Close Putin ally and Russia's former president, Dmitry Medvedev, who is currently deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, warned the West on Monday that any NATO members that encroach on the Crimea peninsula risk sparking "World War Three". "For us, Crimea is a part of Russia. And that means forever. Any attempt to encroach on Crimea is a declaration of war against our country," Medvedev told a regional news site, as quoted in Reuters.
"And if this is done by a NATO member-state, this means conflict with the entire North Atlantic alliance; a World War Three. A complete catastrophe," he warned.
In the same comments, and just ahead of this week's NATO summit in Madrid, Spain kicking off, he addressed Finland and Sweden's recent applications to join the Western military alliance, saying that Russia would take immediate action to strengthen its Western border and would be "ready for retaliatory steps" if they were admitted.
He floated the possibility of positioning Iskander hypersonic missiles "on their threshold" - speaking of Scandinavian neighbors and the Baltic states. He further suggested a troop build-up, as well as fresh naval assets deployed near Finland in that scenario.
Additionally, he wrote on Telegram in a series of statements: "Very soon, that is precisely, by this summer, the world will become even ‘safer’," he noted. "If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the alliance's land border with Russia will more than double. Naturally, it will be necessary to strengthen these borders."
That's when he again emphasized that Finnish membership in NATO would only cascade into creating a nuclear standoff in the Baltic region for the first time:
"If this is the case, there can no longer be talk about the Baltic’s non-nuclear status - the balance must be restored," he stated.
"Until today, Russia has not taken such measures, nor was it going to do so. If we are forced to, then ‘note, it wasn’t us who suggested this,’ as a character in a famous old movie said," he added.
"The US is broadcasting its 'Welcome!' [sign] to the representatives of Northern Europe literally in every way possible. Just humbly knock - and we will let you in. And what does this mean? This means that Russia will have more official adversaries," he pointed out further, according to TASS.
He said Moscow will act "without emotions, and with a cool head," and described: "The number of countries in NATO - thirty or thirty-two - on the whole is not really important to us. Two more, two less, with their importance and population there is no big difference."
Medvedev concluded the statements by appealing to the 'common sense' of the Western public and policy makers: "Nobody in their right mind wants higher prices and taxes, mounting tension along the borders, Iskanders, hypersonic weapons or ships with nukes a stone’s throw from their house. Let’s hope that the common sense of our neighbors eventually prevails. Yet if not, then, as they say, "they started it," he said.