Russia has threatened Sweden and Finland by warning the countries would become ‘legitimate targets’ if they join NATO.
Sweden has now summoned Russia’s Stockholm ambassador after his worrying message to the two Nordic countries, its foreign ministry confirmed.
Viktor Tatarintsev, in a statement on the embassy’s website, said Sweden and Finland would become ‘legitimate targets’ of ‘retaliatory measures’ – including ‘military ones’ – after joining the international military alliance.
Sweden and Finland both sought NATO membership shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The two countries are hoping to complete the process this year.
The threat against the countries is the latest attempt at a show of strength to the West after it was reported that Russia was staging major nuclear missile exercises.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said he will summon Russia’s ambassador to Stockholm, Viktor Tatarintsev. Pictured: Billstrom at a news conference in Stockholm, March 17, 2023
Russia’s ambassador to Stockholm, Viktor Tatarintsev, said Sweden and Finaland would become ‘legitimate targets’ of ‘retaliatory measures,’ including ‘military ones’ when they join NATO
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom announced today: ‘The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will summon the Russian ambassador to make a clear statement against this blatant attempt at influence.’
‘Sweden’s security policy is determined by Sweden – no one else,’ he added.
Both Sweden and Finland have been closely allied to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for decades, but public opinion was previously against formally joining the alliance prior to the Russian invasion.
Some polls suggested that as many as 80 per cent in Finland and over two-thirds in Sweden were now in favour of joining NATO amid the war in Ukraine.
Since making their intentions clear, Sweden and Finland – which shares an 830 mile (1,340km) border with Russia – have been repeatedly threatened by Moscow.
But all 30 NATO members must ratify a countries membership application if it wants to join.
Finland is currently waiting upon Turkey to ratify its membership.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to do this following the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto’s visit to the country earlier this month.
But it was reported yesterday that Hungary is currently holding up Sweden’s admission to NATO because of grievances over criticism by Stockholm of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policies.
A Hungarian government spokesman detailed the issue on Wednesday and said that bridging the gap will require effort on both sides.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto signs the Nato Law in Helsinki, Finland, 23 March 2023. All 30 NATO countries must now ratify its membership
Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attend a press conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, 17 March 2023
After months of foot-dragging by Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, Hungary’s parliament approved a bill on Monday to allow Finland to join NATO but the Swedish bill is still stranded.
‘In the case of Sweden, there is an ample amount of grievances that need to be addressed before the country’s admission is ratified,’ Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said on his blog.
Swedish representatives ‘have been repeatedly keen to bash Hungary through diplomatic means, using their political influence to harm Hungarian interests’, he said, referring to Swedish criticism over the erosion of rule of law by Orban’s government in the past 13 years. Orban denies these allegations.
He said Stockholm had taken a ‘hostile attitude’ to Budapest for years.
‘Adding Ankara’s woes and grievances to the mix does not leave much room to manoeuvre, at least not until the Swedes start changing their tune and help these lingering wounds heal,’ Kovacs said.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey’s parliament would also start ratifying Finland’s accession.
The latest threat against Sweden and Finland comes after it was reported that Vladimir Putin was staging major nuclear missile exercises involving 3,000 troops.
The war games coupled with the the latest comments are seen as a blatant attempt at a show of strength to the West.
Vladimir Putin’s troops are carrying out tests with the ‘invincible’ Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system across three regions in Russia.
The launch of Russia’s ‘invincible’ Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system in October 2022
Vladimir Putin is staging major nuclear missile exercises involving 3,000 of his troops