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SWEDEN AND RUSSIA

Sweden joining Nato ‘no problem for Russia’

Russia has "no problem" if Finland and Sweden join Nato, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Sweden joining Nato 'no problem for Russia'
Vladimir Putin speaks to the media at 6th Caspian Summit in Ashgabat on June 29. Photo: Dmitry Azarov/Sputnik/AFP

“We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine,” Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat.

“We don’t have territorial differences. There is nothing that could bother us about Sweden and Finland joining Nato. If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want.”

However, “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us,” Putin said.

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Sweden and Finland have both decided to apply to join Nato after Russia launched its military operation in pro-Western Ukraine on February 24. The formal process for membership was launched at the Nato summit in Madrid on Wednesday.

Until now, Russia had always been critical of the prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the alliance, saying it would be a “destabilising factor” for international security. Putin nevertheless condemned Nato’s “imperial ambitions”, accusing the alliance of seeking to assert its “supremacy” through the Ukraine conflict.

“Ukraine and the well-being of Ukrainian people is not the aim of the collective West and Nato but a means to defend their own interests,” Putin said. “The Nato countries’ leaders wish to… assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions.” 

The Atlantic alliance and “above all the United States have long needed an external enemy around which they can unite their allies,” the Russian leader said. “Iran wasn’t good for that. We’ve given them this opportunity… to gather the whole world around them.”

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NATO

Finland hopes to join Nato with Sweden despite Erdoğan remarks

Finland still hopes to join Nato together with Sweden, the country's foreign minister said on Monday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's weekend remarks that Turkey could accept Finland without its Nordic neighbour.

Finland hopes to join Nato with Sweden despite Erdoğan remarks

“Our strong desire in Finland has been and still is to join Nato together with Sweden,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in Helsinki, adding: “our position remains the same.”

Erdoğan has refused to ratify the two countries’ Nato membership bids, primarily because of Sweden’s refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Turkey links to outlawed Kurdish fighters and a failed 2016 coup attempt.

Sweden has a bigger Kurdish diaspora than Finland and a more serious dispute with Turkey.

Turkey has also reacted with fury to a decision by the Swedish police to allow a protest at which a far-right extremist burned a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm earlier this month.

It has also been outraged by a Swedish prosecutor’s decision not to press charges against a pro-Kurdish group that hung an effigy of Erdoğan by its ankles outside Stockholm City Court.

Erdoğan on Sunday drew a clear distinction between the positions taken by Sweden and Finland in the past few months.

“If necessary, we can give a different response concerning Finland. Sweden will be shocked when we give a different response for Finland,” Erdoğan said.

But Haavisto, who said he held talks with his Turkish counterpart following Erdoğan’s remarks, rejected that option.

“Sweden is our closest ally in defence and foreign policy”, he said. “I still see the Nato summit in Vilnius in July as an important milestone when I hope that both countries will be accepted as Nato members at the latest.”

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