Both countries are part of the European Union but not NATO. However, they cooperate closely with the bloc and allow, among other things, for the alliance’s troops to exercise on their soil.
While neither had previously expressed a strong interest in joining NATO, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked speculation that the two countries are now weighing up their options in regards to joining the alliance to defend against potential Russian aggression.
However, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign minister, on Friday warned that both countries would face “serious military and political repercussions” if they were to do so.
“Finland and Sweden should not base their security on damaging the security of other countries and their accession to NATO can have detrimental consequences and face some military and political consequences,” she said in a video clip.
Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs also doubled down on the stance in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday.
“We regard the Finnish government’s commitment to a military non-alignment policy as an important factor in ensuring security and stability in northern Europe. Finland’s accession to NATO would have serious military and political repercussions,” the post said.
But Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Saturday brushed off the warnings, stating “we’ve heard this before.”
“We don’t think that it calls for a military threat,” Haavisto said in an interview with the Finnish public broadcaster YLE.
“Should Finland be NATO’s external border, it rather means that Russia would certainly take that into account in its own defense planning. I don’t see anything new as such,” Haavisto said of Zakharova’s comments.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto echoed Haavisto’s comments in a statement to Finnish media on Friday, saying that he doesn’t view Zakharova’s comments as a direct military threat from Moscow to Finland but instead “countersteps” that Russia would take if Finland were to join NATO.
Niinisto noted that both Zakharova and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have made similar comments regarding Finland’s possible membership in NATO in the past and that Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the issue with a similar tone in 2016 while visiting Finland.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson addressed Moscow’s statement in a joint news conference Friday with Sweden’s military commander Micael Byden.
“I want to be extremely clear. It is Sweden that itself and independently decides on our security policy line,” Andersson said.
Andersson also announced on Sunday that Sweden will be sending military aid to Ukraine, including 5,000 anti-tank weapons, 5,000 helmets, 5,000 body shields, and 135,000 field rations.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Prior to the invasion, Moscow has asked the United States and its allies to deny Ukraine and other former Soviet nations membership into NATO and that NATO members scale back troop deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
On Friday, NATO activated its response force for the first time in history.
“We have deployed defensive land and air forces in the eastern part of the alliance, and maritime assets across the NATO area,” the alliance said in a press release.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, enabled by Belarus. We call on Russia to immediately cease its military assault, to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and to turn back from the path of aggression it has chosen,” NATO said.
Under NATO rules, an attack against one of the members is considered an attack against all members.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.