Putin warns Finland NATO membership would harm relations

Posted 45 days ago

From WWW.CBSNEWS.COM

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his Finnish counterpart Saturday relations between the two neighbors could be "negatively affected" if Finland follows through with plans to apply for NATO membership.

The Kremlin's press service said in a statement that Putin told Sauli Niinisto that Finland's abandonment "of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be an error since there are no threats to Finland's security."

"Such a change in the country's foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which had been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership for many years, and were mutually beneficial," the statement added.

The response came after Niinisto told Putin in a phone conversation that the militarily non-aligned Nordic country that has a complex history with its huge eastern neighbor "will 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 starkly Finland's security environment had changed after Moscow's February 24 invasion on Ukraine, and pointed to Russia's demands on Finland refraining from seeking membership to the 30 member-state Western military alliance.

"The discussion (with Putin) was straightforward and unambiguous and was held without exaggeration. Avoiding tensions was considered important," said Niinisto, Finland's president since 2012 and one of a handful of Western leaders who has been in regular dialogue with Putin over the past decade.

Niinisto pointed out that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that "each independent nation would maximize its own security."

"That is still the case. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities. It is not something away from anybody," Niinisto said.

Niinisto stressed that Finland, despite its like... (Read more)