Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Moscow has no problem with Finland and Sweden joining NATO, but warned that the Kremlin would respond in kind if troops and infrastructure were deployed in the two Nordic countries.
“As for Finland and Sweden, we have no problems with Finland and Sweden, which we unfortunately have with Ukraine,” Putin told a news conference on June 29 in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, after ending talks with regional leaders in the Central Asian ex-Soviet state.
“Please continue,” the Russian president said, referring to the two countries that want to join NATO, adding that Moscow “does not have territorial differences.”
However, Putin noted that Helsinki and Stockholm should clearly understand that they did not face any threats before joining the military alliance. He warned last week that Moscow would react to all kinds of measures that make Russia feel threatened.
“If NATO troops and infrastructure are deployed, we will have to respond in kind and create the same threat to the territories from which threats against us are created,” the Russian president said.
“Everything went well between us, but now there will be tension, it really will,” he added. “This is obvious and inevitable, I repeat, 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.
On 5 July, NATO ambassadors signed a Accession Protocol for Finland and Sweden, which will enable them to join the Nuclear Alliance when Parliament ratifies the decision, its most significant enlargement since the 1990s.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was a historic day “for Finland, for Sweden, for NATO and for Euro-Atlantic security.”
“Finland and Sweden will make strong and important contributions to our alliance”, Stoltenberg sa after Tuesday’s ceremony. “I commend all the Allies for accepting Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for membership so quickly, and I would like to thank Turkey, Finland and Sweden for their constructive attitude.”
The protocol means that Helsinki and Stockholm can participate in NATO meetings and have greater access to intelligence but will not be protected by NATO’s defense clause – that an attack on an ally is an attack on everyone – until it is ratified. It will probably take up to a year.
The move for Helsinki and Stockholm to become members of the alliance was accelerated after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which prompted Russian neighbors to appeal for NATO’s additional security guarantees.
Finland, with a population of 5.5 million, shares the EU’s longest border with Russia, an 833 km long border. The two Nordic countries were traditionally militarily non-aligned, but the ongoing war in Ukraine has triggered increased support for joining NATO.
Russia, for its part, has previously warned countries to join NATO, where Kremlin officials said it would not contribute to stability in Europe. Moscow had previously said it would respond to such a move with retaliatory measures that would cause “military and political consequences” for Helsinki and Stockholm.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From NTD News