Russia to mobilize forces if Finland joins US-led military alliance of NATO: Putin

July 2, 2016 11:30 am

’s President
(L) gestures during a joint press conference with ’s President
Sauli Niinisto (unseen) at the presidential summer residence in
southwestern Finland, July 1, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Russia has threatened it will
mobilize its forces to areas closer to its border with Finland should
Helsinki choose to join the -led military alliance of .

“Do
you think we will continue to act in the same manner [if Finland joins
NATO]?” visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin asked at a joint press
conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto at the latter’s
summer residence in southwestern Finland on Friday.
“We have withdrawn our troops 1,500 [kilometers (932 miles) from the border]. Do you think they will stay there?” Putin said.
Back
in April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had likewise said that
Russia would take appropriate military-technical measures at its
northern borders if Finland’s neighbor Sweden decided to join NATO.
Already
reeling from mutual distrust, relations between Russia and NATO
specially soured after the Black Sea Crimea Peninsula rejoined the
Russian Federation from Ukraine following a referendum in March 2014.
The
and its European allies accuse Moscow of destabilizing
Ukraine and have imposed sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia
figures. Moscow, however, rejects having a hand in the Ukrainian crisis.
In
his Friday remarks, Putin said Moscow will try to begin a dialogue with
NATO despite its expansion towards Russia’s western borders.
He said Moscow would, however, respect Helsinki’s decision in case it opted to join the Western alliance.
The
Russian head of state also welcomed a proposal by the Finish president
that aircraft flying over the Baltic region turn the devices enabling
their identification on, calling it “the first steps aimed at enhancing
confidence and preventing conflicts [in the Baltic airspace].”
RT
said Russia had intercepted several US aircraft over the Baltic Sea in
close proximity to the country’s border in recent months. The planes in
question had their identification devices turned off, Moscow has
complained.
Russia has repeatedly censured the gradual expansion of NATO eastward.
NATO
routinely engages in activities deemed provocative to Russia. The
alliance has installed missile systems across , including ones
recently launched in its eastern flank near Russia, and is involved in
military exercises in Ukraine, another Russian neighbor.
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