Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Thursday that Russia would deploy nuclear weapons near the Baltic states and Scandinavia if Finland or Sweden decided to join NATO.
Medvedev, who was deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council and president from 2008 to 2012, posted on Telegram that if any of the countries joined, it would more than double Russia’s land border with NATO members.
“Naturally, we will have to reinforce these borders,” he said.
“In this case, it would no longer be possible to talk about the non-nuclear status of the Baltic. The balance must be restored,” he said, indicating that Russia would be entitled to deploy nuclear weapons in the region.
The former president said that Russia would “seriously strengthen its group of ground forces and air defenses and deploy significant naval forces in the Gulf of Finland”.
Asked about journalists’ comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “this has been brought up many times” and that President Vladimir Putin issued an order to “strengthen our western flank” because of the potential NATO’s growing military.
As to whether the reinforcement would include nuclear weapons, Peskov said: “I can’t say… There will be a whole list of necessary measures and steps. This will be covered in a separate meeting by the President”.
Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine have triggered a dramatic shift in public and political opinion in Finland and Sweden on longstanding policies of military non-alignment.
Finland said this week that it will decide whether or not to apply for NATO membership in a few weeks, and Sweden is also discussing membership.