Putin tells Finland it’s a mistake to swap neutrality for NATO

Putin tells Finland it’s a mistake to swap neutrality for NATO

May 14 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Saturday that abandoning neutrality and joining NATO would be a mistake, which could affect relations between their two countries, the Kremlin said.

The two countries said their presidents spoke by phone two days after Finland announced it would join the Western alliance. Moscow has described this as a security threat it must respond to, but has not specified how.

Niinisto’s office said he told Putin “how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have changed Finland’s security environment.”

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He said Finland wants to manage relations with its Russian neighbor “correctly and professionally”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Artyom Zhoga, the father of the commander of the pro-Russian military unit Sparta Battalion Vladimir Zhoga, who was killed in a conflict in Ukraine, after the Victory Day parade marking the 77th of April 2017 in Ukraine. Anniversary of victory marks Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

The Kremlin said: “Vladimir Putin stressed that it would be a mistake to abandon the traditional policy of military neutrality as there were no threats to Finland’s security. Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations.”

Moscow described the call as a “frank exchange of views,” usually a diplomatic euphemism for a difficult conversation.

Niinisto said: “The conversation was direct and straightforward and was conducted without hassle. It was considered important to avoid tension.”

Finland’s bid for membership is expected to be followed by a similar move by Sweden, which confronts Putin with exactly what he wanted to avoid when he launched his February 24 invasion of Ukraine: a further expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.

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Additional reporting by Essi Lehto; writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by David Clarke

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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