Decisions by Finland and Sweden to join the Western military alliance threaten to increase the chance of armed confrontation, Russian official says.
While Russia does not see Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO as a threat, deployment of military infrastructure there may trigger a response from Moscow, President Vladimir Putin warned on Monday.
The NATO membership of the Nordic nations poses “no direct threat for us … but the expansion of military infrastructure to these territories will certainly provoke our response”, Putin said during a televised summit meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a Moscow-led military alliance.
A Russian official also warned the West it will not “simply put up” with NATO’s expansion near its borders.
Moscow has repeatedly cited the post-Soviet enlargement of the US-led military coalition eastwards towards Russian territory as a reason for its invasion of Ukraine.
“They should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov was cited as saying by Russia’s RIA news agency.
Ryabkov, who led talks with the United States on a doomed Russian proposal to halt NATO’s eastward expansion, said the decisions by Helsinki and Stockholm to join the alliance were a mistake.
“The general level of military tension will rise, predictability in this sphere will decrease. It is a shame that common sense is being sacrificed to some phantom provision about what should be done in this unfolding situation,” Ryabkov said.
Russia has given few clues about what it will do in response to the Nordic enlargement of NATO, saying merely there would be a “military-technical response”.
One of Putin’s closest allies said last month Russia could deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad if Finland and Sweden joined NATO.
In a telephone conversation on Sunday with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Moscow posed “no threat to Finland’s security”. The two countries share a 1,300km (800-mile) border.
Finland, which has been neutral for decades, plans to apply soon for membership in NATO, which currently has 30 members.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party says it too wants to join in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a historic decision that would end the two countries’ decades-long policy of non-alignment.
Turkey, a NATO member, has expressed concerns over the two Nordic countries joining the US-led alliance, laying out a set of demands for Finland and Sweden that include ending support for Kurdish groups present on their territory and lifting the ban on sales of some arms to Turkey.
NATO and the US said they were confident both countries would be accepted into the alliance and that reservations from Turkey could be overcome.