Helsinki ( Associated Press) – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his Finnish counterpart on Saturday that relations between the two neighbors could be “negatively affected” if Finland follows through on plans to apply for NATO membership.
The Kremlin’s press service said in a statement that Putin told Saulie Niinisto that Finland’s “abandonment of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be an error because there is no threat to Finland’s security.”
“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which for many years were built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership and were mutually beneficial,” the statement said.
The reaction came after Niinisto told Putin in a phone call that the militarily non-aligned Nordic country, which has a complicated history with its vast eastern neighbour, would “decide to apply for NATO membership in the coming days”.
Niinisto’s office said in a statement that the Finnish head of state told Putin how much Finland’s security environment had changed after Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, and that Russia’s demands on Finland were met by the 30 member-state Western military. Pointed to refrain from joining the alliance. ,
“The discussion (with Putin) was direct and clear and was conducted without exaggeration. It was considered important to avoid tensions,” said Finnish President Niinisto since 2012 and is one of a handful of Western leaders who have held regular talks with Putin over the past decade.
Niinisto reported that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that “every free nation will maximize its security.”
“It is still so. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and fulfill its responsibility. It is not a distant thing,” Niinisto said.
Niinisto stressed that Finland, despite its possible future membership in NATO, wants to continue to deal bilaterally with Russia in “practical issues posed by the border neighbourhood” and hopes to engage with Moscow “in a professional manner”. does.
According to the Kremlin statement, the two leaders also discussed Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and the possibility of achieving a political solution to the situation. Putin said talks between Moscow and Kyiv had been postponed because of Ukraine’s “lack of interest in serious and constructive dialogue”.
The phone call was conducted at the initiative of Finland, Ninisto’s office said.
Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre (830 mi) border with Russia, the longest border by any European Union member.
Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday jointly backed Finland’s NATO bid and recommended that Ukraine and Europe’s changing geopolitical and security landscape be bolstered by Russia’s military maneuvers to guarantee the country’s security. should “apply for NATO membership without delay”.
Finland’s Ninisto and Marin are expected to formally announce their intention to apply for NATO membership on Sunday. Marin’s governing Social Democratic Party approved a membership bid on Saturday, paving the way for a parliamentary vote next week to support the move. It is expected to pass with overwhelming support. The formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO Headquarters in Brussels.
Neighboring Sweden is set to decide on its NATO stance at a meeting of the governing Social Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersen on Sunday.
US President Joe Biden held a joint call with both Niinisto and Anderson on Friday where, according to a White House statement, he called for “NATO’s Open Doors policy and for Finland and Sweden’s own future, foreign policy and their own right.” Underlined his support for the right to decide the future. Security arrangements.”