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Russia-Ukraine war: Finland confirms that it will ask to join NATO and Vladimir Putin reiterates his warnings

In a tense telephone dialogue, the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, informed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Saturday that his country will ask to join NATO. The head of the Kremlin reiterated his warnings and remarked that this step would be a mistake”.

The Finnish head of state announced that the Nordic country – which has a long border and a long history with Russia – “is going to decide to apply for NATO membership in the coming days.”

In a statement, the Finnish president’s office reported that Niinisto told Putin how completely the security environment had changed since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.

“The discussion with Putin was direct and unequivocal and was conducted without exaggeration. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Niinisto, Finland’s president since 2012 and one of the few Western leaders to hold a regular dialogue with the Russian president in the last 10 years.

The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and that of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, at the presidential palace in Helsinki, in a meeting in 2019. Photo: AFP

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“By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and shoulder its responsibilities. It is not to the detriment of anyone. Finland wants to continue to deal with the practical problems generated by the border neighborhood in a correct and professional manner,” the official statement added.

At the same time, President Niinistö reiterated to Putin his “deep concern” for human suffering caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and highlighted the need to achieve peace.

Moscow’s response

From Moscow, in a statement later released by the Kremlin, Putin made it clear to his counterpart that “the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there is no threat to Finland’s security.”

“Such a change in the country’s political orientation may have a negative impact on relationships Russo-Finnish relations that developed over the years in a spirit of good neighborliness and cooperation and were mutually advantageous,” the Kremlin added.

“In particular, Putin shared his vision of the negotiating process between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations, which has been practically frozen by kyiv, which shows no interest in a serious and constructive dialogue,” says the presidential note.

Finland’s decision to join the Atlantic Alliance fell like a bucket of cold water on Russia, which already threatened Helsinki with “technical-military” measures.

Nuclear weapons?

In turn, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexandr Grushkó, warned on Saturday about the possible deployment by NATO of nuclear weapons in Finland and Swedenonce both countries formally enter the alliance.

“It is enough to look at the map to understand how important the Allied enlargement is for the security interests of the Russian Federation,” he stressed.

He admitted that, for the moment, the Atlantic Alliance has not modified its nuclear policy, but its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has affirmed that “nuclear weapons can be placed closer to the Russian border and the Polish leaders assured that they are willing to receive them.”

“If these declarations are confirmed in practice, of course, it will be necessary to react with the adoption of preventive measures that guarantee a safe dissuasion,” warned the diplomat.

Niinistö and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced on Thursday that they were in favor of joining NATO “without delay” and the country is expected to make its candidacy official on Sunday.

The Nordic country considers that the invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s demands that the Atlantic alliance not expand justify its decision.

Sweden, which like Finland has historically remained outside military alliances, is also set to present its candidacy for NATO membership shortly after a meeting of the ruling Social Democratic party on Sunday.

A sign marks the Imatra border crossing, from Finland to Russia.  Photo: AFP

A sign marks the Imatra border crossing, from Finland to Russia. Photo: AFP

Retaliation

In retaliation for these candidatures, Russia threatens “military-technical” measures. And maybe they have already started. This Saturday, Russia’s electricity exports to Finland were suspended.

The company responsible for the import of Russian electricity in Finland, RAO Nordic, with 100% of its Russian capital, had announced on Friday that the supply was going to be suspended due to non-payments.

Russian exports to Finland “currently equal zero. This has been the case since midnight, as had been announced,” Timo Kaukonen, responsible for operations at Fingrid, the Finnish operator, told the AFP agency.

The grid is currently powered by imports from Sweden, according to real-time reports from Fingrid, which announced on Friday that it could do without Russian electricity.

tensions

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre border and a painful past with Russia, says expect computer attacks and violations of their territoryafter making his candidacy official.

In addition to Russian suspicion, the future accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO has also generated Turkey’s displeasurewhere President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not hide his rejection of the idea of ​​them being part of the Alliance, which has 30 members, including Ankara.

Erdogan reproached the two countries for being a “refuge for PKK terrorists”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, considered terrorist by Turkey, but also by the European Union (EU) and the United States.

Turkey could block these accessions because to receive new members unanimity is needed.

The process is accelerated

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured that the two Nordic countries will be welcomed with “open arms” in the Alliance.

A new stage in the process towards accession took place this Saturday in Helsinki, when the Prime Minister’s Social Democratic Party gave its approval to the country’s candidacy.

Of the 60 members of the party leadership, 53 voted in favor of accession, 5 against and two abstained.

The Parliament of Finland will meet on Monday and will cast a vote in favor of accession during the day, after consulting the 200 deputies.

Source: AFP, EFE and AP

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