One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned NATO on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined the US-led military alliance then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in an exclave in the heart of Europe.
Finland, which shares a 1,300km (810-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden are considering joining the NATO alliance.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that, should Sweden and Finland join NATO, then Russia would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea.
Medvedev also explicitly raised the nuclear threat on Thursday by saying that there could be no more talk of a “nuclear-free” Baltic – where Russia has its Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” said Medvedev, who was Russian president from 2008 to 2012.
Medvedev said he hoped Finland and Sweden would see sense. If not, he said, they would have to live with nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles close to home.
Russia has the world’s biggest arsenal of nuclear warheads and, along with China and the United States, is one of the global leaders in hypersonic missile technology.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about Medvedev’s comments by journalists, said that “this has been talked about many times” and President Vladimir Putin has issued an order on “reinforcing our western flank” due to NATO’s growing military potential.
Asked if this reinforcement would include nuclear weapons, Peskov said, “I can’t say … There will be a whole list of measures, necessary steps. This will be covered at a separate meeting by the president.”
Lithuania said Russia’s threats were nothing new and that Moscow had deployed nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad long before the war in Ukraine.
There was no immediate comment from NATO on Russia’s warning.
Still, the possible accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO – founded in 1949 to provide Western security against the Soviet Union – would be one of the biggest strategic consequences of the war in Ukraine.