On Wednesday, in a historic move, NATO officially invited Sweden and Finland to join the Western security alliance, expanding the bloc further east. This comes amid the invasion of Ukraine and after gaining Turkey’s support, a country that was initially against the entrance of the new members. Previously, Russia had said that if the two countries joined NATO, it would lead to “serious military and political consequences.” And, when NATO offered membership to the two, Russia called it “destabilizing.”
Since then, Putin has responded, saying that he has no problem with the expansion of the security alliance because Russia has no territorial differences with the two. However, if military infrastructure and capabilities are deployed and built in those countries, then “we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us,” he said.
“We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine. We don’t have territorial differences. If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want. [But,] if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us,” said Putin at a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat.
“We condemn the irresponsible course of the North Atlantic Alliance that is ruining the European architecture, or what’s left of it,” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on Wednesday. “I have a great deal of doubt as to whether the upcoming period will be calm for our north European neighbors.”