As tensions fueled by President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine spread, Russia on Thursday threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in and around the Baltic Sea region if Finland and Sweden join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Bloomberg reported.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chief of Russia’s Security Council and former president, said in a Telegram post Thursday, “In this case, there can be no talk of non-nuclear status for the Baltic,” suggesting Russia may deploy Iskander missiles, hypersonic weapons and nuclear-armed ships in the region.
After decades of staying out, Russia’s northwestern neighbors might join the alliance. Medvedev’s comments are among the most detailed threats Russia has issued over the prospect of the same happening. Finland and Sweden this week had said they’re stepping up consideration of the issue in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas told the BNS news service Thursday that the threats were empty because Russia already keeps nuclear weapons in its exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Kremlin, declined to comment on the possibility nuclear weapons might be deployed in the Baltic region but said that Putin has already ordered the military to prepare plans for boosting defenses along Russia’s western frontiers.
He hoped that “reason” would prevail and the countries would decide not to join the alliance, Medvedev said.
Russian border, more than the total length of its frontier with current NATO members, runs for over 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) with Finland.
Medvedev said if the countries join the alliance, “we will need to seriously strengthen our land forces and anti-aircraft and deploy substantial naval forces in the Gulf of Finland basin.”
“We don’t have territorial disputes with those countries like we do with Ukraine,” he said. “For that reason, the price of their membership for us is different.”
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