Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Russia threatened on Thursday it could deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltics should Sweden and Finland join NATO, stressing it would have to bolster all of its defences in the region.
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council, said on Thursday that Russia would be forced to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea if Finland and Sweden become NATO members.
One of President Vladimir Putin’s closest associates, Medvedev also directly mentioned nuclear weapons, warning that NATO expansion into the two Scandinavian countries would mean there could be no more talk of “nuclear-free” Baltic.
“Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to,” claimed Medvedev, adding that the West should take note of who had proposed the change if Russia’s “hand is forced” in the matter.
Both Sweden and Finland, traditionally neutral countries, are warming up to the idea of NATO membership. Swedish and Finnish prime ministers, Magdalena Andersson and Sanna Marin, held a joint press conference on Wednesday stressing that the security landscape had changed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Majority of voters in both countries now support the idea of joining NATO – overturning decades of strong public opposition to NATO membership in Sweden and Finland. A majority of Finnish members of parliament already expressed their support for joining, while an overwhelming majority of Swedish voters would opt to join as long as Finland is doing so – something that might well come to pass.
While Medvedev threatened that Russia might deploy Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad – a Russian exclave bordering Poland and Lithuania – Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas recalled Russia had already done so – even before the war in Ukraine.
“Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad,” Anusauskas said. “The international community, the countries in the region, are perfectly aware of this. They use it as a threat.” Russia had previously said in 2018 that it had deployed Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a type of short-range ballistic missile which can deliver both conventional and nuclear warheads.