Former British Ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton said Vladimir Putin will significantly increase his nuclear presence in the Baltics after Finland’s plan to join NATO
A former British ambassador to Russia has said that Vladimir Putin will significantly increase his nuclear forces in the Baltics in view of Finland’s entry into NATO.
Finland’s plan to bid for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow suit, would prompt the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russia’s President Putin wanted to prevent.
Giving up the neutrality they maintained during the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades.
And former British ambassador Sir Tony Brenton told BBC Newsnight the Kremlin may think it is “broadening its view of NATO as a threat to it”.
He continued: “They will be acutely aware, especially as this war nears its end, that their conventional forces have not achieved the results hoped for.
“They will therefore be increasingly inclined to use their nuclear power as proof that they need to be taken seriously.
“I think we have to put up with the likelihood of a much greater use of Russian nuclear weapons in the Baltics in response to Finland joining NATO, if that happens, and Sweden’s very likely too.”
Moscow called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.
“Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and the consequences of such a step,” the foreign ministry said.
Russian officials have discussed possible measures in the past, including deploying nuclear missiles in the Baltic Sea.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Finns would be “warmly welcomed” and promised a “smooth and swift” accession process.
The White House supported such a move.
“We would support a NATO bid from Finland and/or Sweden if they applied,” spokesman Jen Psaki said.
Finland’s 800-mile border will more than double the length of the US-led alliance’s border with Russia, putting NATO guards just a few hours’ drive from St. Petersburg’s northern outskirts.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.
Asked Wednesday whether Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: “My answer would be that you caused it.
Five diplomats and officials told Reuters that NATO allies expect membership to be granted to both countries quickly, paving the way for an increased troop presence in the Nordic region to defend it during a year-long ratification period.
Putin cited the possible expansion of NATO as one of the main reasons why he launched a “military special operation” in Ukraine in February.
NATO describes itself as a defensive alliance built around a treaty declaring that an attack on one member is an attack on all and granting US allies the protection of superpower Washington, including its nuclear arsenal.
Moscow sees this as a threat to its security.