Sweden on Monday joined Finland in announcing that it would formally seek NATO membership, ending decades of military neutrality by the Nordic countries in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and despite threats of nuclear retaliation from Moscow.
“The government has decided to inform NATO that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced. “Sweden’s NATO ambassador will shortly inform NATO.”
The parliaments of Finland — which shares an 800-mile border with Russia and announced its intention on Sunday — and Sweden are expected to vote this week on formally requesting membership in the 30-nation bloc.
Stockholm and Helsinki’s westward turn was prompted by Putin’s launch of what the Russian leader called a “special military operation” on Feb. 24.
On Monday, Putin said he sees no direct threat to Russia from Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, but warned NATO against bolstering the military capabilities of the two nations.
“The expansion of the military infrastructure to this territory will definitely provoke a response,” Putin said at a summit of the pro-Moscow Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. “And we’ll see what it’s going to be like depending on the threats this would pose to us.”
”Problems are being created for no reason at all,” the Russian leader added. “We shall react accordingly.”
“This is another grave mistake with far-reaching consequences,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to Russian news outlets. ”The general level of military tensions will increase.”
“It is a pity that common sense is being sacrificed for some phantom ideas about what should be done in the current situation,” he added.
Last week, Russia threatened to use hypersonic nuclear missiles to strike Finland, Britain and the US after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto informed Putin of his country’s decision to ask to join NATO.
“If Finland wants to join this bloc, then our goal is absolutely legitimate — to question the existence of this state. This is logical,” said Aleksey Zhuravlyov, the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense committee.
“If the United States threatens our state, it’s good: here is the Sarmat [Satan-2 missile] for you, and there will be nuclear ashes from you if you think that Russia should not exist,” he added. “And Finland says that it is at one with the USA. Well, get in line.”
The Satan-2 is capable of carrying 10 to 15 nuclear warheads.
Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin called Sunday’s announcement as a “historic day” for the nation of 5 million people.
“When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago,” Marin said. “Everything has changed when Russia attacked Ukraine. And I personally think that we cannot trust anymore that there will be a peaceful future next to Russia.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted Monday that Congress would ratify Finland’s NATO application with near-total support by August.
“With regard to the size of the vote, it will be very significant. Not unanimous, but very significant,” McConnell told reporters in Helsinki.
All 30 members of NATO must approve the addition of a new member, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already expressed skepticism of allowing Sweden and Finland to join.
With Post wires