Russia has issued a chilling warning to its neighbors Sweden and Finland, saying both nations will face ‘military consequences’ if they join NATO.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that such a move in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have ‘serious military-political repercussions.’
‘Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences,’ Zakharova said during a news briefing.
The foreign ministry later reiterated the threat on Twitter.
‘We regard the Finnish government’s commitment to a military non-alignment policy as an important factor in ensuring security and stability in northern Europe,’ the department wrote. ‘Finland’s accession to @NATO would have serious military and political repercussions.’
Sweden and Finland both border Russia in the Arctic Circle. Vladimir Putin is widely believed to have attacked the Ukraine after western nations mooted the idea of the country joining NATO, over fears it could end up with a US military presence on its doorstep.
A similar move by Sweden or Finland could potentially provoke similar ire.
U.S. intelligence officials are worried the Ukrainian capitol of Kyiv could fall by Saturday afternoon CNN reported, with Russian troops entering the city in the early hours of Saturday morning local time.
Ukrainian leaders want to join NATO but Russia has been strongly opposed to the move.
Both NATO and President Joe Biden have said the United States would strongly defend the 30-member alliance should the Kremlin launch an attack.
Biden met virtually with fellow NATO members on Friday morning to reassure eastern allies they will be protected as Russian troops prepared to enter Kyiv.
Amid reports the Kremlin is gunning for him, Zelensky had slammed the United States and its allies for leaving his country to fight alone.
‘Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone,’ he said on Thursday night. ‘Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? Everyone is afraid.’
‘We’re defending our country alone. The most powerful forces in the world are watching this from a distance,’ Zelensky said.
After the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the 30-nation organization will send parts of the NATO Response Force and elements of a quickly deployable spearhead unit to the alliance´s eastern flank. It´s the first time the force has been used to defend NATO allies.
‘We are now deploying the NATO Response Force for the first time in a collective defense context. We speak about thousands of troops. We speak about air and maritime capabilities,’ Stoltenberg said.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin offered to send a delegation to Belarus to negotiate with Ukraine but only under harsh conditions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was ready to send a delegation to Minsk. But Peskovmade it clear that Russia expected Ukraine’s ‘denazification and demilitarization’ of Ukraine, meaning Kyiv’s capitulation.
Some NATO nations are already taking defensive measures as Russian aggression grows.
Lithuania declared a state of emergency Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine. Lithuania borders Russia´s Kaliningrad region to the southwest. NATO members Belarus is to the east, Latvia is to the north and Poland is to the south.
‘We cannot take the luxury to be (a) discussion club,’ Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said overnight at an emergency summit of European Union leaders held to impose a ‘heavy price’ on Russia through sanctions. ‘We need to take action.’
The Baltic members have said the West should ‘urgently provide Ukrainian people with weapons, ammunition and any other kind of military support to defend itself as well as economic, financial and political assistance and support, humanitarian aid.’
NATO began beefing up its defenses in northeastern Europe after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Recently, some members have also sent troops, aircraft and warships to the Black Sea region, near allies Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.
Short-term, NATO has activated an emergency planning system to allow commanders to move forces more quickly. The Pentagon said Thursday that it is sending 7,000 troops to Europe in addition to 5,000 recently deployed personnel.