Russia warns Finland of ‘significant escalation’ after joining NATO
Finland’s accession to NATO addressed by Shoigu
Russia has accused NATO of “creating the risk of a significant escalation” after Finland became the 31st member of the alliance. Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, during a meeting with leaders of the country’s armed forces, said they were “taking retaliatory measures” to “defend the security of the union state”, while residents of the western city of St Petersburg, just a five-hour drive from the Finnish border, branded the decision to join NATO as “unfriendly” and said their neighbours would “incur losses”. Meanwhile, US secretary of state Anthony Blinken, who was in Brussels when Finnish President Sauli Niinisto signed the membership agreement with NATO, said he could “thank Putin” for the expansion of the alliance.
During a meeting with top Russian military officials, Shoigu said: “NATO is taking a range of steps to increase the combat-readiness of the joint armed forces. They are intensifying combat training and reconnaissance activities near the borders of Russia and Belarus.”
Addressing Finland’s accession to NATO, Shoigu said: “Of course, this all creates the risk of a significant escalation of the conflict but it will not affect the outcome of the ‘special military operation’.
“Under these conditions, we are taking retaliatory measures and defending the security of the union state. Some Belarusian ground attack aircraft received the ability to strike at targets with nuclear weapons.
“In addition, the Belarusian Armed Forces were handed over Iksander M operational-tactical missile systems. It can use both conventional and nuclear missiles.”
He also said that NATO members were increasing their “anti-Russian policy” and that further military support to Ukraine would similarly lead to an escalation of the war.
Finland put forward their membership application to NATO in May last year, just two and a half months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Their decision to join was entirely down to the increased expansionist threat posed by Russia under Vladimir Putin as evidenced by the “special military operation”.
In light of the invasion, Finnish support for joining the alliance was so widespread, notwithstanding the significance of the move as it ended 70 years of post-WW2 military neutrality, that it was not even a topic of discussion during Finland’s elections last week; all parties from across the political spectrum were unified in their desire to join.
After the declaration on Tuesday morning, the US joined in with comments that Putin had been directly responsible for the emphatic Finnish decision to expand the alliance and increase the 754-mile border with NATO to 1,548 miles.
“I’m tempted to say this is maybe the one thing that we can thank Mr. Putin for because he once again here precipitated something he claims to want to prevent by Russia’s aggression, causing many countries to believe that they have to do more to look out for their own defence and to make sure that
they can deter possible Russian aggression going forward,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
US President Joe Biden said that Putin had ensured NATO was “more united than ever” by invading Ukraine, adding that, “strengthened by our newest ally, Finland, we will continue to preserve transatlantic security”.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg also said Putin was responsible for Finland’s “historic” decision to join the alliance.
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“Finland now has the strongest friends and allies in the world,” he said. “President Putin wanted to slam Nato’s door shut. Today we show the world that he failed. That aggression and intimidation do not work.”
It is unclear what form Russia’s “retaliation” will take – their decision to station missiles in Belarus was announced last month by Putin, weeks before Finland signed their membership agreement – and such threats, made continually since their invasion of Ukraine, have proved empty.
But irrespective of what may materialise, the latest round of threats from Russia serve to show the frustration felt by Putin at his own miscalculation.
By waging a war ostensibly against NATO “encroachment”, he has forced a formerly-neutral state to side with the alliance and he has more than doubled his exposure.
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