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Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned there will be “problems” with neighboring Finland after it joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) earlier this year.
Finland’s ascension to NATO marked a major shift in the security landscape in northern Europe, and added some 1,300 kilometers (830 miles) to the alliance’s frontier with Russia.
It was also a blow for President Putin, who has long warned against NATO expansion.
“They (the West) took Finland and dragged it into NATO! Why, did we have any disputes with Finland? All disputes, including those of a territorial nature in the middle of the 20th Century, have all been resolved long ago,” Putin said in an interview published on Sunday.
“There were no problems, but now there will be, because we will now create the Leningrad military district there and definitely concentrate military units there,” Putin added in the interview by Russian state broadcaster Russia 1.
Putin also dismissed as “complete nonsense” remarks from US President Joe Biden, who earlier this month warned that Putin would “keep going” if he takes Ukraine, suggesting that Russia could eventually attack a NATO ally and draw US troops into conflict.
The Russian leader said Russia “has no reason, no interest, no geopolitical interest, neither economic, nor political, nor military, to fight with NATO countries,” adding Moscow does not have any territorial claims in NATO countries.
“There is no desire to spoil relations with them (NATO countries), we are interested in developing relations,” Putin added.
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Finland became the 31st member of NATO when it joined in April, doubling the security alliance’s direct frontier with Russia.
Even before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, he had demanded NATO limit its expansion. Yet, it was the war that “altered the security environment of Finland,” driving the Nordic nation’s desire to join the alliance, President Sauli Niinistö said in May 2022 when announcing his country would seek to join.
Within a few months of its application, the Finnish government said it would spend around $143 million on building barrier fences along Finland’s 830-mile eastern border with Russia, which used to have little security protections.
Finland has closed its eastern border with Russia for a month, according to its interior minister, due to a spike in migrant crossings that Helsinki has labelled a Russian hybrid attack.Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images
Finland again shut its entire border with Russia this week, over claims hundreds of people were trying to cross without a visa.
After another closure was announced last month, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo accused Russia of “enabling the instrumentalization of people and guiding them to the Finnish border in harsh winter conditions. Finland is determined to put an end to this phenomenon.”