By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Moscow has warned Finland and Sweden against joining the U.S.-led NATO military alliance after both nations expressed concerns about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. officials expect the Nordic neighbors to bid for membership in NATO, potentially as early as June.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation.” He said NATO membership by Finland and Sweden would increase instability in Europe.
Finland, currently neutral, shares an 830 mile (1,335 kilometers) long border with Russia, while Sweden has a maritime border with Russia. It was unclear what action, if anything, Russia could take to prevent them from joining NATO.
Washington is believed to welcome the move, which would see the Western alliance grow to 32 members.
U.S. State Department officials said last week that discussions had taken place between NATO leaders and foreign ministers from Helsinki and Stockholm.
Finland and Sweden are part of the six European Union member states who have declared a “non-alignment” with military alliances.
But government officials said the Russian invasion of Ukraine and reported atrocities in Bucha, Irpin, and other Ukrainian cities prompted the two Nordic countries to consider joining NATO.
The two countries had already been on edge following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s east.
Public support for NATO membership has almost doubled since Russia invaded Ukraine, to about 50 percent in Sweden and 60 percent in Finland, opinion polls suggest.
“We exchange all the time information” with NATO, “and hopefully if we make similar kinds of decisions, we could do them around the same time,” said Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish foreign affairs minister.
A government-commissioned national security review was due to be delivered to parliament Wednesday to help Finnish legislators decide on the question before they vote.
One recent poll suggesting only six of Finland’s 200 parliamentarians were opposed to joining NATO.
The procedure in Sweden may be longer than in Finland, with some experts expecting Stockholm’s application for NATO membership could be delayed till the autumn.
Both countries have received public assurances from the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, that their applications would be welcome.
They also received expressions of support from several members, including the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, and Turkey.
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