Russia has warned NATO that if Sweden and Finland joined the military alliance then the Kremlin would have to bolster its nuclear defences in the Baltic.
‘There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,’ said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.
‘Naturally, we will have to reinforce these borders. Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to. If our hand is forced well… take note it wasn’t us who proposed this.’
The former president added Russia would ‘seriously reinforce its group of ground forces and air defences and deploy significant naval forces in the Gulf of Finland.’
The threat comes after Sweden and Finland edged closer to NATO membership yesterday, and their application bids could be submitted in weeks.
Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson is understood to be eager for the country to join the trans-Atlantic alliance by June, to the fury of Vladimir Putin who invaded Ukraine in part for its desire to join the pact.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about the comments by journalists, said that ‘this has been talked about many times’ and Putin has issued an order on ‘reinforcing our western flank’ due to NATO’s growing military potential.
Asked if this reinforcement would include nuclear weapons, Peskov said: ‘I can’t say… There will be a whole list of measures, necessary steps. This will be covered at a separate meeting by the president.’
The Swedish application is expected to be submitted by the NATO meeting in Madrid on June 29-20, Swedish reports said yesterday.
Similarly, Finland is hoping to start its application process ‘within weeks, not within months’, its prime minister Sanna Marin said.
And today, Finland announced a military exercise in Western Finland with the participation of forces from Britain, the United States, Latvia and Estonia.