Putin warns Finland’s NATO membership would damage relations

Russian President Vladimir Poutine warned his Finnish counterpart on Saturday that relations between the two neighbors could be “negatively affected” if Finland continues with plans to apply for NATO membership.

The Kremlin press service said in a statement that Putin told Sauli Niinisto that Finland’s abandonment “of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake because there is no threat to Finland’s security. “.

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which have been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership for many years, and are mutually beneficial,” the statement added.

Russia Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the board of the Educational Foundation for Talent and Success via video conference at the Sirius Educational Center for Gifted Children in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin swimming pool photo via AP

The response came after Niinisto told Putin in a phone conversation that the militarily non-aligned Nordic country which has a complex history with its huge eastern neighbor “will decide whether to apply for NATO membership in the coming days”. .

Niinisto’s office said in a statement that the Finnish head of state told Putin how dramatically Finland’s security environment had changed after the Feb. 24 invasion of Moscow. Ukraineand underlined Russia’s demands on Finland to refrain from seeking membership in the Western military alliance of the 30 member states.

“The discussion (with Putin) was direct and unambiguous and took place without exaggeration. Avoiding tension was considered important,” said Niinisto, Finland’s president since 2012 and one of the few Western leaders to have maintained a regular dialogue with Putin over the past few years. decade.

Niinisto pointed out that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that “each independent nation would maximize its own security”.

“It still does. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities. It’s not something that keeps everyone away,” Niinisto said.

Finland calls for NATO membership; Sweden could soon follow


Niinisto pointed out that Finland, despite its likely future membership of NATOwants to continue dealing with Russia bilaterally on “practical issues generated by the border neighborhood” and hopes to engage with Moscow “in a professional manner”.

According to the Kremlin statement, the two leaders also discussed the Russian military operation in Ukraine and the possibility of reaching a political solution to the situation. Putin said talks between Moscow and Kyiv had been suspended due to Ukraine’s “lack of interest in serious and constructive dialogue”.

The phone call was made at the initiative of Finland, Niinisto’s office said.

Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) border with Russia, the longest of any member of the European Union.

Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday jointly endorsed Finland’s NATO candidacy and recommended that the country “must apply for NATO membership without delay” to ensure the nation’s security amid the Russian military maneuvers in Ukraine and the changing geopolitical and security landscape of Europe.

An official announcement from Niinisto and Marin of Finland’s intention to apply for NATO membership is expected on Sunday. Marin’s ruling Social Democratic Party approved the membership application on Saturday, paving the way for a parliamentary vote next week to approve the move. He should pass with overwhelming support. A formal membership application would then be submitted to NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Neighboring Sweden is due to decide its stance on NATO on Sunday at a meeting of the ruling Social Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

US President Joe Biden held a joint call with Niinisto and Andersson on Friday where, according to a White House statement, he “underlined his support for NATO’s open door policy and the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy and security arrangements.”

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