Russia Reacts to Sweden and Finland Nearing NATO Membership

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov warned on Tuesday that Russia has plans in place to ensure the country's security in light of Sweden and Finland nearing NATO membership.

As NATO's 30 members signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland, Peskov told reporters that Russia's Ministry of Defense is taking action.

"Such options are being worked out not in the Kremlin, but in the Ministry of Defense. We have already said many times that there are relevant plans there, and work is being done to ensure our security," Peskov told a news conference when pressed on Russia's possible response.

The spokesperson's remarks come as the NATO allies were set to formally approve the historic decision made during last week's NATO summit to invite Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Peskov
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) listens to his press secretary Dmitry Peskov during a visit to Slovenia on July, 30, 2016. Peskov warned Tuesday that Russia has plans in place to ensure the country’s security in light of Sweden and Finland nearing NATO membership. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The signing off on Sweden and Finland's accession protocols at NATO headquarters means their membership bids will now be sent for legislative approval.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg labeled it an "historic moment," for "Finland, for Sweden, for NATO, and for our shared security."

Stoltenberg added in a statement that NATO's door remains open to European democracies "who are ready and willing to contribute to our shared security."

"With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger and our people will be even safer, as we face the biggest security crisis in decades," he added.

The addition of Finland and Sweden to the nuclear-armed alliance marks its most significant expansion since the 1990s.

The move means the two Nordic nations will have greater access to the alliance's intelligence and they will also be able to formally participate in meetings.

The countries will not, however, be granted protection by NATO's collective defense clause until ratification. NATO defines collective defense as meaning that an attack against one member is considered as an attack against all members. The alliance has standing forces permanently on active duty that contribute to its collective defense efforts.

In May, Sweden and Finland ended decades of neutrality when they applied for NATO membership in the aftermath of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, and raised concerns around European security.

The nations will become full members of NATO after the protocols are ratified by the parliaments of all alliance members. This process can take up to a year, Reuters notes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked the start of negotiations, accusing Finland and Sweden of supporting Kurdish militant groups considered as terrorists in Turkey, but the parties were able to come to an agreement in June.

Russia has repeatedly said it will not tolerate the two countries joining NATO.

On Tuesday, member of the Russian State Duma, Alexey Chepa, issued a stark warning, saying that if NATO establishes military bases in Finland and Sweden, Russia will deploy more troops in the Kaliningrad region. He also said the number of Iskander mobile short-range ballistic missiles would be increased.

"In addition, we, of course, will treat, first of all, Finland as a partner of NATO, which puts Russia as its main enemy and adversary. Therefore, we must revise all our contractual relations with these countries, which will definitely have an economic negative impact, primarily on Finland," the deputy told state-run news outlet Lenta.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's defense ministry for comment.