Putin tells Finland joining NATO is a mistake

STORY: Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Saturday (May 14) that ditching neutrality and joining NATO would be a mistake that could damage relations between their two countries.

That's according to the Kremlin.

The two countries said the presidents spoke by phone two days after Finland declared its intention to join the Western alliance.

Moscow has described that as a security threat that will require it to respond.

But has not specified how.

Niinisto's office said he told Putin that Russia's demands in late 2021 aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO, and its February invasion of Ukraine, have "altered the security environment of Finland."

It added that Finland wanted to handle relations with its Russian neighbor in a "correct and professional manner."

Moscow described the call as a "frank exchange of views," normally a diplomatic euphemism for a difficult conversation.

Finland's membership bid is expected to be followed by a similar move from Sweden.

That confronts Putin with exactly what he said he wanted to avoid when he launched what Moscow calls a "special military operation" - a further expansion of NATO to Russia's borders.