.
“This is not a war waged by Russia only against Ukraine. This is a war for the right to dictate the conditions in Europe, for what the future world order will look like,” he said.
NATO’s invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance marks one of the most significant changes in European security in decades as Helsinki and Stockholm release a tradition of neutrality in response to Russia’s invasion.
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