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Sweden summons Russian envoy over NATO membership threats

March 29, 2023

The Russian ambassador in Stockholm had said that Sweden and Finland joining NATO would make them "legitimate" military targets. Both countries applied to join the military alliance last year.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg receives official letters of application to join NATO.
Sweden and Finland formally applied last year to join the NATO allainceImage: NATO

Sweden's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was summoning the Russian ambassador to Stockholm, over threats concerning the country's NATO bid. The Foreign Ministry deemed the ambassador's comments an "attempt at interference."

The Nordic country abandoned last year, alongside neighboring Finland, its military neutrality and sought NATO membership, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

What did the Russian ambassador say?

In a long-winded statement shared on the embassy's Facebook page titled "A Swedish step toward the abyss," the ambassador said that if Finland and Sweden join NATO, the alliance's borders with Russia would almost double.

He added that this would not bolster Europe's security but rather make new NATO members "a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including those of a military nature."

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said his ministry was summoning the Russian ambassador "to make a clear statement against this blatant attempt at influence."

The Nordic countries' joint bid to become NATO members has been riddled with roadblocks, most notably due to diplomatic rows with Turkey, and to a lesser extent with Hungary. Turkey has said this month it intends to ratify Finland's bid, and Hungary's parliament already approved it, whereas Sweden's bid remains pending.

For a new country to join the alliance, all 30 member-states must unanimously approve its bid.

rmt/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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