May 14, 2022 - World

Putin warns Finland's NATO application would harm relations

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during a press conference in Helsinki on May 11.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö during a press conference in Helsinki on May 11. Photo: Antti aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Finnish President Sauli Niinistö during a phone call on Saturday that a Finnish application for NATO membership "could have a negative effect on Russia-Finland relations," according to a statement released by the Kremlin’s press service.

Why it matters: Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, a non-NATO country, has galvanized the historically neutral countries of Sweden and Finland into seeking membership in the defensive alliance, and Russia has responded with half-veiled threats.

What they're saying: Putin's warning came after Niinistö said Finland will decide whether to apply for NATO membership in the coming days.

  • Putin stressed that Finland "rejecting the traditional policy of military neutrality would be wrong since there are no threats to Finland’s security," according to the Kremlin.
  • "Such a change in the country’s foreign policy course could have a negative effect on Russia-Finland relations, which have been built over the course of many years in the spirit of neighbourliness and partnership cooperation and have a mutually beneficial nature."

The big picture: Though Putin claimed Russia posed no threat to Finland's security, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, threatened last month that Russia would deploy nuclear weapons to its Kaliningrad enclave if Sweden and Finland joined NATO.

  • Russia's foreign ministry warned this week that Moscow would "take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature" if Finland applies.
  • Russia threatened to cease electricity deliveries to Finland, though the country's grid operator said Friday that its deliveries would be easily replaced.
  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine has also reignited fears in Sweden that the Kremlin may seek to invade and occupy Gotland, an island of 60,000 in the Baltic Sea.

Go deeper: Erdoğan says Turkey does not support Finland and Sweden joining NATO

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