BRUSSELS — Russia warned Finland and Sweden on Thursday that if they join NATO, Moscow will reinforce the Baltic Sea region, including by deploying nuclear weapons.
The threat came a day after Finnish officials suggested the country could request to join the 30-member military alliance within weeks and as Sweden mulled making a similar move.
Helsinki and Stockholm are officially nonaligned militarily, but they are reconsidering their status in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — prompting escalating warnings from Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin ally who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Thursday that NATO expansion would lead Russia to strengthen air, land and naval forces to “balance” military capability in the region.
“If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened,” he wrote on Telegram.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” Medvedev said.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine has led to a sharp shift in public sentiment on NATO membership in Finland and Sweden. Medvedev, without citing evidence, blamed the change on the “efforts of homegrown propagandists.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels last week that the two countries meet NATO standards for “political, democratic, civilian control over the security institutions and the armed forces.”
If Finland were to join NATO, Russia’s land border with members of the alliance would more than double.