On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto that abandoning neutrality and joining NATO would be a mistake that would harm their bilateral relations, according to the Kremlin.
Two days after Finland announced its decision to join the Western alliance, the two presidents spoke by phone, according to the two countries. Moscow has labelled this as a security danger to which it will respond, but has not stated how it will do so.
According to Niinisto’s office, he explained to Putin ‘how fundamentally Russian demands in late 2021 aimed at stopping nations from joining NATO, as well as Russia’s huge invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, have affected the security environment of Finland.’
He stated that Finland intended to conduct its relations with Russia in a ‘proper and professional manner.’
According to the Kremlin: ‘Vladimir Putin stated that adopting Finland’s traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake because the country faces no security threats. A shift in the country’s foreign policy could be detrimental to Russian-Finnish relations.’
The call was billed by Moscow as a ‘frank exchange of views,’ a diplomatic euphemism for an unpleasant discussion.
Niinisto explained: ‘The talk was direct and to-the-point, and it was carried out without a hitch. The importance of avoiding tensions was emphasised.’
Finland’s application is expected to be followed by one from Sweden, putting Putin in the position of having to deal with exactly what he declared he didn’t want when he launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24: a further expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.