Putin said Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO would have consequences.
“But they need to understand that before there was no threat, while now, as military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we need to respond in kind and create the same threats to the areas from which threats against us are created,” he said. adding that it was inevitable that Moscow’s relations with Helsinki and Stockholm would sour.
“Everything was good between us, but now there may be some tensions, there will certainly be,” he said.
“It is inevitable if there is a threat to us.”
Putin made his comment a day after NATO member Turkey vetoed Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security.
The move means Helsinki and Stockholm can go ahead with their applications to join NATO, marking the biggest shift in European security in decades.
US President Joe Biden announced increased deployment of land, naval and air forces across Europe, from Spain in the west to Romania and Poland, bordering Ukraine.
These include a permanent army headquarters and associated battalion in Poland – the first full-time US deployment on NATO’s eastern edge.
“President Putin’s war on Ukraine has disrupted peace in Europe and caused the biggest security crisis in Europe since World War II,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“NATO has responded with strength and unity.”
While NATO’s 30 national leaders met in Madrid, Russian forces intensified attacks in Ukraine, including rocket attacks and shelling of the southern Mykolaiv region, close to the front lines and the Black Sea.
The mayor of the city of Mykolaiv said eight Russian missiles had hit the city and one had killed at least five people in a residential building there, while Moscow said its troops had hit a so-called training base for foreign mercenaries in the region.
The governor of the eastern province of Luhansk reported that there was “fighting everywhere” in a battle around the hill town of Lysychansk, which Russian forces are trying to encircle as they gradually advance in a campaign to take Ukraine’s industrialized eastern Donbas region on behalf of separatist henchmen . Donbas includes the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy once again told NATO that Ukrainian forces needed more weapons and money, and faster, to erode Russia’s vast lead in artillery and missile firepower, and said Moscow’s ambitions did not stop with Ukraine.
Russia says the invasion that began on February 24 is a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of an unprovoked, imperialist land grab.
In a nod to the deterioration of relations with Russia since the invasion, a NATO communique called Russia the “most significant and immediate threat to the security of the Allies”, having previously classified it as a “strategic partner”.
NATO has issued a new Strategic Concept document, the first since 2010, stating that a “highly independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area”.
To this end, NATO has agreed on a long-term financial and military aid package to modernize the Ukrainian military.
“We are in full solidarity with the government and the people of Ukraine in the heroic defense of their country,” the statement said.
Stoltenberg said NATO had agreed to put 300,000 troops on high alert from 2023, up from 40,000, to protect an area stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Zelenskiy said in a video link with the summit that Ukraine needed $5 billion a month for its defense and protection.
“This is not a war that Russia is waging against Ukraine alone. This is a war for the right to dictate the terms in Europe, for what the future world order will look like,” he said.
NATO’s invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance marks one of the most momentous shifts in European security in decades as Helsinki and Stockholm drop a tradition of neutrality in response to the Russian invasion.
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