Finnish politicians have been warned they could be cut off from Russian gas as early as Friday just hours after the country said it wanted to join Nato, reports have claimed.
The warning came just hours after Russia said it would be forced to take “retaliatory measures” after Helsinki signaled it would seek to become a Nato member.
Russia’s foreign ministry said Finland’s application, announced on Thursday, is a “radical change” in the country’s foreign policy.
Local Finnish newspaper Iltalehti first reported the warning, citing unnamed sources. On 5 May, the Finnish government said it was prepared for the possibility of its eastern neighbor cutting off gas delivery in response to Finland’s refusal to abide by Russian demands for gas payments to be made in roubles.
Finland is officially non-aligned, but its accession to Nato would more than double the length of Russia’s borders with the alliance.
Earlier, Russia’s foreign ministry said: “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising,” in response to Finland’s Nato aspirations.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Finland had taken “unfriendly steps” against Russia. On possible responses, Mr Peskov added: “Everything will depend on how this expansion process of Nato expansion plays out, the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders.”
Finland’s president and prime minister had said their country would apply to join the Nato military alliance “without delay”.
“Now that the moment of decision-making is near, we state our equal views, also for information to the parliamentary groups and parties,” Mr Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement. “Nato membership would strengthen Finland’s security.”
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, however, said Finland’s accession to the alliance would be “smooth and swift”.
“Finland is one of Nato’s closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security.”
Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide on joining Nato in coming days, and is fully predicted to replicate Finland.
Finland and Sweden are the two biggest EU countries yet to join Nato, and Finland’s 1,300-km (800-mile) border will more than double the frontier between the US-led alliance and Russia, putting Nato guards a few hours’ drive from the northern outskirts of St Petersburg.
Asked on Wednesday if Finland would provoke Russia by joining Nato, Mr Niinisto said: “My response would be that [Putin] caused this. Look at the mirror.”
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats are expected to decide on Sunday whether to overturn decades of opposition to Nato membership, a move that would almost certainly lead to Sweden also asking to join the 30-nation alliance.