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NATO

Russia warns of ‘consequences’ if Sweden and Finland join NATO

Russia's foreign ministry on Friday warned of unspecified "consequences" should Finland and Sweden join the US-led NATO defence alliance, after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.

NATO ship on its way through the Stockholm archipelago after the visit to Stockholm.
NATO ship on its way through the Stockholm archipelago after a visit to Stockholm. 23rd March 2022 Photo: Urban Andersson / TT

Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine have sparked a dramatic U-turn in public and political opinion in both Finland and Sweden over long-held policies of military non-alignment.

Finland said this week it will decide whether to apply for NATO membership within weeks, and Sweden is also discussing joining the alliance.

“The choice is up to the authorities of Sweden and Finland. But they should understand the consequences of such a step for our bilateral relations and for the architecture of European security as a whole,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

She added that Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO is “unlikely to contribute to strengthening (their) international prestige”.

Zakharova said that the non-alignment policy of the two countries “provided a reliable level of security”, while membership in a military alliance is “not capable of strengthening their national security”.

“They will automatically find themselves on the NATO frontline,” Zakharova said.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned on Thursday that Russia would deploy nuclear weapons close to the three Baltic states and Scandinavia if Finland or Sweden decided to join.

READ MORE:

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BREAKING

Swedish PM and opposition leader announce decision to join Nato

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has announced her government's decision to take Sweden into Nato, ending two centuries of military non-alignment.

Swedish PM and opposition leader announce decision to join Nato

In a joint press conference held with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition Moderate Party, Andersson said joining the alliance would act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. 

“The government has decided to inform Nato that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance,” Andersson told reporters a day after neighbouring Finland made a similar announcement.

“We are leaving one era and beginning another,” she said, adding that Sweden’s Nato ambassador would “shortly” inform Nato.

Ulf Kristersson, whose party has long supported membership of the alliance, said that he wanted to put party political differences aside to support the government in its decision.  

“There are many major issues where we think differently, but we are going to take a joint responsibility for the process of taking Sweden into Nato,” he said. 

Sweden and Finland have both expressed a desire to act in lockstep on NATO membership and submit their applications jointly.

“We expect it shouldn’t take more than a year” for the alliance’s 30 members to unanimously ratify Sweden’s membership application, Andersson said.

The announcement was expected after her Social Democratic party on Sunday backed membership, in a dramatic turnaround after having opposed the idea since the birth of the Western military alliance.

It came after a debate in parliament in which all parties apart from the Green Party and Left Party spoke in favour of Sweden joining the alliance.  

“It is now clear that there is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden joining Nato,” she said. 

After Sweden’s announcement, Denmark, Norway and Iceland published a joint statement in which they promised to Sweden “by all means necessary” if the country is attacked in the gap between application and admission to the alliance. 

“Should Finland or Sweden be victim of aggression on their territory before obtaining Nato membership, we will assist Finland and Sweden by all means necessary,” the three countries said. “We immediately initiate preparations in order to effectuate these security assurances.”

Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist is flying to Washington, where he will meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin.

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