During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and defense chiefs on Dec. 21, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed plans to station newly-formed military units near the border with Finland, as both Finland and neighboring Sweden seek NATO membership.
According to the Russian state-controlled RIA Novosti news agency, Shoigu claimed the move is necessary “due to NATO’s desire to increase its presence near Russia’s borders and expand the alliance at the expense of Finland and Sweden.”
In response, the Finnish government stated that there was “a number of inaccuracies and factual errors” in Shoigu’s speech and emphasized that Finland makes its security policy choices independently.
“Shoigu is incorrect in saying that Finland is being pulled into NATO,” the Finnish government said.
Finland and Russia share a border spanning approximately 1,340 kilometers (830 miles).
Sweden and Finland, which have been neutral for decades, changed their stance on NATO after Russia launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. In early July, both countries formally confirmed their desire and ability to meet the “political, legal, and military obligations” of NATO member countries.
Twenty-eight out of 30 NATO members have already approved the membership of the two Nordic countries.
In his speech, Shoigu also said that the Russian military must increase in size from its current 1 million personnel to 1.5 million, including 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers, due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. He didn’t specify when the military planned to reach the increased strength.
During the same meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized Russia’s commitment to maintaining and developing its nuclear triad, calling it the “main guarantee of preserving our sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He also pledged that Russia would invest “unlimited” funds in its military.