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Russia says NATO expansion to include Finland, Sweden is 'destabilizing'

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will take compensatory measures in response to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. File Photo by Maxim Shemetov/EPA-EFE
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will take compensatory measures in response to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. File Photo by Maxim Shemetov/EPA-EFE

June 29 (UPI) -- Russia on Wednesday said a NATO expansion to include Finland and Sweden is destabilizing for foreign relations but would not affect Moscow's policies.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made the comments to reporters one day after Turkey dropped its opposition to the two Nordic countries joining the military alliance. He described Moscow's reaction as "negative."

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"Our position is known, it does not change," Ryabkov said, according to RIA Novosti. "We consider the expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance a purely destabilizing factor in international affairs.

"This does not add security, neither to those who expand and who are among the joiners, nor to other countries that perceive the alliance as a threat."

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Ryabkov said NATO's expansion will continue what Moscow views as NATO's "aggressive containment" of Russia.

"We understand NATO's rhetoric. A new strategic concept will be adopted, where Russia is going to be called a threat to the alliance. This has nothing to do with real life. It is the alliance that poses a threat to us."

He said Russia would take "compensatory measures" in response to an expansion.

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Russia has long opposed the eastward expansion of NATO to include Sweden and Finland, as well as neighboring Ukraine. Kyiv has sought to join the bloc for years, but Moscow sees Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, as belonging to Russia.

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Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, engaging in a months-long war in which the former has taken control over eastern portions of the country, including the Donbas region and the cities of Mariupol and Severodonetsk.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced Tuesday that the alliance reached a deal to admit Finland and Sweden after Turkey dropped its opposition. The agreement was signed by the two countries during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

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The move "sends a very clear message to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin that NATO's door is open," Stoltenberg told reporters. "He wanted less NATO, now President Putin is getting more NATO, on his borders. So what he gets is the opposite of what he actually demanded."

Turkey previously opposed Finland and Sweden's membership in NATO based on allegations they harbored members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, which Ankara has designated a terror group. The group, known as PKK, has sought independence from Turkey.

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