Finland's and Sweden's accession into Nato will most likely make "not much difference," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
Both countries have long been involved in joint Nato military exercises and been partners of the western alliance for years, Lavrov further noted.
"Finland and Sweden, as well as other neutral countries, have been participating in Nato military exercises for many years," he said.
In January, Lavrov commented that it was up to Finland and Sweden to apply for Nato membership. However, he also added that Russia valued Finnish and Swedish neutrality and said he did not believe that Nato would respect the sovereignty of either country.
"Nato takes their territory into account when planning military advances to the East. So in this sense there is probably not much difference. Let's see how their territory is used in practice in the North Atlantic alliance," Lavrov commented.
Speaking on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin also moved away from his previous stance on the perceived dangers associated with Finland's membership of Nato. Russia has consistently threatened Finland and Sweden on joining the alliance, and this rhetoric from Putin and Lavrov is in sharp contrast to Russia's previous anti-Nato expansion comments.
According to Putin, Russia has no problems with Finland or Sweden, and therefore Nato's expansion into these countries is not a direct threat to Russia. Instead, bringing Nato's military infrastructure to Finland or Sweden would lead to retaliation, the Russian president warned.
Despite the Russian pivot towards indifference toward Finland's and Sweden's Nato membership, Moscow expelled two Finnish diplomats on Tuesday, according to a report by news agency Reuters.
This came in response to Finland's expulsion of two Russian diplomats and led to a statement that protested against what it claimed was "Finland's confrontational course towards Russia," seemingly referencing Finland's bid to join Nato.
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