Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Russia.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Russia says a nuclear-free Baltic region is no longer possible if Finland and Sweden join NATO.
“If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the territorial borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will double. Naturally, these borders must be strengthened,” wrote Dmitry Medvedev, former president and vice president of Russia’s Security Council. His official telegram channel on Thursday.
Russia must “seriously strengthen its ground forces and air defenses, and establish significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland.
The comments come a day after Finland and Sweden said a decision on applying for NATO membership would come in a few weeks. Leaders of those countries said their security ratings had changed dramatically following Russia’s occupation of Ukraine in February.
The Baltic states, which include the northeastern European countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, are members of the European Union and NATO. Finland and Sweden are members of the European Union, but not NATO, the latter sharing an 830-mile border with Russia.
Medvedev added that if Finland and Sweden joined NATO, it would provide Moscow with “officially registered opponents.” He said NATO plans to agree with the two Nordic countries “with minimal bureaucratic practices.”
He added that Russia’s response should be taken “with a cold head, without any emotion.”
Moscow sees the inclusion of neighboring Finland in NATO as a threat to its national security because the United States could establish advanced military equipment in Finland if it joins the alliance.
On Thursday, Medvedev’s comments were ignored by Lithuania, which borders the Russian mainland of Kaliningrad.
This is nothing new, said Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonide. Russia already has nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, said Arvid Das Anusaskas, the country’s defense minister.
“The current Russian threats seem very strange. Despite the current security situation, they have weapons 100 km from the Lithuanian border,” Anusaskas was quoted as saying by Lithuania’s BNS wire.
“Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad … the international community, the countries in the region, are well aware of this … they are using it as a threat,” he added.
Kaliningrad, this is a bit Larger than Connecticut, it is bordered on the west by the Baltic Sea And linked between NATO members Poland and Lithuania.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a U-turn in Finnish public opinion to join a 30-member military alliance. Moscow has warned in the past of dire consequences and instability in the Nordics if Finland joins.
If Finland joins the alliance, Sweden will follow suit. Finland and Sweden and Ukraine are already NATO’s “advanced prospective allies”, the closest form of cooperation with the NATO, and participating in military exercises with NATO countries.
Instead of urging countries to pursue membership, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said that Finland and Sweden should decide their own path. He said the door to the coalition was still open to welcome new members.
But Russia has long warned against any NATO expansion, accusing the coalition of being “a tool for conflict.” Prior to its invasion of Ukraine, the organization, formed in 1949 in response to the Soviet Union’s threat, demanded the return to its pre – 1997 borders – which the United States and NATO refused.
Since 1997, 14 countries have joined the Joint Security Alliance, with almost half of its members. These countries include much of Central and Eastern Europe, the first NATO members bordering Russia, and the Kaliningrad region of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Moscow accuses Ukraine of pursuing NATO membership, among other things, of inciting the Russian invasion, which it says threatens Russia’s security. NATO leaders have reiterated that they will not send troops into Ukraine to assist in their fight against Russia, mainly because the country is not a member of the coalition.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in December 2021 that “NATO’s continued efforts to drag those countries into the orbit of its interests and opportunistic policies have not gone unnoticed by Russia.”
“The merger of Finland and Sweden into NATO is very obvious … it will have serious military and political consequences and will require an adequate response from the Russian side,” said Maria Zakharova, a ministry spokeswoman at the time.
The risks are high
Leaders in Finland and Sweden say they are aware of the growing risk.
“We need to be very open about the consequences and risks. There are both short-term and long-term risks. These risks exist whether we apply or not,” said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Press conference Wednesday.
Both Finnish and Swedish leaders have said they expect a decision on applying for NATO membership soon.
Paul Wennerhome | Afp | Getty Images
However, looking at the disaster in Ukraine in a few weeks, Marin pointed out the importance of being a full-fledged NATO member, without being a partner, which is its current status.
“The difference between being a partner and being a member is very clear and it will stay that way,” Marin said. “Under NATO’s Section 5 guarantee, there is no other way to obtain security guarantees under NATO’s prevention and general security.”
Section 5 of the Coalition covers the principle of collective security. In short, Section 5 is considered an attack on a NATO member against all allies.
-Sam Meridit of CNBC contributed to this report.