Putin has warned that Finland could jeopardize NATO membership

HELSINGHI (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday warned that relations between the two neighbors would be “negatively affected” if Finland followed a plan to apply for NATO membership.

The Kremlin’s news agency quoted Putin as saying that “Finland’s abandoning its traditional policy of military neutrality is a mistake because there is no threat to Finland’s security.”

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could adversely affect Russia-Finnish relations, which for many years have been built on a sense of good neighborhood and partnership and mutually beneficial,” the report added.

The Nordic country, which has no military presence and has a long history of complicating matters with its large eastern neighbors, responded by saying in a telephone conversation with Ninisto Putin that “NATO will decide to apply for membership in the coming days.”

Niinisto’s office said in a statement that it had told Finnish President Putin how blunt Finland’s security situation had changed since Moscow’s February 24 occupation of Ukraine. .

“The talks with (Putin) were straightforward, vague and without exaggeration.

Ninisto pointed out that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that “every independent country will increase its own security.”

“It simply came to our notice then. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and accept its responsibilities. That fact must be taken into account. “

Niinisto stressed that despite the possibility of future membership in NATO, Finland wants to pursue bilateral action with Russia on “practical issues created by the border environment” and hopes to engage with Moscow “professionally”.

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According to the Kremlin, the two leaders also discussed Russia’s military action in Ukraine and the possibility of a political solution to the situation. Putin said talks between Moscow and Kiev had been suspended because of Ukraine’s “lack of interest in serious and constructive dialogue.”

According to Ninisto’s office, the phone call was made at the initiative of Finland.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, the longest by any EU member.

On Thursday, Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin jointly endorsed Finland’s NATO initiative and recommended that it “apply for NATO membership without delay” to guarantee the country’s security amid Russia’s military maneuvers in the changing geopolitical and security landscape of Ukraine and Europe.

A formal announcement is expected on Sunday from Ninisto and Marin from Finland to apply for NATO membership. Marin’s ruling Social Democrats approved the membership attempt on Saturday, paving the way for a parliamentary vote next week to approve the move, which 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 its NATO position at a meeting of the ruling Social Democrats, led by Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson, on Sunday.

U.S. President Joe Biden made a joint call with both Ninisto and Anderson on Friday, where he underlined his support for NATO’s open door policy and the right of Finland and Sweden to determine their own future, foreign policy and security arrangements. “

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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