Russia on Monday warned Finland and Sweden against joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) amid reports of Nordic countries rushing to become a part of the military alliance in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
Calling the alliance a “tool of confrontation”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Nato’s further expansion would “not bring stability to the European continent”.
Mr Peskov’s remarks came a day after it was reported that US officials are expecting Finland to apply for a membership as early as June, which would be followed by Sweden.
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which is aimed at discrediting the Ukrainian military and preventing the country from taking Nato to Russian borders, has prompted the Nordics to consider joining the alliance.
US officials told The Times that Nato membership for both the countries was discussed in multiple conversations and sessions during meetings between the alliance’s foreign ministers last week.
Earlier this month, Kremlin warned Finland and Sweden against joining the alliance, saying Moscow would have to “rebalance the situation” with its own measures if they did so.
If the two countries join, “we’ll have to make our western flank more sophisticated in terms of ensuring our security”, Mr Peskov told Sky News on 7 April.
Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin had said on 2 April that the country would soon decide whether to apply to become a member of the 30-member US-led alliance.about:blank
The prime minister of the northern European nation, which shares an 830-miles-long border with Russia, said that “Russia is not the neighbour we thought it was” following Moscow’s unprovoked invasion into Ukraine on 24 February.
The northern European nation has never been a member of the defence alliance and, until now, has organised its own protection.
But in the wake of Russia’s fierce military operation in Ukraine, public opinion has taken a sharp turn as the majority are now in favour of making an application to join the alliance, opinion polls commissioned by Finnish media outlets found.
Alexander Stubb, who was Finland’s prime minister in 2014 and 2015, said last week that the country could make its formal bid to join the Cold War alliance as early as May.
Tobias Baudin, the secretary for Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party, reportedly said it was reviewing its international security policy, and would discuss whether to join the alliance.
Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson, however, had earlier rejected calls to consider joining Nato.
“If Sweden were to choose to send in an application to join Nato in the current situation, it would further destabilise this area of Europe and increase tensions,” Ms Andersson told reporters on 8 March.
Meanwhile, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg also said last week that the alliance would welcome both the Nordics into its ranks with open arms should they decide to apply.
“If they decide to apply, I expect that all allies will welcome them,” Mr Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, as Nato foreign ministers met to discuss the war in Ukraine. “We know that they can easily join this alliance if they decide to apply.”
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Mr Stoltenberg said Nato member countries might be prepared to provide a security guarantee to cover the two neutral countries from when they announce a membership to the finalisation.
“I am certain that we will find ways to address concerns they may have regarding the period between the potential application and the final ratification,” he said.
Once members of the pact, the Nordic countries would benefit from Nato’s defence clause, which makes it mandatory for all members to defend an ally under attack.