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Putin says Russia has ‘no problems’ with Finland, Sweden in NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO posed no direct threat to Russia, but warned the Western military alliance against moving weapons into the two countries’ territories.

“As for the expansion [of NATO], including through new members of the alliance — Finland, Sweden — Russia wants to inform you that it has no problems with these states,” Putin said on Monday, speaking at a gathering in Moscow of leaders from the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russia-backed military alliance. “Therefore, in this sense, expansion on account of these countries does not pose a direct threat to Russia.”

Putin’s comments contrast with remarks earlier Monday by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who said the Nordic nations’ overtures toward NATO were a “grave mistake” that would have “far-reaching consequences.”

Ending more than half a century of military neutrality, Finland said on Sunday that it would apply to join NATO in the face of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. “This is a historic day — a new era begins,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said. On Monday, Sweden followed, with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announcing her intention to submit an application to the military alliance on behalf of the country.

But Putin warned there would be consequences if the military alliance moved weapons into the territory of the two countries.

“The expansion of military infrastructure on this territory will undoubtedly cause us to respond,” Putin told the leaders of the five former Soviet republics, adding that NATO’s “endless expansionary policy” also “required additional attention on our part.”

The comments come after Belarus’s Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said on Sunday that the CSTO should expand too and that he foresaw “dozens of states” would join the alliance within “a few years.” The CSTO, which was founded in 1992, currently counts Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan as its members.

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