Finland Responds to Russia Vowing 'Retaliatory Steps' Over NATO Move

Finland responded on Friday to Russia's vow to take "retaliatory steps" over the country's plans to apply to join the NATO military alliance.

It comes after the Kremlin said that it "will be left with no choice but to respond" after Finland's President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin issued a joint statement saying that their country must apply to join NATO "without delay."

Russia's Foreign Ministry warned that the Kremlin "will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising."

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House October 02, 2019 in Washington, DC. Finland responded on Friday to Russia’s vow to take "retaliatory steps" over the country’s plans to apply to join the NATO military alliance. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Responding to the threats, Finland's Foreign Ministry said in a statement to Newsweek that Finland "is a sovereign state and makes independent decisions on its security and defense."

"Finland is aware of the various challenges involved in the NATO membership process, and is prepared for diverse hybrid and cyber threats and military means of pressure," the ministry said.

Finland, alongside its Nordic neighbor Sweden, has deliberated about applying to join the alliance since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The two countries joining NATO after decades of military non-alignment would mark a major change in their security policy and a dramatic shift in Europe's security landscape.

The Kremlin acknowledged in its warning that Finland joining NATO "is a radical change in the country's foreign policy."

"Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move," Russia's foreign ministry said Thursday.

Finland's foreign ministry told Newsweek that "NATO is a defense alliance and it does not threaten Russia."

Russia previously threatened "serious military-political repercussions" if Finland and Sweden were to join the alliance. Moscow has warned that the move "will not bring stability" to Europe. It sees the expansion of NATO as a national security threat.

Russia and Finland share an 810-mile border.

The Kremlin "has previously noted that the accession of Finland to NATO would result in military-political consequences and would require Russia to rebalance the situation," Finland's foreign ministry added.

News that Finland plans to apply to join NATO was praised by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said in a statement on Twitter that he and Niinistö had discussed "Ukraine's European integration. And [Ukraine] - [Finland] defense interaction" over the phone.

Other NATO leaders from Denmark, Estonia, and Romania have also expressed support for Finland joining the alliance.

NATO's Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said Finland would be "warmly welcomed" into the trans-Atlantic alliance. The process would be "smooth and swift," he said.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for additional comment.

Update: 05/13/22, 12:00 p.m. EDT: This article was updated with additional details, quotes, and background information.