Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, one of Vladimir Putin’s closest advisers, warned that Russia would arm nukes in the Baltic region if Finland and Sweden joined NATO.

The threat came after Finnish politicians hinted at the growing likelihood that the country would join the alliance. Finland shares the longest land border with Russia of any country in Europe at 810 miles.

Medvedev, the current deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said that should the two Nordic countries decide to join the United States-led alliance, it will force Russia to bolster its land, naval, and aerial capabilities in the region.

“If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened,” he wrote on Telegram.

He explicitly talked about nuclearization in the region, adding that there could be no more negotiations for a “nuclear-free” Baltic.

“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” said Medvedev.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also weighed in on the issue, stating that NATO was out for “geographical expansion.” She also claimed that Finland and Sweden would become NATO’s “front line” and said that NATO was an instrument of the “destructive attitudes” of the United States.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also spoke about the possibility that Finland and Sweden were joining NATO, who said that Russia would “have to rebalance the situation” and “take additional measures” to ensure national security.

“We’re deeply convinced that NATO is a machine for confrontation. It’s not a peaceful alliance. It was tailored for confrontation, and the main purpose for its existence is to confront our country,” Peskov added.

The expansion of NATO influence eastward is one of Putin’s motivations to invade Ukraine. Having Finland and Sweden join the alliance because of his aggression will ironically yield the opposite results Putin had wanted.

Sweden and Finland have been key buffer zones for Russia and the West. The two have been historically non-aligned but have been in touch with NATO as partners and have kept their militaries well prepared for Russia.

Russia’s Threats are Nothing New

Russia has a key territory in the Baltics known as Kaliningrad. It is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland and is located strategically around 310 miles from Berlin and 870 miles from London. Its proximity to the capitals of some NATO members makes it a strategically placed launch site for short to long-range missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads.

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Moscow announced in 2018 that it had stationed Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Known to NATO as SS-26 Stone, the Iskander is a short-range ballistic missile system with an official range of 310 miles. It can carry conventional and nuclear warheads.

With the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance, Russia is trying to leverage the arming of Kaliningrad to threaten possible consequences.

Iskander-M liver fire test (Missile Threat). Source:
Iskander-M liver fire test (Missile Threat | Center for Strategic and International Studies | Missile Defense Project)

“No sane person wants higher prices and higher taxes, increased tensions along borders, Iskanders, hypersonics, and ships with nuclear weapons literally at arm’s length from their own home,” Medvedev said.

“Let’s hope that the common sense of our northern neighbors will win,” he added.

However, Lithuania says that there is nothing new about Moscow’s threats and that nuclear weapons have been stationed at Kaliningrad even before the events in Ukraine.

“The current Russian threats look quite strange when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania’s border,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said.

He added that nuclear weapons have always been present in Kaliningrad and that the neighboring countries and the international community are “perfectly aware” of this scenario.

“They use it as a threat,” he was quoted saying.

Joining NATO in a Matter of Weeks

Finland is set to decide whether to join NATO or not in the upcoming weeks, said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin last Wednesday.

Marin told reporters during a joint conference in Stockholm with the Swedish Prime Minister that the decision to join the alliance was a strenuous process but was largely expedited after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine last February.

“The difference between being a partner and being a member is very clear and will remain so. There is no other way to have security guarantees than under NATO’s deterrence and common defense as guaranteed by NATO’s Article 5,”

NATO’s Article 5 considers an attack against a member as an attack against the alliance. The last time the article was invoked was during the brutal 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“I won’t give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast – within weeks, not within months,” the Finnish Prime Minister said.