Finland announced its ambition to join NATO, with President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin saying on May 12 that the country must apply for membership “without delay”. This marks a significant shift in policy as Finland has historically remained neutral and avoided antagonising Russia. Following the announcement, Russia’s foreign ministry said: “Finland’s accession to NATO will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations and the maintaining of stability and security in the Northern European region.
“Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to neutralise the threats to its national security that arise from this.”
As a result of Finland’s bid to join NATO, Finnish ministers are preparing for a strong retaliation from Moscow, with some ministers saying that Russia could cut off energy supplies as early as today.
Dmitry Polyansky, deputy representative of the Russian Federation to the UN said: “As soon as Finland and Sweden become Nato members and the alliance units are there, these territories will become a possible target for the Russian military.
“The Russian Federation will be forced to take certain military steps if Finland and Sweden join Nato.”
Sources also told Finnish publication Iltalehti that “key politicians” in Helsinki were warned on Thursday about the potential for imminent disruption.
It is important to note that the country was already expecting to see a gas supply shut off this month, after it refused to go along with Putin’s demand off paying for gas in Rubles.
Finland is already less reliant on Russian energy than many other countries in Europe, however since the invasion of Ukraine, the country has announced plans to cut its last ties with Moscow.
According to data from the Bank of Finland and Statistics Finland, oil imports amounted to 22 percent of Finland’s total energy consumption, coal for 7 percent and gas for only 5 percent in 2019.
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Russia has repeatedly warned both Sweden and Finland against joining the NATO, warning that this move would bring “serious military and political consequences” which would oblige Moscow to “restore the military balance” by strengthening its defences in the Baltic Sea region.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to defend Finland, as well as Sweden, if Russia attacked them during their NATO application phase.
He said: “Look, I think it’s been an important day because what we have done has cemented something that should really be implicit, which is that the UK and Sweden, the UK and Finland, are close friends and partners, and in the event of an attack on either of them, it’s almost unimaginable the UK wouldn’t come to their assistance in one way or another.