A Russian lawmaker who has previously boasted about his country’s missile capabilities on Kremlin-backed television has said that Finland is endangering its existence if it joins NATO.
Duma deputy Aleksey Zhuravlyov, who chairs the nationalist Rodina political party, told the news outlet Ura.ru that Finland and Russia once enjoyed good relations following World War Two but now Helsinki is “going to do something to create additional problems for us.”
“When you create problems for someone, you must understand that you will get them yourself,” he said in the article headlined, “Joining NATO threatens Finland with annihilation.”
Last month, Zhuravlyov said on the program 60 Minutes, which pushes the Kremlin line on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that he wished missiles had hit Kyiv while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting.
On another episode of the program, Zhuravlyov suggested Moscow’s latest missile, the Sarmat, should target the U.K. because of London’s support for Ukraine’s war effort.
In the interview with Ura published on Friday, Zhuravlyov said that Finns “should be grateful to Russia for their statehood” and that if Helsinki were to join NATO they would not “behave towards us as they did before.”
“The Americans will incite them to provocations,” he said. “If Finland wants to join this bloc, then our absolutely legitimate goal is to question the existence of this state. This is logical.”
“These countries are joining an alliance that wants to destroy Russia. Therefore, we want to destroy them in response,” he added.
Zhuravlyov is renowned for his hawkish views and his stance does not necessarily reflect that of the Kremlin. However, his comments come as Finland braces itself for a Russian response following its announcement that it intended to join NATO “without delay.”
Finnish media reported Friday that Russia could immediately cut off gas to its Nordic neighbor. Meanwhile, Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko warned on Saturday there would be a response to Finland to the alliance, with Sweden also set to apply to the bloc. He said their accession to the bloc was “a strategic change” which cannot remain “without a political reaction,” Interfax reported.
In a conversation with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin said that Finland joining NATO “would be a mistake” Russian news agencies reported.
It adds to speculation over what Putin might do next should Helsinki enter the military bloc which he has criticized for expanding near his country’s borders and which formed a justification for his invasion of Ukraine.
Tracey German, professor in conflict and security at King’s College London told Newsweek that Putin’s response depends upon the extent to which NATO military infrastructure moves closer to Russia’s borders.
This might see military equipment, including missiles, moved to the border with Finland, or a further strengthening of the Russian military position in its enclave of Kaliningrad.
“Finland’s accession will strengthen Putin’s narrative about NATO and the West seeking to encircle and contain Russia, allowing him to once again push the narrative that Russia is under threat from geopolitical expansionism,” she said.