Finland, Sweden's entry into NATO to make no big difference: Russia
Russia says Finland and Sweden's potential membership in NATO would probably make no difference as the pair have long participated in the military alliance's drills along with other putative neutral countries in the region.
Finland and Sweden have officially announced their intention to become a member of NATO despite Russia's stern warnings against the US-led military alliance's eastward expansion.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, said on Tuesday that their entry into NATO would probably make no difference.
"NATO takes their territory into account when planning military advances to the east. So in this sense, there is probably not much difference," he added. "Let's see how their territory is used in practice in the North Atlantic alliance."
The foreign minister made the remarks after President Vladimir Putin said the bid by Finland and Sweden to join NATO posed no direct threat to his country but Moscow would respond if NATO bolsters military infrastructure in the two Nordic states.
Putin also said that the United States used NATO's possible eastward expansion in an "aggressive" way to aggravate an already difficult security situation in the world.
Finland shares a 1,300-km border with Russia.
President Putin has on several occasions cited the post-Soviet expansion of the NATO alliance eastwards toward Russia's borders as a reason for the military offensive he declared in Ukraine on February 24. Key to a list of Russian demands from the West prior to the offensive was a guarantee that Kiev would never be part of NATO.