Russia, on Thursday, warned that if Sweden and Finland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), it would have to bolster its defences in the region, including deploying nuclear weapons.
On Wednesday, Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Finland, which shares a 1,300km (810-mile) border with Russia, will make a decision in the next few weeks whether to apply to join the alliance.
Magdalena Andersson also said Sweden is considering joining the NATO alliance.
But Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said if the two countries join the US-led military alliance, Russia will have no choice but to strengthen its land, naval, and air forces in the Baltic Sea.
Medvedev also said there could be no more talk of a “nuclear-free” Baltic – where Russia has its Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic, the balance must be restored,” said Medvedev.
“Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to.
“If our hand is forced well take note it wasn’t us who proposed this.”
The possible accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO would be one of the biggest European strategic consequences of the war in Ukraine.
Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917 and fought two wars against it during World War Two.
On Thursday, Finland government announced a military exercise in Western Finland with the participation of forces from Britain, the United States, Latvia, and Estonia.
Sweden has not fought a war for 200 years and post-war foreign policy has focused on supporting democracy internationally, multilateral dialogue, and nuclear disarmament.
One of the reasons Russia invaded Ukraine was to prevent the country from joining NATO.
Russia has always resisted Ukraine’s move towards joining the West’s defensive military alliance.