What has Russia and Putin said about the possible incorporation into NATO of Finland and Sweden?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a surge in support for the military alliance in Scandinavia.
It’s an unsurprising reaction, but nations with close proximity to Russia are afraid. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine nearly two months ago, Finland and Sweden are worried that Russia could pounce upon their status as non-NATO members and make a ploy for their territory. In the context of the invasion of Ukraine as a move toward a Russian empire of centuries gone, Finland probably should be worried; it was a part of Russia from 1809 to 1917.
It is not simply government posturing to reach out to NATO, public support has decisively swung in favour of the alliance. A poll conducted by Finnish state news Yle in March found 62 percent of respondents were in favour of joining the alliance, up from just 21 percent in 2017.
In Swede, the numbers are just as drastic. Polling conducted this week by Demoskop, commissioned by the Aftonbladet newspaper, found 57 percent of Swedes out in favour. Significantly, the traditional NATO opponents in the Social Democratic party were majority in favour of joining NATO for the first time.
“There is a before and after February 24,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters in reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The security landscape has completely changed.”
“We have to be prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said. Finland has recently been on the receiving end of cyber attacks on government ministries which have been blamed on Russia.
Debates in the Finnish parliament for joining the alliance began on Wednesday while debates in Sweden are expected to begin soon.
Sweden has not been at war since the Napoleonic era, while Finland’s last war was the Second World War where it fought alongside the Germans before turning on their former ally in the last years of the war.
What has the Russian government said about these prospects?
Russia has threatened Finland in the past to pressure it from seeking closeness with NATO, and this time it is no different.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said, “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic [Sea],” a reference to the Russian belief that Sweden and Finland are already aiding NATO. The Baltic Sea is the body of water between Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Baltic states.
Putin himself is yet to make a comment upon the Nordic nations’ imminent application to NATO.