Russia warns of ‘military consequences’ if Finland and Sweden join Nato

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Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, joined Nato leaders at an emergency summit, prompting a strong reaction from Russia - Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg

Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, joined Nato leaders at an emergency summit, prompting a strong reaction from Russia – Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg

Russia has warned of “military consequences” if Finland and Sweden join Nato, after their leaders held talks with the alliance in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign affairs spokesman, said at her weekly briefing that all members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, including Finland and Sweden, “have reaffirmed the principle that the security of one country cannot be built at the expense of the security of others”.

She added: “Obviously, the accession of Finland and Sweden to Nato, which is primarily a military alliance as you well understand, would have serious military and political consequences, which would require our country to make response steps.”

Her intervention came after Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, and Magdalena Andersson, her Swedish counterpart, joined Nato leaders at an emergency summit to discuss the response to the crisis.

Nato sources dismissed Russian suggestions that the meeting was focused on bringing Finland and Sweden on board as part of an expansion of the alliance.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, said leaders instead concentrated on plans to defend the alliance from a possible Russian attack and how to support Ukraine as the conflict continues.

The alliance’s top officials had previously warned that it would need to reinforce its eastern flank, to prevent fighting from spilling over into a full-blown war.

Alexander Stubb, a former prime minister of Finland, which has been militarily neutral since the Cold War, said: “Russia is pushing Finland closer to Nato membership. Closer than ever before.

“Our security has been partially based on an option to join. At this rate, we have no other option but to join.

“Finland’s accession would strengthen the alliance and help keep northern Europe stable.”

Nato membership has never enjoyed majority public support in Finland, but the Russian attack on Ukraine has seen a shift in the mood.

Ms Marin, who was previously an opponent to joining the alliance, now argues the debate over membership is set to change.

After the Russian threat against Helsinki, one Finnish television channel asked members of the public how they wanted to respond to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. One simply offered a middle-finger salute, replying: “This!”

With fighting intensifying in Kyiv on Friday, Nato leaders stepped up plans to send more troops and weapons to the alliance’s borders with Russia and Ukraine.

“No one should be fooled by the Russian government’s barrage of lies,” Nato leaders said in a joint statement. “We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the alliance.”

Boris Johnson told counterparts that Britain was doubling the size of its battalion to form a brigade in Estonia, as well as other deployments across the alliance.

The Prime Minister also called on Nato leaders to back his plans to eject Russia from the Swift international payment system, to exert maximum pressure on Putin and his Kremlin allies.

Boris Johnson holding a call with members of the Joint Expeditionary Force on Friday to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine - Simon Dawson/Shutterstock

Boris Johnson holding a call with members of the Joint Expeditionary Force on Friday to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine – Simon Dawson/Shutterstock

A Royal Navy destroyer set sail to the Mediterranean to join patrol vessel HMS Trent, with four additional RAF Typhoon jets being deployed to Cyprus as part of Nato air policing efforts in eastern Europe.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is expected to sail to Norway to take part in a Nato mission in the area. However, it could be called up as part of the alliance’s high-readiness force to tackle Russian aggression.

Ministers are currently discussing further deployments that could be offered to Nato’s so-called defence plan, which was activated for the first time in the wake of Moscow’s attack.

On top of this James Heappy, the armed forces minister, revealed 1,000 British troops were on standby to support Ukraine’s neighbours.

“The 1,000 troops that are on standby are there to support Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland with the expected humanitarian challenges that they will face as people make their way out of Ukraine,” he said.


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