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France backs Sweden and Finland on NATO as Putin’s warning backfires

Putin ‘shot himself in the foot’ with Nordic NATO applications

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The two Nordic nations have officially expressed their intentions to join the military alliance, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as fresh reasoning for their bids. Vladimir Putin responded that their membership would not pose “a direct threat” to Moscow unless it also involved the “expansion of military infrastructure”.

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was less specific, insisting the move would have “far-reaching consequences”.

In the light of these comments, Paris was quick to express its willingness to “stand by Finland and Sweden” in case of aggression.

The Elysée Palace welcomed the membership bids.

It also said in a statement: “Any state that seeks to test European solidarity, through a threat or aggression against their sovereignty by any means whatsoever, must have the certainty that France will stand by Finland and Sweden.

“France reaffirms its commitment under Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union, and stands ready to strengthen cooperation in defence and security with these two partners, through high-level strategic consultations and enhanced military interaction.”

Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty is a mutual defence clause, binding EU member states to assist an attacked member “by all the means in their power”.

The renewed declaration came amid speculation of the ongoing war spilling outside of Ukraine.

Ryabkov branded the decisions of the Nordic counties to bid for NATO membership as a “mistake”.

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He, quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax, added: “The situation, of course, is changing radically in light of what is happening…

“They should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it.”

Pope Francis said this month the military alliance could previously been viewed as having been “barking” at Russia’s door.

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He added this “perhaps facilitated” the invasion of Ukraine.

But Turkey could now bloc the further admission of Finland and Sweden into the alliance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is understood to be angered by the perceived willingness of these countries to host Kurdish militants.

He earlier this week described Sweden as a “hatchery” for terrorists and asked of both countries: “How can we trust them?”

A country cannot join the military alliance without the support of all its existent members.

Sweden shares a maritime border with Russia, and Finland a more-than 800 miles land border.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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