Amid the ongoing events in Ukraine, on May 18, Finland and Sweden submitted applications to join NATO. Although Turkey initially blocked the initiatives, the three nations signed a memorandum on Tuesday addressing Ankara’s concerns, paving the way for the two Northern European countries to join the military bloc.
Russian President Vladimir Putin underscored Wednesday that Moscow’s relations with Sweden and Finland are nowhere near as conflicting as Russia’s standing is with Ukraine, and that it would not object to its NATO membership.
However, should the block’s military infrastructure be deployed to the two nordic countries, Russia would be forced to respond in a ‘mirror way.’
Speaking at the Sixth Caspian Summit held in Turkmenistan this week, Putin emphasized the Kremlin has “nothing that could worry us in terms of Finland or Sweden’s membership in NATO,” and both countries are free to become members of the alliance.
He pointed out, however, that “there was no threat before,” but if military equipment or troops are deployed along the border, Moscow will have to “respond in a mirror manner and create the same threats in the territories from which they threaten us.”
The Russian president further rejected claims that Moscow’s move to push NATO forces away from its border and object to Ukraine’s NATO membership are having the opposite effect, stressing that allegations were “having nothing to do with reality.”
“For us, the membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO is not at all the same as the membership of Ukraine, these are completely different things. They understand this very well. […] No. This is a completely different thing,” Putin said, per the translation.
Special Military Op Goes as Planned, Goals Not Changing
The Russian president stressed to reporters that the special military operation in Ukraine is going according to plan, and it is wrong to adjust it according to some schedule. The Russian troops are achieving their goals on the battlefield.
“We are working calmly, the troops are moving, reaching the lines that are set as objectives. Everything is going according to plan,” he told reporters, noting that it is not worth talking about a timetable for the operation.Putin further said that the goals of the special operation in Ukraine have not changed, but the tactics may be different.
“Nothing has changed, I said in the early morning of February 24 directly publicly to the whole country, to the whole world. I have nothing to add to this. Nothing has changed,” Putin said. “The tactics being proposed by the Ministry of Defense, [such as] where to move the troops, what objects to hit.”
West’s Stubbornness in Pushing Ukraine’s Fight Not Surprising
Putin said it was no surprise to Russia that the West had been preparing for active action against it since 2014.
“We must treat this as a fact. The fact that they have been preparing for some kind of actions against us since 2014 is not news to us. This is precisely what explains our decisive actions to protect our own interests,” he explained.
The president asserted the US had long declared Russia a foreign enemy, alleging a threat from which it would be possible to unite allies around itself. Putin argued that Iran “was not very suitable for this,” while Russia is more convenient.
Then, Putin stated that the current events and the state of the relationship confirm what Moscow has been discussing “all the time,” namely that NATO is “a vestige of a past era, the era of the Cold War.”
“We were constantly told that NATO has changed, that this is now most likely a political union. But everyone was looking for a reason and an opportunity to give them a new impetus precisely as a military organization. Well, please, they are doing it. There is nothing new for us here,” Putin said.
Furthermore, calls for Ukraine to continue the hostilities indicate that for the West, Ukraine is only a means to achieve its own interests, as there is no concern for what is good for the country, the president suggested.
According to him, “with the hands of the Ukrainian people,” NATO members “simply want to assert themselves additionally, assert their role in the world, confirm not their leadership, but their hegemonism in the truest sense of the word, their imperial ambitions.
No Terrorist Attack Has Taken Place in Kremenchug
Answering a question about the recent missile attack in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchug, Poltava region, which resulted in a shopping mall suffering some heavy damage, Putin said that no terrorist attack took place there, adding that that “no one shoots in the fields just like that.” Putin stressed that the missile strikes on Ukrainian soil are based on the results of reconnaissance, and the Russian military does not fire at civilian targets.
The explosion in the shopping center occurred on June 27. After the explosion, a fire broke out throughout the shopping center. According to the office of the president of Ukraine, at the time of the explosion, there were more than a thousand civilians in the area. It was reported that 13 people died, and at least 50 people were injured.The Russian Defense Ministry said that the fire was the result of a Russian missile attack on hangars with Western weapons. According to the military, as a result of the impact, a fire broke out in a nearby shopping center. The ministry claimed that the shopping center was not operational before the strike.
Addressing a ‘joke’ made by G7 leaders mocking photos of Putin’s bare chest, the Russian leader responded simply by saying it would be a “disgusting sight” to behold if the gathered leaders did in fact remove their clothing to demonstrate their toughness.
“I don’t know how they wanted to undress: waist-high, below the waist, but I think it would be a disgusting sight,” Putin said. Earlier, the G7 leaders were talking about the Russian president over lunch and discussed whether they should strip to show they were “tougher” than Putin.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, sitting down at the table, asked whether they should take off their jackets, whereas Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded by suggesting that they wait until the official photo was taken before undressing. Johnson then joked that the leaders “have to show that we are tougher than Putin.”