Ukraine: Sweden and Finland population swings towards NATO
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The Kremlin’s security council chairman warned the military alliance that there “can be no more talk” of the two countries joining.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said: ”There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored”.
He warned that Russia would be forced to act should the two countries join the alliance.
He said: “Naturally, we will have to reinforce these borders. Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to. If our hand is forced well… take note it wasn’t us who proposed this.”
The former president added Russia would “seriously reinforce its group of ground forces and air defences and deploy significant naval forces in the Gulf of Finland”.
Finland is set to decide whether it will join NATO “within weeks”, according to the country’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
The country’s application is expected to be submitted in time for NATO’s meeting in Madrid in late June.
Finland is also revising its security arrangements and potential to join the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But Moscow has warned Finland and Sweden against joining in recent weeks.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, told reporters recently that Putin has issued an order on reinforcing Russia’s “Western flank” due to NATO’s growing military potential.
When asked if Putin’s reinforcement order would include weapons, Mr Peskov said: “‘I can’t say. There will be a whole list of measures, necessary steps. This will be covered at a separate meeting by the president.”
Both Finland and Sweden have historically avoided NATO membership, despite being closely aligned with the West.
But polls in both countries have shown support for joining the alliance.
Sweden’s ruling party said this week: “When Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden’s security position changed fundamentally.”
It comes as Finland announced a military exercise in the west of the country with the participation of forces from Britain, the United States, Latvia and Estonia.
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This decision was made despite Russia’s lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov recently warning it could mean “the destruction of the country”.
In response to Russia’s threat, Lithuania’s defence minister, Arvydas Anusauskas warned that Russia already has nuclear weapons in the Baltic region – which is sandwiched between NATO countries Poland and Lithuania.
Mr Anusauskas told the BNS news agency that they have been deployed in Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea since before the invasion of Ukraine began.
However, Ingrida Simonyte – Lithuania’s Prime Minister – said on Thursday that Russia’s threat to increase military, including nuclear, in the Baltic region was “nothing new”.
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