Russia launched a military operation in neighboring Ukraine on February 24 in a declared goal of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” the former Soviet republic.
The Kremlin says it will halt the operation instantly if Ukraine meets Russia’s list of demands, including never applying to join NATO. Washington justifies NATO’s enlargement as a move in response to Russia’s operation in Ukraine.
The operation has sparked security concerns in both Sweden and neighboring Finland, prompting them to move toward abandoning their long-held neutrality and seeking the shelter of NATO security umbrella.
Since the beginning of the offensive, the countries have intensely been lobbying for membership in the US-led military alliance, a move that has drawn stark warning from Russia.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement on Thursday that they are in favor of applying for NATO membership “without delay”, claiming that NATO membership would boost the Nordic countries' security.
Later in the day, the Russian foreign ministry lashed out at Helsinki’s bid, warning that Moscow would need to take “retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security.”
“Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move,” it added.
Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia. If it joins NATO, the land border that Russia shares with the Western military alliance's territories would roughly double.
“Finland joined the unfriendly steps taken by the European Union towards our country. This cannot fail to arouse our regret, and is a reason for corresponding symmetrical responses on our side,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a press conference.
Helsinki’s drive to join NATO confronts Russian President Vladimir Putin with the very outcome he said his “special military operation” in Ukraine was launched to prevent - a further expansion of the US-led military alliance to Russia’s borders.
When Peskov was asked whether the Finnish drive presented a threat to Russia, he said it “definitely” did.
“NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure,” he added.
Peskov did not elaborate on the nature of Moscow’s response to Finland’s possible membership, saying that “everything will depend on how this (NATO) expansion process plays out, the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders.”
Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and the current head of the current deputy chairman of the powerful Security Council, warned that Moscow would deploy nuclear weapons close to the Baltic States - in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad - if Finland and Sweden joined NATO.
Source: Press TV#NATO #Russia #Ukraine 22-05-13
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