Sweden’s and Finland’s early bid for NATO membership “does not pose a threat” to Russia but could “trigger a response”, President Vladimir Putin said. mentioned at a summit of former Soviet allies on Monday.
The two Nordic countries took historic steps toward joining the US-led military bloc following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, citing the need to ensure their security in the face of an unpredictable Moscow.
Speaking at the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Moscow, Putin said that while Russia “has no problems” with either country, the expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure on their territory could “trigger a response”.
“What kind [of response] it will be, we will decide based on the threats that are created against us,” Putin warned.
Putin noted that NATO’s “expansionist policy” that has led the alliance “to overstep its intended geographical boundaries” warrants the Kremlin keeping a close eye on the situation.
NATO’s role was also highlighted in the collective statement issued by the CSTO.
“Aware of our responsibility to ensure lasting peace in the Eurasian region, we stress the importance of defusing tensions on the continent and reaffirm our readiness for practical cooperation with NATO,” the statement said. said.
Russia sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 after its demands to NATO and the United States to permanently ban Ukraine from joining the alliance and to halt NATO’s expansion in this that Moscow considers its sphere of influence have been denied.
Leaders of fellow CSTO members Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan gathered in Moscow for Monday’s summit, which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Russian-led military alliance.
In a televised segment of the summit, Putin also offered to grant the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) permanent observer status in the CSTO. The CIS alliance includes all CSTO member states as well as Azerbaijan, Moldova and Uzbekistan.
Although it has been around for three decades, the CSTO carried out its first large-scale “peacekeeping mission” in January this year when President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev asked military assistance to quell a wave of anti-government unrest.