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NewsSweden officially signs NATO application as Putin shows weakening...

Sweden officially signs NATO application as Putin shows weakening resolve

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that he sees ‘no problem’ with Nordic neighbours Finland and Sweden joining NATO, mere hours before Sweden’s foreign minister formally signed her nation’s application to the security bloc.

Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since 1999, has repeatedly pointed to the post-Soviet enlargement of NATO toward Russia’s borders as a key driver behind his war in Ukraine. 

But in a stunning declaration yesterday, the strongman abandoned his regime’s typical sabre-rattling approach and instead offered a dramatically softened stance in the face of the biggest strategic consequence of the invasion to date.

‘As to enlargement, Russia has no problem with these states – none. And so in this sense there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion (of NATO) to include these countries,’ Putin told the leaders of the CSTO – a Russian-dominated security alliance of former Soviet states.

The Kremlin chief’s remarkably serene response to one of Russia’s most sensitive geopolitical worries comes as a stark contrast to the hardline rhetoric parroted by his foreign ministry and senior allies.

Minutes before Putin spoke, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the West should have no illusions that Moscow would simply put up with the Nordic expansion of NATO. 

One of Putin’s closest allies, former President Dmitry Medvedev, said just last month that Russia could deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad if Finland and Sweden joined NATO.

And a Russian state TV commentator said as recently as Sunday: ‘When NATO bases appear in Sweden & Finland, Russia will have no choice but to neutralise the imbalance & new threat by deploying tactical nuclear weapons.’

But this morning, Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs Ann Linde was pictured signing her nation’s application to NATO, just hours after Putin’s incredible U-turn yesterday.

The move has seemingly prompted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to take his boss’ lead.

Lavrov, who has for months been the Kremlin’s leading mouthpiece threatening retaliation for any NATO expansion, declared earlier today that it made ‘no real difference’ if the Nordic countries joined the western security bloc.

Finland is expected to follow Sweden with a formal NATO application in the coming days.

Sweden's minister for foreign affairs Ann Linde was pictured this morning signing her nation's application to NATO, with Finland expected to follow suit in the coming days

Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs Ann Linde was pictured this morning signing her nation’s application to NATO, with Finland expected to follow suit in the coming days

In a stunning declaration yesterday to members of the CSTO, Putin abandoned his regime's typical sabre-rattling approach and instead offered a dramatically softened stanceon NATO expansion

In a stunning declaration yesterday to members of the CSTO, Putin abandoned his regime’s typical sabre-rattling approach and instead offered a dramatically softened stanceon NATO expansion

After weeks of deliberation and amid threats from Russia, Sweden today formally completed its application to join NATO, with Finland expected to follow suit in the coming days

After weeks of deliberation and amid threats from Russia, Sweden today formally completed its application to join NATO, with Finland expected to follow suit in the coming days

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has for months been the Kremlin's leading mouthpiece threatening retaliation for any NATO expansion, declared earlier today that it made 'no real difference' if the Nordic countries joined the western security bloc, following his boss' stunning U-turn

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has for months been the Kremlin’s leading mouthpiece threatening retaliation for any NATO expansion, declared earlier today that it made ‘no real difference’ if the Nordic countries joined the western security bloc, following his boss’ stunning U-turn

Putin did however lace his newly found tranquility on NATO with a warning, as he insisted new military bases must not be placed close to Russia’s borders should Sweden and Finland’s applications be accepted.

‘But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response,’ Putin said.

‘What that (response) will be – we will see what threats are created for us,’ Putin told the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which includes Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Speaking in the Grand Kremlin Palace, Putin read a short speech that touched on NATO and scolded the United States for creating biological laboratories in the former Soviet Union.

Putin said Russia had evidence that the United States had been trying to create components of biological weapons in Ukraine, a claim Washington and Kyiv have denied.

Besides NATO’s ‘endless expansion policy’, Putin said the alliance was reaching far beyond its Euro-Atlantic remit – a trend he said that Russia was following carefully.

Moscow says NATO threatens Russia and insists Washington has repeatedly ignored the Kremlin’s concerns about the security of its borders in the West, the source of two devastating European invasions in 1812 and 1941.

Putin says the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine is necessary because the United States was using Ukraine to threaten Russia through NATO enlargement, forcing Moscow to defend against the persecution of Russian-speaking people.

The Russian leader claimed assurances were given as the Soviet Union collapsed that the alliance would not expand eastwards toward Russia – a promise he says was a lie – though the United States and NATO dispute that such assurances were given explicitly. 

However, now that the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining the security alliance has been set in motion following Sweden’s formal application, Putin’s regime appears to have wilted as the Kremlin steps back from its long-standing policy of doling out threats.

A Russian state TV commentator said as recently as Sunday: 'When NATO bases appear in Sweden & Finland, Russia will have no choice but to neutralise the imbalance & new threat by deploying tactical nuclear weapons' (Russian One channel graphic pictured)

A Russian state TV commentator said as recently as Sunday: ‘When NATO bases appear in Sweden & Finland, Russia will have no choice but to neutralise the imbalance & new threat by deploying tactical nuclear weapons’ (Russian One channel graphic pictured)

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (R) and Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) on Sunday announced the nation's intention to apply for NATO membership

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (R) and Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) on Sunday announced the nation’s intention to apply for NATO membership

Kyiv and its Western backers say the claim of persecution of Russian speakers has been exaggerated by Moscow into a pretext for an unprovoked war against a sovereign state.

The West says NATO – an alliance of 30 countries including former Warsaw Pact republics such as Poland and Hungary as well as nuclear powers such as the United States, Britain and France – is purely defensive.

NATO countries have argued that the security bloc’s presence in eastern Europe is not a valid catalyst to trigger a full scale invasion of Ukraine, with experts surmising that Russia’s war against so-called ‘neo Nazis and fascists’ is in fact a guise for Putin to extend his sphere of influence following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

In a statement on Monday evening, British Foreign Sectretary Liz Truss said the UK looked forward to working with the countries as ‘new NATO allies’.

‘The UK strongly supports applications for NATO membership from Finland and Sweden,’ she said.

‘They should be integrated into the alliance as soon as possible; their accession will strengthen the collective security of Europe.

‘We look forward to working with them as new NATO allies and stand ready to offer them our every assistance during the accession process.

‘Our mutual security declarations signed with Sweden and Finland last week by the Prime Minister demonstrate our steadfast and unequivocal commitment to both countries during this process and beyond.’

In a statement on Monday evening, British Foreign Sectretary Liz Truss said the UK looked forward to working with the countries as 'new NATO allies'

In a statement on Monday evening, British Foreign Sectretary Liz Truss said the UK looked forward to working with the countries as ‘new NATO allies’ 

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and the Moderate Party's leader Ulf Kristersson give a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Monday, May 16, 2022 following the decision to apply for NATO membership

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and the Moderate Party’s leader Ulf Kristersson give a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Monday, May 16, 2022 following the decision to apply for NATO membership

Conversely, Turkey’s leader on Monday complicated Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO, saying he cannot allow them to become members of the alliance because of their perceived inaction against exiled Kurdish militants.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on comments last week indicating that the two Nordic countries’ path to NATO would be anything but smooth. 

All 30 current NATO countries must agree to open the door to new members, but Erdogan has accused the Nordic nations of refusing to extradite ‘terrorists’ wanted by his country.

‘Neither country has an open, clear stance against terrorist organisations,’ Erdogan told reporters, in an apparent reference to Kurdish militant groups such as the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Swedish officials said they would dispatch a team of diplomats to Ankara to discuss the matter, but Erdogan suggested they were wasting their time.

‘Are they coming to try and convince us? Sorry don´t wear yourselves out,’ Erdogan said. ‘During this process, we cannot say ”yes” to those who impose sanctions on Turkey, on joining NATO, which is a security organisation.’

Turkey's leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) on Monday complicated Sweden and Finland's bid to join NATO, saying he cannot allow them to become members of the alliance because of their perceived inaction against exiled Kurdish militants

Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) on Monday complicated Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO, saying he cannot allow them to become members of the alliance because of their perceived inaction against exiled Kurdish militants

But others played down Erdogan's resistance to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, pointing out a potential security deal between Ankara and Washington to provide Turkey's air force with major upgrades to its existing fleet of F-15 fighter jets, and perhaps deliver more planes, would likely be ruined if the Turkish President were to block the applications

But others played down Erdogan’s resistance to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, pointing out a potential security deal between Ankara and Washington to provide Turkey’s air force with major upgrades to its existing fleet of F-15 fighter jets, and perhaps deliver more planes, would likely be ruined if the Turkish President were to block the applications

Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter was among those who said they were taken aback by Turkey’s objections.

Sweden has accepted thousands of refugees from the Middle East, including Turkey, in recent decades. 

‘We have a very strong anti-terrorist agenda and a lot of, almost, accusations that are coming out… are simply not true,’ she said.

But others played down Erdogan’s resistance to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, pointing out that Ankara’s developing relations with the US and a potential security deal which would provide Turkey’s air force with major upgrades to its existing fleet of F-15 fighter jets would likely be ruined if the Turkish President were to block the applications.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister said he doesn’t believe Turkey will prevent Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, and suspects Erdogan is merely ‘pushing up the price’ for the two countries’ membership. 

Jean Asselborn told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday: ‘At the end of the day, I am convinced that Turkey can’t slam the brakes on this.’

Asselborn added the process for Finland and Sweden to join the security bloc  ‘will take some time, I hope not too long.’

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