Vladimir Putin warns Finland it would be ‘a mistake’ to join Nato

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One Russian lawmaker went as far as threatening Finland with nuclear attack if it joined Nato and warned that Moscow’s “absolutely legitimate goal” would be “to question the very existence of this state”.

“They are going to become a target for the Russian military, this is for sure,” said Alexei Zhuravlyov, a pro-Kremlin politician.

He threatened to  use Russia’s new Sarmat hypersonic nuclear missile against Britain and northern Europe in a warning shot across Finland’s bows. 

“If Finland decides to join this bloc, our goal, an absolutely legitimate one, will be to question the very existence of this state,” he told the Ura.ru website. 

Putin was less bombastic in his call with Mr Niinisto on Saturday, which was initiated by Finland. However, he warned Helsinki that the abandonment of “its traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there are no threats to Finland’s security”.

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which had been built in the spirit of good neighbourliness and partnership for many years, and were mutually beneficial,” a Kremlin statement quoted him as saying.

But Mr Niinisto said Russian threats over joining Nato and Putin’s “massive invasion” of Ukraine had fundamentally altered Finland’s “security environment”.

“The discussion was straightforward and unambiguous and was held without exaggeration. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Finland’s president since 2012 and one of a handful of Western leaders who has been in regular dialogue with Putin over the past decade.

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and, like Ukraine, is not a Nato member and does not benefit from its protections.

“By joining Nato, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities. It is not something away from anybody,” Mr Niinisto said. He added that he hoped to engage with Moscow  “in a professional manner” in the future.

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