Russia warns against the deployment of nuclear weapons if Sweden and Finland join NATO

Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev delivers a speech during a meeting with members of the Security Council in Moscow, Russia February 21, 2022. Sputnik / Alexey Nikolsky / Kremlin via REUTERS

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  • Russia warns against deployment of nuclear weapons
  • Says Iskander and hypersonic missiles would be deployed
  • Finland and Sweden are considering NATO membership
  • Lithuania: nothing new in Russia’s threats

LONDON, April 14 (Reuters) – One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned NATO on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined the US-led military alliance, Russia would have to strengthen its defenses in the region. including by deploying nuclear weapons.

Finland, which shares a border of 1,300 km (810 miles) with Russia, and Sweden are considering joining the NATO alliance. Finland will make a decision within the next few weeks, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Wednesday. Read more

Dmitry Medvedev, Vice-President of Russia’s Security Council, said that if Sweden and Finland joined NATO, Russia would have to strengthen its land, navy and air forces in the Baltic Sea.

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Medvedev also explicitly raised the nuclear threat by saying that there could no longer be a “nuclear-free” Baltic Sea – where Russia has its Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

“There can no longer be any nuclear – free status for the Baltic Sea – the balance needs to be restored,” said Medvedev, who was president from 2008 to 2012.

“Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and would not do so,” Medvedev said. “If our hand is forced well … then be aware that it was not us who suggested this,” he added.

Lithuania said Russia’s threats were nothing new and that Moscow had deployed nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad long before the war in Ukraine. Read more

The possible accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO – founded in 1949 to provide collective Western security against the Soviet Union – would be one of the biggest European strategic consequences of the war in Ukraine.

Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917 and fought two wars against it during World War II, during which it lost some territory to Moscow. On Thursday, Finland announced a military exercise in Western Finland with the participation of forces from Britain, the United States, Latvia and Estonia.

Sweden has not fought a war for 200 years, and post-war foreign policy has focused on supporting democracy internationally, multilateral dialogue and nuclear disarmament.

KALININGRAD

Kaliningrad is of particular importance in Northern European theater. Formerly the Prussian port of Koenigsberg, the capital of East Prussia, it is less than 1,400 km from London and Paris and 500 km from Berlin.

Russia said in 2018 it had deployed Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, which was captured by the Red Army in April 1945 and delivered to the Soviet Union at the Potsdam Conference.

Iskander, known as the SS-26 Stone by NATO, is a short-range tactical ballistic missile system capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.

Its official range is 500 km, but some Western military sources suspect that its range may be much greater.

“No sensible person wants higher prices and higher taxes, increased tensions along borders, Iskander, hypersonics and ships with nuclear weapons literally at arm’s length from their own homes,” Medvedev said.

“Let’s hope the common sense of our northern neighbors will win,” Medvedev said.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said Russia had deployed nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad even before the war.

“Nuclear weapons have always been stored in Kaliningrad … the international community, the countries of the region, are fully aware of this,” Anusauskas was quoted as saying by BNS. “They use it as a threat.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has killed thousands, displaced millions and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and the United States – without comparison the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Putin says the “special military operation” in Ukraine is necessary because the United States used Ukraine to threaten Russia, and Moscow had to defend itself against Ukraine’s persecution of Russian-speaking people.

Ukraine says it is fighting an imperialist land grab and that Putin’s allegations of genocide are nonsense. US President Joe Biden says Putin is a war criminal and a dictator.

Putin says the conflict in Ukraine is part of a much broader confrontation with the United States, which he says is trying to enforce its hegemony, even as its dominance over international order declines.

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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Edited by Hugh Lawson

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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