Moscow, Russia. Recent announcements that Sweden is considering NATO membership, has raised the anger of a Russian bear who remembers many a battle with the Swedish lion of long ago and is ready to avoid such tangles again at NATOs expense this time.
Russian officials have repeatedly treated NATO expansion near or at its borders as a direct threat. Currently only Montenegro is on the list of countries to be inducted into NATO, as Sweden and neighbor Finland opt to stay non-aligned. Currently, three Baltic states and Poland are members of NATO on Russia’s border and the Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed deep opposition to the idea of Sweden joining NATO, calling its potential membership of the US led alliance a “threat” that would need to be “eliminated.”
“If Sweden joins NATO this will affect our relations in a negative way because we will consider that the infrastructure of the military bloc now approaches us from the Swedish side,” the Russian President has stated. “We will interpret that as an additional threat for Russia and we will think about how to eliminate this threat.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Stockholm that Russia would take a military response to potential Swedish entry into NATO and on Thursday Putin elaborated on the extent of such a response.
“This does not quite mean that we will become hysterical and we will aim our nuclear missiles at Sweden,” Putin said. “But we will be obliged to undertake something because we see this as an additional threat to Russia.” The President of the Russian Federation did not see a need to elaborate further at this time.
Both Sweden and Finland have retained a partnership with NATO but have not sought membership, though speculation about them joining has mounted since Russia’s integration of Crimea.
A report commissioned by the Swedish government voiced the advantages of NATO membership in September, given Russia’s increasingly militarized foreign policy, but Stockholm rebuffed suggestions it would seek membership.
“Our non-alignment policy serves us well,” Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem said after receiving the report. Joining the alliance “would expose Sweden to risks, both political and otherwise, and we don’t think that’s the right direction.”