Putin issues warning to Finland on joining NATO, claims it would harm relations

RUSSIA: If Finland goes ahead with its intentions to apply for NATO membership, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart on Saturday that relations between the two countries could suffer. Putin told Sauli Niinisto, according to the Kremlin's press office, that abandoning Finland's historic policy of military neutrality would be a mistake because there are no threats to Finland's security.

Such a shift in the country's foreign policy might harm Russian-Finnish relations, which have long been based on good neighbourliness and partnership and are mutually beneficial, according to the statement.

Niinisto warned Putin over the phone that the militarily non-aligned Nordic country, which has a complicated past with its massive eastern neighbour, would decide to apply for NATO membership in the coming days.

According to Niinisto's office, the Finnish president told Putin how drastically Finland's security environment had changed since Moscow's February 24 invasion of Ukraine, and cited Russia's demands that Finland desist from joining the 30-nation Western military alliance.

The conversation (with Putin) was direct and explicit, and it was conducted without hyperbole. Avoiding tensions was a priority, according to Niinisto, Finland's president since 2012 and one of only a few Western leaders who has met with Putin on a regular basis over the previous decade.

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