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‘A mistake’: Vladimir Putin reacts to Finland’s potential NATO membership

“Vladimir Putin stressed that abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake because there is no threat to the security of Finland”, can we read this May 14 in a press release from the Kremlin, published after a telephone conversation between the Russian president and his Finnish counterpart. The announcement of Helsinki’s candidacy for NATO membership, seen with a very dim view by Moscow, is expected the next day.

“Such a change in Finland’s foreign policy could have a negative influence on Russian-Finnish relations which have been built over the years in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership and which have been mutually beneficial in nature,” explains the Russian presidency again.

Vladimir Poutine and Sauli Niinistö also evoked the situation in Ukraine where Russia carries out a military offensive since February 24. The Russian president notably informed his interlocutor of the state of the Russian-Ukrainian talks “in reality suspended by kyiv, which shows no interest in a serious and constructive dialogue”.

Multiple warnings from Moscow

“The enlargement of NATO and the rapprochement of the Alliance to our borders does not make the world and our continent more stable and more secure”, had already commented a few days earlier the spokesman of the Kremlin Dmitri Peskov, in reaction to Finland’s potential application for membership of the Atlanticist politico-military organisation.

The senior Russian official had stressed that such a move would constitute “a direct violation of Finland’s international legal obligations” under the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty which provides for the obligation for the parties not to enter into alliances or to participate in coalitions against one of them, as well as the 1992 agreement between Moscow and Helsinki.

Moscow has also been issuing warnings for weeks. On February 25, the spokesperson for Russian diplomacy Maria Zakharova had already explained that a possible accession of Helsinki – as well as Stockholm – to the Atlantic Alliance would have “serious politico-military repercussions”, and that, the if necessary, Moscow “would be obliged to respond”.

“Being a member of NATO cannot strengthen their national security. De facto, [la Finlande et la Suède] will be NATO’s front line,” she said. Judging that the debate on such membership had considerably intensified because of “a deliberate campaign carried out in recent years by external forces to attract Sweden and Finland into the NATO bloc”, she then warned on the consequences of abandoning a position of military non-alignment.

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