Finland ‘not afraid’ of Russia – minister
Helsinki would strengthen NATO and bring a lot of “added value” to the US-led military bloc, Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen claimed in an interview with Sky News on Saturday.
Finland’s push for NATO membership, which has been galvanized by the Ukraine crisis, is “about our own resistance” and freedom of “national movement maneuver,” Tuppurainen said. She acknowledged that it’s been known “for years that the Kremlin is not in favor of NATO enlargement,” but insisted the move is not intended to fuel confrontation with Moscow.
“We are prepared for all kinds of ill will and nasty measures against us. But there's absolutely no panic. We are not afraid,” Tuppurainen said.
“We have a very strong conscript army. We have just made the decision to buy 60 F-35 fighters, and we are well equipped, and we will be a resource to the alliance,” she added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin held a phone call with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, on Saturday, in which Niinisto told Putin that his country is set to make a decision on joining the Western military bloc within days.
Putin warned that Helsinki’s move to abandon its “traditional policy of military neutrality” would be a “mistake,” stressing that there were “no threats to Finland’s security.” The move “may have a negative impact” on “mutually beneficial” relations between the two countries, he said.
Finland's neighbor Sweden is also considering NATO membership, and could file its application as early as Monday, according to local media reports.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Glushko has stressed that if the two Nordic nations move ahead with joining NATO, Moscow will have to respond, although it's premature to discuss the possible relocation of nuclear weapons closer those countries, or any other measures.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state. Mariupol is claimed by the breakaway Donetsk republic as an integral part of its territory.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.