Following Finland joining NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of “problems” with the country and stated that Moscow will respond by establishing a new military district in Northwest Russia.
Putin told a state TV reporter in an interview aired on December 17 that Finland was “dragged into NATO” by the West when it became the 31st member on April 4 this year. He claimed all disputes between Moscow and the Scandinavian country had long been solved.
“We had the best, most heartfelt relations. Economically, everything was developing,” Putin said.
“Yes, in the timber industry, there were some problems linked to the necessity to develop timber processing within the country. But that was all. Just a small detail in reality.
“There were no problems there, now there will be because we will create the Leningrad military district and concentrate a certain amount of military units there.”
Putin continued: “Why do they need that? It’s just nonsense. The same goes for other countries, including NATO countries. With whom did we have problems? Nobody.
“They’re the ones who are artificially creating problems with us. Because they don’t want such a competitor in the form of Russia. That’s all there is to it.”
Referring to US President Joe Biden’s statement earlier in December that Moscow “won’t stop” in Ukraine if it is successful there, Putin insisted that Russia had no reason to be at war with NATO members.
“It is rhetoric to justify false policy on Russia,” Putin said, adding he had “no interest, either in geopolitical, economic or military terms, to fight with NATO countries”.
Finnish authorities have said Russia has already been causing problems as it appears its eastern neighbour is deliberately sending illegal migrants to their mutual border.
Over the past few months, Finland’s Border Guard has reported a sharp increase in third-country nationals without correct papers reaching its Southeast border and requesting asylum.
In response, Finland closed its 1,340 kilometre border with Russia, accusing Moscow of using migrants in an act of “hybrid warfare.”
When Finland decided to join NATO, Moscow threatened to take “countermeasures” against it.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said the move raised the prospect of the conflict in Ukraine escalating further, adding that Russia would have to strengthen its military capacity in its Western and Northwest regions in response.