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Russia declares red line – Will not accept Finland in NATO

Russia has said that it will be forced to take "retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature", in order to stop the threats to its national security arising due to Finland joining NATO (Image courtesy: Kremlin.ru)

Describing Finland's sudden rush to join NATO as a "radical change" in the country's foreign policy, Russia has said that Helsinki should be aware of the "responsibility and consequences" of such a move.

Reacting to the statements made by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin in favour of Finland joining NATO, Russia said that it will be forced to take "retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature", in order to stop the threats to its national security arising in this regard.

Moscow stated that for decades, the policy of military non-alignment served as the basis for stability in the Northern European region, provided a reliable level of security for the Finnish state, and was a solid basis for building mutually beneficial cooperation and partnerships between the two countries, in which the role of the military factor was reduced to zero.

"Neither Russia's assurances that there were no hostile intentions towards Finland, nor the long history of good-neighbourly and mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries convinced Helsinki of the advantages of maintaining a policy of military non-alignment," said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement on Thursday.

Analysts believe Russia's concerns are legitimate as there is a possibility of forces under NATO command positioned right at its 1300 km border with Finland in future.  

One can go to Finland from Russia by plane, train, sea ferry and even by car as there are eight automobile, three railway and one water international checkpoint.

Saint Petersburg, the city on the shore of the Gulf of Finland which also was the capital of the Russian empire for two centuries, is only 435 km away from the Finnish–Russian border.

Just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, about 900,000 people entered Russia from Finland for tourism purposes in 2019 and a little over 165,000 in 2020 as St. Petersburg remained the first city visited by Finnish tourists in Russia.

Russia-Finland relations also became an example of a policy of peaceful coexistence, characterized by intensive political dialogue and a high level of trade which reached 25% of Finland's foreign trade in the mid-1980s.

As things changed drastically after Russia's ongoing 'special military operation' in Ukraine launched on February 24, Helsinki gradually started giving feelers about its intention to join NATO.

Moscow, however, believes that Finland's accession to NATO will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations, maintaining stability and security in the Northern European region.

"The goal of NATO, whose member countries vigorously convinced the Finnish side that there was no alternative to membership in the alliance, is clear – to continue expanding towards the borders of Russia, to create another flank for a military threat to our country. But why should Finland turn its territory into a frontier of military confrontation with the Russian Federation, while losing independence in making its own decisions, history will judge," said the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday.

Moscow also hinted that it was expecting such a move from its neighbours and is ready to take on the "threat" of the alliance.

"Russia is ready to confront the NATO threat. Russia has taken the necessary precautions for this," Dmitry Polyansky, First Deputy Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti, in an interview with online publication UnHerd.

Meanwhile, welcoming the move to expand NATO, Washington last night supported the call of two Nordic states – Finland and Sweden – joining the alliance, saying that their militaries have worked together for many years even without the countries being members of the organisation.

"We would support — the United States would support a NATO application by Finland and/or Sweden should they choose to apply.  We, of course, will respect whatever decision they make. Both Finland and Sweden are close and valued defence partners of the United States and of NATO," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Also Read: In for a long haul in Ukraine, Russia builds support for a united front against US and its allies