Russia on Monday said the West should not have any “illusions” that the Kremlin will simply put up with the Nordic expansion of the US-led military alliance North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This comes a day after Russia’s neighbours Finland and Sweden said they will officially submit applications to join NATO.
They should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it – and nor should Brussels, Washington and other NATO capitals,” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the state RIA news agency.
Ryabkhov, who had led talks with the US on a doomed Russian proposal to halt NATO’s eastward expansion, added that Finland and Sweden’s decision to join the military alliance is “another grave mistake”.
The Russian deputy foreign minister said it is a “shame that common sense is being sacrificed to some phantom provision about what should be done in this unfolding situation”.
Ryabkhov’s statement comes as Russia continues to send warnings to the two nations over NATO membership. Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly cited the post-Soviet expansion of the NATO alliance in the east towards its borders as a reason for the invasion of Ukraine – the biggest war in an European nation since the Second World War.
On Saturday, member of Russian Parliament’s lower house ‘Duma’ and an ally of Putin, Aleksey Zhuravlyov, launched a nuclear attack warning on Finland and the UK, saying it can turn the two countries into ashes in seconds. He reportedly told the state TV that Russia can hit Finland with a “Sarmat (also known as ‘Satan-2’ missile) from Siberia, and even reach the UK”.
“And if we strike from Kaliningrad…the hypersonic’s reaching time is 200 seconds – so go ahead, guys,” the Russian politician added.
Putin recently held a telephonic conversation with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto during which the Russian president assured that “there are no threats” to Finland’s security, even as he warned of retaliatory steps by Moscow if Helsinki joins NATO.
Niinisto, however, said that Russia’s demands aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO coupled with its invading Ukraine have “altered the security environment of Finland”.
Keeping this reason in mind, Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Sunday announced their intent to join NATO – completely unfazed by the warnings by Putin and his government officials. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has also cited security as the reason behind the intent to seek NATO membership.
Andersson’s decision can be seen as dramatic since her Social Democratic Party has opposed NATO membership since the inception of the military alliance, with she herself resisting it as recently as March. However, the ongoing war in Ukraine – which entered the third month in May, has changed the security situation in Europe. According to an AFP report, Swedish public support for NATO membership has risen to nearly 50 per cent in the aftermath of the Ukraine war.The situation is the same in Finland, with the AFP report revealing that the number of Finns who want to join NATO has climbed to more than three-quarters – almost triple the level before the Ukraine war. Finland shares a 1,300-km border with Russia, while Sweden shares a maritime boundary with it.