Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning Finland and Sweden against joining NATO, saying an expansion in membership could lead to an increased response from his own Russian-led military alliance.
On Monday, Putin spoke alongside leaders of Russia’s allies in Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan at a Collective Security Treaty Organization summit in Moscow.
He called on countries to streamline their operations and ensure that the various law enforcement agencies and security services work in coordination, adding that his administration will equip the forces with the latest weapons.
“I am convinced that these measures will help to improve the level of coordination, the combat readiness of our forces and, in general, the peacekeeping potential of the forces,” Putin said, according to a translation of the media. of Russian state RT.
His remarks come after Finland confirmed last week that it would apply to join NATO after decades of military non-alignment. Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party has also backed an attempt to join the Western military alliance.
A NATO membership for Finland would be a blow to Russia, as the neighboring country shares the longest border with Russia among the 27 countries of the European Union, which would give the alliance new regional expertise. on Putin.
On Monday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko joined Putin in urging Russia’s allies to remain united, saying in televised remarks that “without a united front, the collective West will increase the pressure on the post-Soviet space.” .
“You can see how united they are and how disciplined they are in the European Union, even those who disagree with the decisions that are made,” Lukashenko said.
“It raises a question: why can’t we do the same? We have to be inspired in this respect,” he added. “If we are alone, they will crush us and break us to pieces.”
Putin said that while NATO membership would not pose a direct threat to Finland or Sweden, “the enlargement and expansion of NATO’s infrastructure will be a threat.”
“They seem to create problems out of nowhere,” Putin said. “We will respond appropriately.”
The Russian president’s comments echo those of the country’s foreign ministry last week.
“Russia will be compelled to take retaliatory measures, both military-technical and otherwise, in order to put an end to threats to its national security that arise in this regard,” the ministry said.
Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership depends on the approval of the alliance’s 30 members and their parliaments, and Turkey has previously raised concerns, arguing that the two countries harbor ” many terrorist organizations” – a position the Finnish president said was “confusing”, noting that Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan had previously told him he had viewed the offer as “favourable”.
Newsweek contacted NATO for comments.