Russian President Vladimir Putin said the NATO membership aspirations of Finland and Sweden posed no direct threat to Russia, but warned NATO against transferring armaments into the two nations’ territory.
“As for the expansion [of NATO], including through new members of the alliance — Finland, Sweden — Russia wants to assure you that it has no problems with these states,” Putin said at a meeting of leaders from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-backed military alliance, in Moscow on Monday. “As a result, in this sense, these countries’ expansion does not constitute a direct threat to Russia.”
Putin’s views contrast with those made earlier in the day by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who called the Nordic countries’ moves into NATO a “terrible error” with “far-reaching ramifications.”
In response to Russia’s aggressiveness in Ukraine, Finland announced on Sunday that it would apply to join NATO, ending more than half a century of military neutrality. “Today is a watershed moment in history,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto stated. Sweden followed suit on Monday, with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson confirming the country’s plan to apply to the military alliance on its behalf.
However, Putin warned that if the military alliance transferred weaponry inside the two countries’ territory, there would be consequences.
Putin told the leaders of the five former Soviet republics that “the buildup of military facilities on this land will surely prompt us to respond,” adding that NATO’s “endless expansionary programme” also “needed extra attention on our part.”
Belarus’ Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin stated on Sunday that the CSTO should also expand, predicting that “dozens of governments” would join the alliance within “a few years.” Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan are all members of the CSTO, which was created in 1992.