Finland, Sweden to participate in NATO drills in Arctic, Russia sees risks
NATO continues to expand despite the situation in Ukraine.
Russia is worried about increased NATO activity in the Arctic and sees risks of "unintended incidents" happening in the region, according to the TASS news agency, which cited Russian ambassador-at-large Nikolai Korchunov.
Though considerations for the two countries to join NATO have been ongoing, decisions on NATO expansion sped up upon Moscow's announcing of the operation in Ukraine.
"The recent increase in NATO's activity in the Arctic is a cause for concern. Another large-scale military exercise of the alliance was recently held in northern Norway. In our view, this does not contribute to the security of the region," Korchunov said.
In addition to the "unintended incidents" that may come as a result of the exercises, serious damage to the ecosystem may also be sustained.
On Thursday, one of Putin's closest allies warned that if Sweden and Finland join NATO, Russia will deploy its nuclear arsenals and hypersonic missiles to the European exclave of Kaliningrad.
Highly likely, but decision not yet made
Finland's prime minister mentioned Wednesday that the Nordic nation would decide whether to apply for NATO membership "within weeks", and Sweden is also discussing joining the alliance.
"At this point, I can say that it is highly likely, but the decision is not yet made," said Finland's European Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen.
"The people of Finland, they seem to have already made up their mind and there is a huge majority for the NATO membership," she told Sky News.
Consequences of such a step
Earlier, Russia's foreign ministry said the choice was up to Finland and Sweden.
"But they should understand the consequences of such a step for our bilateral relations and for the architecture of European security as a whole," Spokesperson Maria Zakharova pointed out in a statement.
The Finnish government hopes to build a parliamentary consensus on the issue over the coming weeks, with MPs due to hear from security experts.
Many analysts predict Finland could submit a bid in time for a NATO summit in June. Any membership bid must be accepted by all 30 NATO states, a process that could take four months to a year.