On Saturday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö called out his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over the Scandinavian country’s efforts to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), angering Moscow, in a conversation he described as “frank, direct and without tension”.
“The conversation was frank, direct and there was no tension,” Niinistö said in a statement released by the Finnish presidency. “It was considered important to avoid tension. The contact was made at the initiative of Finland.”
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his Finnish counterpart that relations between the two neighboring countries could be “negatively affected” if Finland goes ahead with its plans to apply for NATO membership.
The Kremlin press service said in a statement that Putin told Niinistö that for Finland to abandon its “traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, because there are no threats to Finland’s security.”
“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy may negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which have been built in a spirit of good neighborliness and partnership for many years and have been mutually beneficial,” the statement said.
Niinisto’s office said in a statement that the Finnish president told Putin how the Finnish security environment has changed dramatically after the Russian military operation in Ukraine on February 24, and addressed Russia’s demands that Finland be refrain from seeking to join the 30-member western military alliance.
Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Thursday jointly endorsed Finland’s NATO bid, recommending that the country “should apply for NATO membership without delay” to ensure Finland’s security amid ongoing military exercises. Russia in Ukraine and the changing geopolitical and security landscape in Europe.
NATO was confident that a consensus would be reached on the accession of Sweden and Finland.
On Sunday, NATO’s deputy secretary-general said he was confident Turkey’s concerns about Finland and Sweden joining the alliance could be addressed.
“Turkey is an important ally and has expressed its concerns, which are being addressed between friends and allies,” Mircea Guana told reporters upon arrival at the meeting of foreign ministers of the coalition countries in Berlin.
“I am sure that if these two countries decide to seek NATO membership, we can welcome them and come to all terms of consensus,” he added.