Putin Open to Finland and Sweden’s NATO Membership

Putin Open to Finland and Sweden’s NATO Membership
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states at the Kremlin in Moscow, on May 16, 2022. (Alexander Nemenov/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

As Sweden and Finland move ahead with their plans to join NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that he has no issues with the decisions, provided there is no military threat to his nation.

“As to enlargement, Russia has no problem with these states—none. And so in this sense there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion (of NATO) to include these countries,” Putin told the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-dominated military alliance of former Soviet states, Reuters reported.

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response … What that (response) will be—we will see what threats are created for us.” CSTO includes nations like Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Putin’s unusually calm response to Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership is in stark contrast to his previous comments against the expansion of the alliance. In fact, he has cited NATO’s eastward expansion as one of the main reasons for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to Putin, some assurances were provided as the Soviet Union collapsed that NATO will not expand eastwards toward Moscow, something which the alliance and the United States dispute. In addition to NATO’s “endless expansion policy,” the military alliance was also blamed by Putin for reaching far beyond its Euro-Atlantic remit.

Meanwhile, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, commented on Monday that Finland and Sweden’s attempts to join NATO were “another grave mistake” that will have “far-reaching consequences.” Both nations should not think that Russia will simply put up with their choices, he added.

“And in what form we will ensure our security after the change in this general NATO configuration is a separate question. It will depend on what, in practical terms, will be the result of the expected accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance. There are no illusions that we will put up with it,” Ryabkov said, according to CNBC.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that he opposes Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

“First of all, we would not say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey to join NATO, a security organization, during this process,” Erdogan said during a May 16 press conference according to state-backed media outlet Anadolu news. Both countries need not bother trying to send diplomats to sway his stance, he added.

Turkey, a founding member of NATO, is against the nations joining the alliance as they both allegedly house Kurdish individuals whom Ankara has dubbed terrorists.

Sweden and Finland are also accused of harboring individuals with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for a coup attempt in 2016.

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