Finnish leader sticks to NATO stance in talks with Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to increase pressure on Finland over its plans to join NATO, but Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said Russia’s own behavior was the reason Helsinki decided to change course.

In a weekend call initiated by Mr Niinistö, Mr Putin warned his Finnish counterpart that joining a Western military alliance would be a “mistake” and would have unspecified “negative effects” on bilateral relations.

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia, and public opinion turned sharply toward joining NATO after Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Mr Niinistö and senior Finnish officials confirmed last week that they were preparing to apply to join NATO.

Like Finland, Sweden, which has pursued a policy of military neutrality for decades, is expected to seek NATO membership in the coming days.

gentlemen. Niinisto’s Finland’s official statement on the conference call said he told Putin that “Russian demands in late 2021 aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have fundamentally changed Finland’s security. environment.”

Mr Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February, in part as a larger protest against NATO’s post-Cold War eastward expansion of Russia’s border.

Russian officials said Mr Putin and Mr Niinistö had a “frank exchange of views” — diplomatic norms that are bluntly divided on the topics discussed.

The Finnish side said that the leaders of the two countries expressed their differences candidly and that there was no tension. Mr. Niinisto also raised the issue of civilian casualties and human suffering caused by Russian military operations.

“In the future, Finland wants to deal correctly and professionally with practical problems arising from the neighbouring countries of the Russian Federation,” Finland’s statement said.

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