As expected in the wake of Finland's announcement early this week that it could decide to apply for NATO membership "within weeks" - Russia has upped the ante by threatening nuclear escalation if that should happen. Sky News has cited the Thursday words of deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, as follows:
Russia has said there will be "no more talk of a nuclear–free Baltic" if Sweden and Finland join NATO. Such a development would more than double the length of the military alliance's land borders with Russia, Moscow added.
Moscow sees the prospect as a hugely dire threat to its security interests given it shares a 810-mile long border with Finland. Putin has long explained the decision to invade Ukraine starting on Feb.24 by citing NATO expansion up to Russia's borders.
"There can be no more talk of any nuclear–free status for the Baltic - the balance must be restored," said Medvedev, a close Putin-ally and the former president.
"Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to," Medvedev added. "If our hand is forced well... take note it wasn't us who proposed this."
"No sane person wants higher prices and higher taxes, increased tensions along borders, Iskanders, hypersonics and ships with nuclear weapons literally at arm's length from their own home," Medvedev went on to say. "Let's hope that the common sense of our northern neighbors will win," he added, appealing to the fact that both Finland and Sweden prior to the Ukraine war were neutral, expressly having a policy of staying out of NATO.
He said that if Finland is indeed poised to join the Western military alliance, then land borders will have to be strengthened. Russia would have to "seriously strengthen the grouping of ground forces and air defence (and) deploy significant naval forces in the Gulf of Finland," he said.
Map source: The Daily Mail
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson met in Stockholm on Wednesday to hold high level consultations on the matter of entering NATO, given that the decision of each would likely have great impact on the other.
Marin confirmed that Finland will now open serious domestic debate on the matter of seeking NATO membership by close of spring or summer. FT is reporting that a decision will come "within weeks" - based on statements out of Helsinki. Sweden has meanwhile said at this point it plans to seek formal membership.