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Sweden Joins Finland In NATO Bid As Putin Warns Of 'Response'

By RFE/RL May 16, 2022

Sweden has joined Finland in deciding to apply to join the NATO military alliance in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine as President Vladimir Putin said Moscow will "certainly" react to the alliance's expected enlargement into the two Nordic countries.

"The government has decided to inform NATO that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance. Sweden's NATO ambassador will shortly inform NATO," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters on May 16, effectively ending two centuries of the country's nonaligned status.

"Russia has said that that it will take countermeasures if we join NATO," she said. "We cannot rule out that Sweden will be exposed to, for instance, disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us."

The move comes a day after Nordic neighbor Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, made a similar announcement. Finland has remained neutral in the postwar era after losing some 10 percent of its territory to the Soviet Union.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin have said that after consulting parliament, their country intends to rapidly apply for NATO membership.

Both countries have moved quickly toward the military alliance since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Their bids to join must be unanimously approved by NATO's 30 members.

In Moscow, Putin said on May 16 that while Russia did not see Finland and Sweden's decision to join NATO as a threat, deployment of military infrastructure there may trigger a response from Moscow.

The expansion of NATO to Sweden and Finland poses "no direct threat for us...but the expansion of military infrastructure to these territories will certainly provoke our response," Putin told a televised summit meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-led military alliance.

Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO would be a "grave mistake with far-reaching consequences."

Finland and Sweden "should have no illusions that we will simply resign ourselves to this," Ryabkov said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Russia "will have to take steps in response to Sweden's accession to NATO" but this would depend on the terms of Sweden's integration, including possible deployment of offensive weapons on Swedish territory.

Sweden's accession to NATO "will do serious harm to the security of Northern Europe and the European continent in general," a Defense Ministry statement quoted by TASS said, adding that "Russia will have to take response steps of the military-technical and other nature to avert threats to its national security stemming from it."

While no formal date is expected to be announced immediately for when accession could take place, NATO will hold a summit in Madrid on June 28-29.

NATO officials have indicated that the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden could be signed at that time if the formal applications landed on Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's desk by the end of May.

In response to the news, Stoltenberg said their entry would be "smooth and swift."

But the alliance first will have to find a way around Turkey's threat to block the expansion.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed Turkey's opposition to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, accusing them of failing to take a clear stance against terrorism, a reference to the harboring of Kurdish militants.

According to Justice Ministry sources quoted by the official Anadolu news agency, Sweden and Finland have failed to respond positively to Turkey's 33 extradition requests over the past five years.

Sweden and Finland have said they plan to send delegations to Ankara to meet with Turkish officials, but Erdogan said they shouldn't bother.

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on May 16 that the U.S. Congress will seek to ratify Finland's application to join NATO before going on holiday in August.

"Certainly we hope to achieve it before the August recess when Congress typically goes out of session," McConnell told reporters in Helsinki after meeting with Niinisto.

McConnell said there was broad bipartisan support among U.S. lawmakers for the Finnish membership.

Russian exports of power to Finland were down to zero early on May 16, flow data showed, after Russian utility firm Inter RAO said last week it would halt them because it had not been paid.

Finnish grid operator Fingrid said on May 14 that the suspension of Russian transmission was due to restrictions on payments imposed by Western states. But is added that it can replace Russian supplies with Swedish power and by boosting domestic production.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, Reuters, and TASS

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/finland-sweden-nato- russia-debate/31852819.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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