Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday issued a new warning against Finland and Sweden seeking NATO membership, after the Sunday Times reported that "Finland's application is expected in June, with Sweden expected to follow."
Peskov said that "the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation" - but Washington is said to be supporting the move, with Western officials cited as saying that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is proving to be a "massive strategic blunder".
It was first revealed last week that Finland in particular has changed its thinking regarding its historic neutrality on the NATO question; however, there would be a period of domestic political debate before any application is made, and also with Sweden expected to determine its course independently.
After those reports first emerged days ago, a Russian lawmaker from parliament's upper house, Vladimir Dzhabarov of the Federation Council, issued the most dire warning from among Moscow officials, threatening that such a "strategic mistake" as Helsinki petitioning NATO means Finland "would become a target."
"I think it [would be] a terrible tragedy for the entire Finnish people," said Dzhabarov. He also strongly suggested it would result in "the destruction of their country."
He expressed hope that it's unlikely that "the Finns themselves will sign a card for the destruction of their country" - as originally cited in RIA Novosti. The Finnish foreign ministry subsequently said it "does not comment on the statements of individual MPs" when asked to respond.
According to a recent Axios report, "60% of Finns now support joining NATO, according to a survey conducted last month — a 34-point jump from last fall, and the highest level since polling on the issue began in 1998."
Early this month Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin signaled a complete reversal of policy direction, saying that a "new security environment" in Europe brought on by Russia's invasion of Ukraine means the country has to rethink its long-standing policy of neutrality toward the NATO bloc. "Russia is not the neighbor we thought it was," she said of Moscow’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, calling it a "flagrant violation".
"In this new situation and changed security environment, we’ll have to evaluate all means to guarantee the safety of Finland and Finns," Marin said. "We’ll have to seriously mull over our own stance and approach to military alignment. We’ll have to do this carefully but quickly, effectively during the course of this spring."