Putin to Finland: NATO instead of neutrality would be ‘wrong’

Giving up military neutrality to join NATO would be “wrong,” Russian leader Vladimir Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinistö Saturday in a phone call, the Kremlin said.

The two countries said their presidents spoke on the phone, two days after the Finnish government officially endorsed the idea that Finland should join the NATO defense alliance.

“Such a change in the country’s foreign-policy course could have a negative effect on Russia-Finland relations, which have been built over the course of many years in the spirit of neighborliness and partnership cooperation and have a mutually beneficial nature,” the Kremlin said.

Niinistö told Putin “how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland,” according to the Finnish president’s office.

He added that Finland aims to seek NATO membership “in the next few days.”

Moscow previously warned that it would respond to Finland joining NATO with “military-technical” retaliatory measures, but did not specify what measures it is considering.

Russia on Saturday halted electricity deliveries to Finland, citing “problems in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market.”

Finland’s ruling Social Democratic Party on Saturday endorsed the government’s decision. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Niinistö will hold a decisive final meeting and press conference on Sunday. 

The country is moving toward NATO membership in parallel with neighboring Sweden, which has also rethought its reluctance since Russia’s invasion. Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats are expected to announce their decision on Sunday. If they come out in favor, both countries could formally apply as soon as Monday.

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