Moscow’s nuclear rhetoric prompted Helsinki to apply to join the US-led military bloc, Finland’s foreign minister has said.
Russia allegedly “nuclear threat” amid the Ukraine conflict was the key factor spurring Finland to seek NATO membership, the country’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Sunday. Moscow has stated on numerous occasions that it has never threatened to use nuclear weapons.
Haavisto told the Kyodo news agency in Poland in connection with the meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that Russian military action in Ukraine meant “the security reality in Europe has changed.”
The minister argued that the Russian nuclear rhetoric made Finland think about how to react and where to find support, leading to a decision to seek NATO membership.
In late September, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that he would use “all means” necessary to defend the nation if its territorial integrity was threatened, raising fears in the West that Russia could use nuclear weapons amid hostilities in Ukraine.
Senior Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that Moscow has never threatened anyone with nuclear weapons. Moreover, Russia’s current defense doctrine allows for a nuclear attack only when the existence of the state is in danger.
Finland, along with its Nordic neighbor Sweden, submitted an application to join the US-led military bloc in May, breaking with a decades-long policy of neutrality. Although NATO has accepted the requests, the bids must be ratified by all 30 members of the bloc, with Hungary’s and Turkey’s approvals still pending.
Haavisto said that Hungary had signaled that it would give its approval in early February and expressed hope that “in the spring everything will be arranged” including ratification by Ankara.
In October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was ready to give the green light for Finland’s entry into NATO but was not prepared to do the same for Sweden, citing “secret terrorism” in the country. He was apparently referring to the presence of Kurdish groups that are banned in Trkiye.
On Saturday, the Anadolu news agency reported that Sweden had extradited to Turkey a man convicted there of being a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.