Russian presidentwarned his Finnish counterpart on Saturday that relations between the two neighbors could be “negatively affected” if Finland goes ahead with .
The Kremlin press service said in a statement that Putin told Sauli Niinisto that Finland’s abandonment “of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, as there are no threats to Finland’s security.”
“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could adversely affect Finnish-Russian relations, which have been built on the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership for many years and have been mutually beneficial,” the statement added.
The response came after Niinisto told Putin in a phone conversation that the militarily non-aligned Nordic country that has a complex history with its massive eastern neighbor “will decide to apply for NATO membership in the coming days.”
Niinisto’s office said in a statement that the Finnish head of state had told Putin how radically Finland’s security environment had changed after the February 24 invasion of Moscow.and pointed to Russia’s demands that Finland refrain from seeking membership in the Western military alliance of 30 member states.
“The discussion (with Putin) was direct and unambiguous and was carried out without exaggeration. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Niinisto, Finland’s president since 2012 and one of the few Western leaders who have had regular dialogue with Putin in the past. decade.
Niinisto noted that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that “each independent nation would maximize its own security”.
“That is still the case. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities. It is not something that is far from anyone,” Niinisto said.
Niinisto emphasized that Finland, despite its likely future membership of thewants to continue to deal bilaterally with Russia on “practical issues raised by the border neighbourhood” and hopes to engage with Moscow “in a professional manner”.
According to the Kremlin statement, the two leaders also discussed Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and the possibility of reaching a political solution to the situation. Putin said talks between Moscow and Kiev had been suspended due to “Ukraine’s lack of interest in serious and constructive dialogue”.
The call was made on the initiative of Finland, Niinisto’s office said.
Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, the longest by any member of the European Union.
Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday jointly endorsed Finland’s NATO candidacy and recommended that the country “should apply for NATO membership without delay” to ensure the country’s security amid Russia’s military maneuvers in Ukraine and the changing geopolitical and security landscape in Europe.
A formal announcement by Niinisto and Marin of Finland’s intention to apply for NATO membership is expected on Sunday. Marin’s Social Democrats passed the membership proposal on Saturday, paving the way for a parliamentary vote next week to endorse the measure. It is expected to pass with overwhelming support. A formal application for membership would then be submitted to NATO Headquarters in Brussels.
Neighboring Sweden is due to decide on its NATO position on Sunday at a meeting of the Social Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
US President Joe Biden held a joint call on Friday with Niinisto and Andersson where, according to a White House statement, he “underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and the right of Finland and of Sweden to decide its own future, foreign policy and security measures.”