Putin warns Finland, Sweden over NATO

Putin warns Finland, Sweden over NATO
Putin warns Finland, Sweden over NATO

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Sweden and Finland joining NATO would be no threat to Russia but warned the Western alliance that moving troops or weapons into the Nordic neighbours would provoke a "response."

With Moscow pressing its assault in eastern border regions of Ukraine nearly three months into its invasion, Helsinki and Stockholm are poised to give up decades of military non-alignment over fears they could be next.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson confirmed on Monday her country would apply to join NATO, a day after Finland -- which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia -- said the same.

Putin, whose war has sparked global outrage, killing thousands, said the move poses "no direct threat for us... but the expansion of military infrastructure to these territories will certainly provoke our response." 

The Russian leader's more moderate reaction marked a contrast with comments earlier Monday from deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, who called the expansion a "grave mistake with far-reaching consequences". 

The move is not a done deal in any case, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday confirming his country's intention to block the applications, accusing Finland and Sweden of harbouring terror groups, including outlawed Kurdish militants.

Sweden and Finland have failed to respond positively to Turkey's 33 extradition requests over the past five years, justice ministry sources told the official Anadolu news agency on Monday.

Any membership bid must be unanimously approved by NATO's 30 nations. 

But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced confidence Sunday that Sweden and Finland would join NATO despite Turkey's opposition.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will meet Blinken in Washington on Wednesday, where Ankara's objections are expected to figure high on the agenda.