Finnish, Swedish security services warn of Russian meddling over expected NATO bids

·2 min read
Heads of Nordic security and intelligence services hold joint news conference in Helsinki

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland and Sweden must prepare for increased Russian spy operations, cyber attacks and attempts to influence lawmakers as they consider joining NATO after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, the Nordic nations' intelligence chiefs said on Wednesday.

Russia's invasion, which it calls a "special operation", has forced Sweden and Finland to reassess their longstanding military neutrality, and they are expected to announce in May whether they will join the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

Swedes and Finns, especially decision-makers, should be more vigilant than before in spotting attempts by Russia to influence policy and perceptions, the head of Finland's security service told a joint news conference with his Swedish and Norwegian counterparts.

"Russia's possibilities for human intelligence operations are currently limited because the willingness of Finns to cooperate with Russian diplomats is at a low level," Antti Pelttari said.

Sweden's security service has already been preparing for several years for possible Russian threats targeting the country's economy and political decision-making, intelligence chief Charlotte von Essen said.

"Russia may think they now have a limited timeframe to influence the Swedish decision on whether to join NATO," she said, adding that Russian attempts to influence that move could take many forms and happen simultaneously.

The three Nordic intelligence chiefs said they would work closely together in the area of security. Norway is a longstanding NATO member.

Russia has long cast NATO enlargement as a direct threat to its own national security and has cited Ukraine's long-term ambition to join the alliance as a reason for its military actions against that country.

Russia, with which Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border, has said it will deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad if Finland and Sweden decide to join NATO.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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