Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Finland that it would be wrong to abandon military neutrality in order to join NATO. On Saturday, Russia stopped electricity delivery to Finland as a retaliation for the country’s decision not to apply to the military alliance after Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.
Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in a phone call that applying to join NATO could have a negative effect on Russian-Finnish relations because “there are no threats to Finland’s security,” according to a readout of the call from the Kremlin.
Niinisto said on the call that Russian demands last year aiming to prevent countries from joining NATO and the invasion of Ukraine have fundamentally “altered the security environment of Finland,” according to Niinisto’s office.
Niinisto told Putin that Finland will seek NATO membership in the coming days.
Putin and Niinisto’s call comes as Russian power grid operator Inter RAO cut off electricity exports to Finland on Saturday after its subsidiary, RAO Nordic, said it has had difficulty receiving Finnish payments due to sanctions.
Finland’s grid operator, Fingrid, said in a statement Russian electricity accounts for about 10% of Finland’s consumption and it does not expect electricity shortages.
Fingrid Vice President Reima Paivinen said in a statement Finland will replace the electricity with domestic production or imports from Sweden.
Jukka Leskela, managing director of the Finnish Energy industry association, told Finnish broadcaster YLE that the timing of the decision to cut off electricity was questionable, and that he believes the cut off is related to Finland’s NATO decision. Leskela stated that such a sudden announcement raises questions about the authenticity of the reason given to RAO Nordic.
Finland has been conducting security assessments following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said last month during a joint press conference “the security landscape has completely changed” after February 24, the day Russia invaded. Russia has opposed Finland and Sweden joining NATO, warning that Russia would have to “rebalance the situation” with “military and political consequences.” Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, shares an 810-mile border with the country. Russia invaded Finland in 1939, initiating a year-long war that ended with Finland ceding 11% of its territory to Russia.
While NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said he expects that “all allies will welcome” Sweden and Finland if they choose to apply for membership, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey opposes the two countries joining NATO on Friday. Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin clarified on Saturday that Turkey isn’t attempting to block Finland and Sweden’s potential bids, but wants to ensure that the national security of all NATO members is taken into consideration. For a new country to be accepted into the alliance, all 30 members have to unanimously approve new countries.
What to Watch for
Sweden will announce its decision regarding whether or not it will join the alliance this Sunday. Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced their support for the move on Thursday, and Finland’s foreign minister indicated last month Sweden could make its decision on applying for NATO membership within days of Finland’s announcement.