Russia warned its northern neighbor against joining NATO, and hours later heavy Russian weapons, including missile systems, were seen moving towards the border with Finland. An unconfirmed video uploaded Monday night shows two Russian coastal defense missile systems operating on a road on the Russian side of the border that leads to Helsinki, the Mirror reports.
The missile system is believed to be the K-300P Bastion-P mobile coastal defense system, designed to take out surface ships including aircraft carrier battle groups. According to the Daily Mail report, Russia’s deployment of defense material comes at a time when Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said she expected her government to end discussions on applying for NATO membership before mid-summer.
The Nordic nation of 5.5 million has traditionally been militarily non-aligned, in part to avoid provoking its eastern neighbour, with which it shares a 1,300 kilometre (830 mile) border.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 saw public support for joining NATO double from 30 to 60 per cent, according to a series of polls.
“Never underestimate the capacity of Finns to take rapid decisions when the world changes,” former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb told AFP.
Himself a long-time NATO advocate, Stubb now believes Finland making a membership application is “a foregone conclusion” as Finns re-evaluate their relationship with their neighbour.
In recent opinion polls conducted by a Finnish market research company, 84 percent of Finnish people saw Russia as a ‘serious military threat’. The number of people voicing their opinion in the survey was 25 percent more than the previous year. In response to Marin’s statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that the move would not improve the security situation in Europe, and Russian MP Vladimir Dzhbarov more bluntly said it would mean “the destruction of the country”.
“We have said repeatedly that the alliance remains a tool in the direction of confrontation and that its further expansion will not bring stability to the European continent,” Peskov said. A few days ago, former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Staub said that his country could make a formal application to join NATO in the coming few weeks. At the same time, The Times newspaper claims that Sweden and Finland can join NATO by this summer.
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