Finland, Sweden joining NATO to provoke Russia reaction: Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia does not feel threatened by Finland and Sweden joining NATO, though his country would respond if such action takes place.
Russia has no issue with Finland and Sweden that are willing to join NATO, President Vladimir Putin said Monday, stressing that their accession to the alliance posed no threat to his country. However, he stressed, such action would trigger an appropriate reaction from Moscow.
"Russia... has no problems with these states, and therefore, in this sense, the expansion through these countries does not create any immediate threat for Russia," he told the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in the Russian capital.
However, he underlined, "the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly provoke our response."
In light of the Western military buildup on Russia's western flank, President Putin revealed that there was a series of joint military exercises of the CSTO planned for autumn.
He revealed that the joint military exercises were planned to be held in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. "I am sure that these events will serve to increase combat readiness and the level of coordination of the military structures of our states and the overall peacekeeping potential of the CSTO," he stressed.
He also underlined that the problem was created completely artificially, as it was done in the foreign policy interests of the United States, noting that NATO had become a "foreign policy instrument of one country."
All the issues that Putin pinpointed "exacerbat[e] an already difficult international security environment," he underlined as tensions escalate as the Nordic states push for accession to NATO and as the war unfolds in Ukraine after it had pushed for joining the alliance.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told the CSTO meeting about the repercussions of NATO's expansion bid, stressing that the alliance was "aggressively building up its muscles, yesterday drawing in the neutral Finland and Sweden."
He also expressed his view that Washington had a desire to prolong the conflict in Ukraine as much as possible. "Without the speedy rallying of our countries... there may not be a tomorrow," he added.
The Russian president, during talks with his Finnish counterpart, reiterated that Moscow posed no threat to Finland; therefore, abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality on Helsinki's end would be a mistake.
President Niinisto, on the other hand, told his Russian counterpart that Moscow's demands aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO, and the war in Ukraine have led to alterations in the security environment in Finland.
Finland, alongside its neighbor to the West, Sweden, is expected to request NATO membership in the coming months - before summer. Their accession, if it were to happen, would redefine European security and would be met with opposition from Russia, which has been very vocal about its opposition to NATO's expansion.
Though Moscow opposes the alliance's expansion, it does not see the accession of Finland and Sweden into the bloc as an existential threat, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov underlined. However, Russia will work on its Western flank to make it more sophisticated in terms of security in the face of NATO creeping in on its northern borders.
The Russian deputy representative to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, said Thursday the two countries would potentially become targets for the Russian military and force Moscow to take action if they are admitted to NATO.
A joint Finland-Sweden application, to be submitted to NATO ahead of its Madrid summit on June 29, is supported by advocates of NATO membership. This would give NATO time to respond with an invitation to join.