Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to NATO’s forthcoming expansion, saying he has no problem with Sweden and Finland joining the military alliance, but that if infrastructure is deployed to those countries, Russia will respond in kind.
Putin’s comments come after the Western military organization officially invited Sweden and Finland to join it in a historic move on Wednesday. That was made possible after a deal was forged with Turkey to accept the membership bids after initial objections from Ankara.
The alliance also reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, outlined plans to beef up its defenses in Europe and said China posed a “challenge” to its interests.
Speaking at the NATO summit in Madrid, U.S. President Joe Biden said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made the alliance stronger. He added that the U.S. plans to send another $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced earlier in the week that the Western military organization would increase the number of troops within its rapid response force — which comprises land, air, sea and special forces units that are capable of being deployed quickly — to 300,000 from about 40,000 personnel.
Meanwhile, the battle for the Donbas rages in Ukraine, with the city of Lysychansk, a twin city to the captured city of Severodonetsk, under constant shelling as Russian forces try to grind down Kyiv’s forces.